William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition is something of a departure from the norm. Gibson is best known for his futuristic stories such as Neuromancer, which single-handedly started the sub genre of SF known as cyberpunk back in the 1980s. Pattern Recognition, however, is a contemporary tale, deeply rooted in the real life cyber-culture of today; a culture that did not exist in the 1980s. Gibson’s story does a fantastic job of capturing the feel and style of internet life and the relationships between people who can be very close to one another, yet never have actually met face-to-face.
The novel’s main character is Cayce Pollard, a young woman who makes a living as a coolhunter– someone who tries to determine what the next big fad, trend or style in popular culture will be. She is also a footagehead, an almost obsessive fan of the enigmatic video clips which are being uploaded to the internet in a seeming random manner. Footageheads from around the world communicate via an online forum. While in London on a project, Cayce is offered an irresistible job opportunity- find the origin and meaning of the Footage.
Thus the stage is set for a globe-trotting romp that takes Cayce and her assorted cohorts from London to Tokyo to Moscow, through cyberspace, and through plot upon plot and layer upon delicious layer of mystery, all in the wake of September 11, 2001.
Gibson’s writing is a thing of beauty. His style is terse, but with the economy of words comes a prose which is poetic and an absolute pleasure to read. Gibson also has a good grasp of internet culture which adds a layer of realism to the characters and narrative.
Pattern Recognition may well become a classic of the 21st century. This is a book that truly captures the mood and style that is the new millennium.