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Blue Ant #1

Pattern Recognition

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Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected.

Still, Cayce is her father's daughter, and the danger makes her stubborn. Win Pollard, ex-security expert, probably ex-CIA, took a taxi in the direction of the World Trade Center on September 11 one year ago, and is presumed dead. Win taught Cayce a bit about the way agents work. She is still numb at his loss, and, as much for him as for any other reason, she refuses to give up this newly weird job, which will take her to Tokyo and on to Russia. With help and betrayal from equally unlikely quarters, Cayce will follow the trail of the mysterious film to its source, and in the process will learn something about her father's life and death.

367 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published February 3, 2003

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About the author

William Gibson

223 books12.6k followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

William Ford Gibson is an American-Canadian writer who has been called the father of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, having coined the term cyberspace in 1982 and popularized it in his first novel, Neuromancer(1984), which has sold more than 6.5 million copies worldwide.

While his early writing took the form of short stories, Gibson has since written nine critically acclaimed novels (one in collaboration), contributed articles to several major publications, and has collaborated extensively with performance artists, filmmakers and musicians. His thought has been cited as an influence on science fiction authors, academia, cyberculture, and technology.


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William Gibson. (2007, October 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:30, October 19, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?t...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,341 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,845 reviews16.3k followers
November 20, 2018
2018 re-read.

I wrote the below review in March 2015, obviously still not really sure what I had just read. When reading for pleasure (and a lot of the time truth be told) I am a simple man who’ll go after a laugh if there’s one to be had and I did then. But I knew I liked the book and I also knew there was more to the book than I realized.

As readers, we must acknowledge our mortality and in so doing I am conscious of this fact when I consider re-reading a book. There’s only so much time and there are hundreds of thousands of books that I WON’T read, only a few thousand I will read (Lord willing and creek don’t rise). So making the extravagant decision to read a book a SECOND time is reserved for those that are special in some way.

I have read hundreds of books and remember most of them, some more than others obviously. But there are some that I think about long after reading and Pattern Recognition was one. As time passed, I knew that I would need to go back to re-visit. Yes, NEED. When a writer plants a seed in your mind and years later you are still coming to grips with the fruit it bore, there is an intellectual, instinctive need to explore further. Gibson had struck a chord in me and what that was continued to nag away, demanding a more scrutinizing study.

As the writer of Neuromancer, Gibson astounded with his prophetic heralding of the internet and all of the cultural implications that brought about. Here was a writer with his fingers on the pulse of our age, who could glimpse what came next in a way few others could. In the Blue Ant series, began with Pattern Recognition first published in February 2003, Gibson explored the months following 9/11 and again acting as a barometer for our atmosphere, cast a reflective surface before our collective countenance.

When I deployed to Iraq in 2005, we had a briefing by an Army Colonel who described our mission and he said something that still sticks with me. He said the war on terror was largely a war of information. The terrorists were doing horrible things and then disseminating the information about those acts to cause further damage. The destruction in New York and Washington, and all the other acts against civilization, were the focal point, and like ripples in a pond, the concentric circles spread the harm out further and further.

Gibson has here described a post 9/11 world where the protagonist has a hyper-sensitivity to advertising. She is psychologically allergic to logo branding and is a canary in the coalmine for global trends. Add to this losing her intelligence community father to the New York attacks and we have a metaphor for our new age. Gibson goes one step further (perhaps what he had been planning to write prior to the attacks) and emphasizes the vacuum created by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the post-Cold War age. The global power brokers and players sometimes just changed uniforms and kept playing the games.

I missed a lot in my first reading but the demand for a re-visit was so rewarding. Gibson has given us a WEALTH of literary gold. This is a great book.

***2015 review

Stylish.

That’s what I am as I read Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. It is a very stylish novel.

Cool jazz plays in the cool and stylish café as I sit outside drinking a latte. From my perfectly coiffed hair to the form fitting jacket and slim pants to the stylish Italian shoes on my stylish feet, I am cool. A Daniel Craig pout forms on my lips as I nod to the Most Interesting Man in the World sitting across from me. He is sipping a Dos Equis and chatting with two models sitting on either side of him. All of us, we are all stylish and cool.

I turn page after stylish page but slowly my IMDB handsome brow creases, I frown.

“What – “

The Most Interesting Man in the World’s gut sags.

“ in the–“

The models sprout tattoos and one belches.

“ hell – “

My pants legs flare out and my perfectly coiffed doo melts to middle aged scalp.

“ am I reading??”

What are we doing? Where is this going? What in the hell is this book about?

William, I am a Southern United States middle-aged guy. If I stand up straight, I might not drag my knuckles across the floor when I walk. I need swords, laser blasters, and automatic gunfire or my attention wanes. Hell, man, you’re from South Carolina and lived in Virginia, you’ve seen me in the line at Piggly Wiggly – you had a bag of almonds and mineral water and I had a 12 pack of PBR and potato chips.

You gotta make it easy for me!!

But actually, I did like it, liked it a lot.

Gibson’s writing is fresh and vibrant and as cool as the other side of the pillow. Fans of his archetypal Neuromancer will pick up what he’s throwing down in this post-Cold War, post-911, corporate espionage, jet setting thriller set in London, New York, Tokyo and Russia. To readers who are swimming in the same atavistic gene pool as I am – just give it some time, he’ll get there and when he does, this will be revealed as tightly woven, extraordinarily entertaining post-cyberpunk literature of the highest order.

BTW, the way to read William Gibson (or Neal Stephenson or China Mieville) is with an E-book reader so that you can easily select a word for dictionary and thesaurus explanation. Vocabulary expanding.

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Profile Image for Bryce Wilson.
Author 10 books146 followers
June 23, 2008
It'll happen one day, you'll see. William Gibson WILL right an ending that resembles something other then a last ditch attempt from a man desperate not to default on his contract.

It will not stink of a man who has just watched the sunrise with a headful of Jack Daniels. No it will be thematically fufilling, and tie up and enrich the man threads that have wound through the novel like a tapestry. Giving these rich themes, imagery, and characters the proper glory rather then merely tarnishing everthin. It'll happen one day I'm telling you.

Sigh, but not this time.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
398 reviews2,164 followers
July 19, 2017
Interesting enough, but nothing special. It is a nice sort of time capsule of the early 2000s, technologically speaking.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,669 followers
April 3, 2011
I am an excellent reader, as I know many of my friends on goodreads are, but I don’t think there’s enough appreciation of reading as a skill in our world. We take it for granted, those of us who are “literate,” and because it is the base of the things that we learn, we tend to ignore those who excel. Of course, many of those who read well are told they “analyze things too much” or that they “dig too deep” by those who might be solid readers, but probably don’t have serious reading chops.

I think of it this way: the critics of analysis are the Sunday co-ed softball players who enjoy the game, like to escape for a few hours of exercise and fun, and like to hit the occasional home run or catch a tricky pop fly. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But for all the thousands of recreational ball players, there are a handful of professional ball players, whose skills are ever so much better (and whose skills stretch from Single A to the Big Leagues). They are the ones who get more from a hit, or a perfectly executed throw; they’re the ones who will stretch a double into a triple; they’re the ones who will take a fastball in the back rather than bail out of the box. And as readers go, they’re the ones who make the connections, who read the patterns that most people don't. They're the ones who analyze too much.

My reading of Pattern Recognition puts me in the category of the pro ball players. I loved the book on its own merits, and I know that I was able to read the merits in a way that others won’t be able to access. Many will, of course, and they will love what they've found, but there's plenty there for those who won't. And there is certainly nothing wrong with whatever reading those recreational players come up with.

Why do I feel this way? How can I say these things? Because I didn’t just read this book, I created it as I turned every page. I was part of the process; I wasn’t just reading someone else’s finished process; I was the final important element of the patterns William Gibson was laying out for connection. The book needed me, and those like me, to be complete. Every time this book is read by a talented reader, it is being written.

So there’s no point in really talking about the book's particulars. I’m not going to summarize the plot or point out specific moments of prose brilliance. I am not going to discuss the connections in the book. I am not going to talk about how personal this was to read. Just read it yourself. Make your own connections. Become part of the process of Pattern Recognition and let yourself analyze it, let yourself dig deep. And if you can’t do those things, you should still read it because I’m guessing it’s good enough for every level of play.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,297 reviews4,828 followers
October 30, 2021


In this first book in the 'Blue Ant' series, marketing consultant Cayce Pollard is hired to find people who upload mysterious film clips.

*****

New York resident Cayce Pollard is a marketing consultant who instinctively knows what the public will find 'cool'.



Cayce is also a follower of a website called 'Fetish Footage Forum' (FFF) where mysterious film clips - periodically published online - are discussed and analyzed by large numbers of people around the world.








As the story opens in August, 2002 Cayce is in London, having been hired by the 'Blue Ant' company to evaluate a proposed new shoe logo.



At a meeting with Hubertus Bigend - Blue Ant's boss, and Dorotea Benedetti - representative of the logo's designer, Cayce nixes the proposed logo. She also senses huge antagonism from Dorotea, a woman she's just met.



Soon afterward someone breaks into the London apartment where Cayce is staying, making her feel nervous and paranoid.

These unexplained occurrences remind Cayce of her missing father, Win Pollard, an intelligence agent who disappeared on September 11, 2001, when planes flew into the World Trade Center. Cayce and her mother have done all they can to find Win, with no success.



After Cayce okays a second proposed shoe logo, Hubertus hires her to find the makers of the inscrutable film footage on FFF. He apparently has a scheme to use the film clips to make money. Cayce reluctantly agrees to work with Hubertus, and during her search for the filmmaker Cayce meets an array of interesting people and travels between London, Japan and Russia.



Everywhere she goes, however, Cayce senses she's being followed, which seems to be proven when she's attacked in the street.



The book is chock full of engaging characters, starting with Cayce - who's 'allergic' to logos and cuts the labels off all her clothing and possessions. Other interesting characters include several FFF analysts, fetishists of old technology, a computer whiz who's supposed to help Cayce find the filmmaker, and more.



I enjoyed the book which essentially reads like a thriller, as Cayce rushes here and there to discover something that unknown (and hostile) 'others' also want to know. All this leads to an exciting and believable climax. Very good book, highly recommended.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews759 followers
April 27, 2012
I loved Pattern Recognition nearly as much as Neuromancer and felt the two novels had a lot of similarities. Even though it is classified as general fiction, the novel has a strong SF feel to it. The highly technological societies (New York and the "mirror world" of London) where things are similar but a little different and the efficient, individualistic, widely traveled and rootless characters make Pattern Recognition feel dark and surreal and more like SF.

Boone Chu was an interesting character and I was disappointed he was not developed further; same with Bigend. These are very minor flaws that don't take away from this excellent book.

The story is an interesting look at the culture of marketing.
Profile Image for John Huizar.
13 reviews3 followers
January 30, 2008
I love the way that William Gibson writes women. Gibson usually has both male and female protagonists in his books, who may or may not even see one another during the course of the story (the almost-but-never-quite is something he comes back to again and again). Regardless, his female characters are always as strong and capable as the men (and often more so). Cayce Pollard is a wonderful character, and I think that Gibson deftly avoided all the usual pitfalls of men writing female characters.

For instance, in this book there is no male character of even approximately equal importance to Cayce. And I like that. She seeks help from time to time, but ultimately, Cayce stands on her own. The book is nota love story. Well, not in anything like the traditional sense.

The plot of the book revolves around Cayce's attempts to track down the origin of mysterious video clips that have surfaced on the internet. The disjointed, nonsequential footage is almost always of a couple, walking, talking, kissing. No one knows who the couple is, where the footage is being shot, when it was shot, what sequence the clips are supposed to be viewed in, etc. The first clip footage was simply discovered uploaded to a video site several years before, and an underground following has tracked down and collected all of the subsequently released clips. Fans make their own compilations, putting the videos in the order they think they go.

Cayce is a member of one of these online fandoms, but her day job is as a consultant to advertising firms: she is able to 'know' somehow whether certain advertising approaches will be successful, which happens because the ones that are successful are able to tap into culture in a particular way that Cayce is aware of and sensitive to. One of these firms becomes interested in tracking down the origin of the footage as a way of discovering just how it is that something can become an underground sensation, and puts Cayce on the job.

I can't really say any more without ruining the story. But there are Gibson's usual array of fascinating secondary characters who manage to seem both completely human and completely unique. And there are strong existential themes throughout: what is it that comes of always experiencing emotion and touch at one remove (through the camera)? What is the ultimate effect on the photographer, and what is the effect on the audience? This book is an anthem of both unity and alienation.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,424 reviews8,970 followers
September 23, 2022
A fast-moving high-tech thriller. Smart and engaging, with just the right amount of mystery.

Profile Image for Erik.
338 reviews258 followers
Read
November 13, 2017
It's entirely possible this is a great book.

I wouldn't know, however, because I made it one chapter into Pattern Recognition before I gave up (for the 2nd time) because it was literally the worst first chapter I've ever read in a published book. At least that I can remember reading. It's possible that some space aliens have been abducting me and forcing me to read alien-written books - which I assume have really bad first chapters - and then erasing my memory, all part of a ploy to guide humanity, via literature. That seems unlikely, but then if you had told me a reality TV star man-baby would have become president of the United States, I would have called that even more unlikely. Either way, here's my Pattern Recognition inspired guide on how to write a terrible first chapter:

NUMBER ONE: Make the prose so purple, so overwritten, that the reader's face is at risk of getting a tan, to such a degree that the ACA will classify the chapter as a possible carcinogen. I wish that my search for examples required me to go beyond the first page, but it doesn't. Here's the first sentence:

Five hours' New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm.

Ever-circling dire wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm you say?! That's, like, totes a reference to sleep being 'counting sheep!' Maybe a little Game of Thrones reference? Dire wolves, right. Winter is coming. Eh? Eh? Right? Yeah? Am I right? Well if I'm wrong, I don't wanna be right.

Here's the next sentence:

It is that flat and spectral non-hour, awash in limbic tides, brainstem stirring fitfully, flashing inappropriate reptilian demands for sex, food, sedation, all of the above, and none really an option now.

Neuroscientists of the Caribbean: Awash in Limbic Tides, starring our hero Ben Carson and his side-kick Sam Harris. And 'all of the above'? I'm just gonna start throwing that into my lists. I like Old El Paso tacos, Premium Angus beef, Chiquita bananas, all of the above, and Count Chocula cereal.

Nothing at all in the German fridge, so new that its interior smells only of cold and long-chain monomers.

Long-chain monomers? Even if that made sense, it'd be an entirely pointless sensory detail since no human being associates 'long-chain monomers' with a smell. That'd be like saying, it smells only of 'black holes.' Do you know what that smells like? I don't. But 'long chain monomers' doesn't make sense anyway. When you combine monomers into a long-chain you get a POLYMER. If you google "Long chain monomers" half your hits are related to this book, like this mocking short.

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien's theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical cord down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic.

Hell, I kinda like this one when taken on its own, but I'm still on the first page here and when combined with everything else, it's much too much too much much too too choo choo COME ON, RIDE THE TRAIN, HEY, RIDE IT.

NUMBER TWO: Make so many name-drops, so many specific allusions that the reader can't decide whether your book is a book or a commercial:

It's not enough for something to be a fridge, or a lamp, or money, or tea, in Pattern Recognition('s first chapter). No it must be a GERMAN fridge. Or an ITALIAN floor lamp. It must be a "bag of some imported Californian tea substitute" and the "covers of paperbacks look like Australian money."

Then our German fridge is full of "two dry pucks of Weetabix..." and when our protagonist Cayce puts on clothes, we get, "a small boy's black Fruit Of The Loom T-shirt, thoroughly shrunken, a thin gray V-necked pullover purchased by the half-dozen from a supplier to New England prep schools, and a new oversized pair of black 501's, every trademark removed."

Every trademark removed, eh? THE IRONY.

After which she looks at her reflection and "grimaces at it, thinking for some reason of a boyfriend who'd insisted on comparing her to Helmut Newton's nude portrait of Jane Birkin."

Nice! Combine the art with the crass consumerism. That, my friends, is what we call JUXTAPOSITION.

And then the requisite Apple plug: "He won't allow decorators through the door unless they basically agree to not do that which they do, yet he holds on to this Mac for the way you can turn it upside down and remove its innards with a magic little aluminum handle."

And finishing, near the end, a combination of a bit of everything: "Still doing heels, she checks her watch, a Korean clone of an old-school Casio G-Shock, its plastic case sanded free of logos with a scrap of Japanese micro-abrasive."

I haven't seen such blatant product placement since Krispy Kreme's invasion of Power Rangers. Which is saying something, since I didn't even watch that movie.

NUMBER THREE: Make your first chapter completely devoid of any plot or plot hooks whatsoever!

I already gave you the first sentence. Here's the last one: "She drapes a pair of limp green foam pads over the foot rail, carefully positions her feet, lifts them on invisible stiletto heels, and begins her ten prehensiles."

OH DAMN CLIFFHANGER!!! Will she pull a muscle while doing pilates?! *bites nails* *edge of the seat*

No, but really, here's what happens in the first chapter: Cayce describes her non-lover Damien's empty, boring home. Then she makes tea and surfs the internet a bit. Then she takes a shower. Then she does pilates. THE END.

I'm not even joking! If someone held a contest for the 'Summary of the most boring first chapter ever,' that'd probably win it.

So, yeah. I've enjoyed the other Gibson books I've read, and this one might be great, too. But I'm not going to ever know because the first chapter is so horrendously bad that this happened Bradley Cooper throwing book out a window
Profile Image for 7jane.
671 reviews251 followers
September 2, 2020
music: The Clash - "Charlie Don't Surf"

Cayce Pollard is a 'coolhunter', predicting the hottest trends, haunted by her father's disappearance during 9/11. While in London to evaluate a redesign of a famous corporate logo, her employer finds her another job: finding the maker of an online film clip which is gradually growing in length, creating a buzz that she has already become familiar with. But as she travels around to find more about it, something sinister is also following her.

This is start of another trilogy, and beginning to read it, I felt like coming home, the writing feeling so familiar. This time though the story is not of a future, but present (though now a present in the past, as phone designs move on, The Face magazine has ceased to exist, and there's no Virgin Megastores around). Present of circa 2003. There is a nod into the past in the and also in Cayce's (pronounced 'Case') allergy-like dislike also extending to things of certain eras, incl. Nazi Germany and Eastern Germany. This allergy sensitivity mostly appears towards certain labels and objects: Mickey Mouse, the Michelin Man, Tommy Hilfiger... though it seems her .

This is a Blue Ant trilogy, which is the firm she works for her, and its leader, Hubertus Bigend, will appear also in later book, it seems. This book does talk about branding and advertisement world, but then slips into something. Finding closure with your past... But also about buildings and roads and cities... and I also kept noticing what Cayce was eating or drinking. Her struggle with jetlag, and feeling like her soul was traveling much more behind her, arriving later than her body, feels familiar (jetlag does get worse with age, though she's around 32 here).

I was a bit surprised about the plot moving to It seems the pre-9/11 life is lingering, yet what is has become post-this is not yet quite apparent in this book.

I've experienced some of that Camden weekend crush, and the name Cayce used for it, the Children's Crusade, was I guess cute. Took me a while to realise what she meant with 'mirror-world'ness: objects made in the country they were in (like British cars, British scissors, etc.). Her decision to dress minimalistically and to keep her NY home spartan is no doubt a way to keep herself together (that allergy, and then her father's disappearance, must have had some influence). It was lovely that her friendship with Parkaboy .

The book feels like it started with something, but ended with something else, yet both ends feel good to me. I hope Cayce finds a less-dramatic, peaceful future after this. And I think reading this book at this moment was just right for me, though a look into a past now. (I miss Virgin Megastore! And The Face magazine.) A perfect choice of a read, I like that.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,809 reviews348 followers
October 2, 2021
The title says it all: Pattern Recognition. The human brain is a pattern seeking processor. It's one of our great talents and it can also lead us into weird places. It's this tendency that allows us to see the Virgin Mary's face on a piece of toast, as we seem to be strongly programmed to see faces in things. The problem is that some things may just be coincidences and not really part of whatever narrative we're creating to make sense of the information around us. How can you sort out the actual from the accidental? Too much pattern seeking leads to paranoia, perhaps explaining the many conspiracy hounds out there, obsessing over non-existent plots and cabals.

Cayce Pollard is an interesting character. She can't abide advertising logos—Tommy Hilfiger can make her vomit, the Michelin Man can send her into a full blown panic attack. This makes her a discriminating evaluator of marketing plans and she is known as a “cool seeker.” Her father disappeared during the events of 9/11, her mother is part of some rather hippie-ish group who are busy listening to blank tapes, extracting “voices from the Other Side.” Her father is a former security expert during the Cold War, leading me to wonder if he had disappeared on purpose (me looking for meaning where one may not exist). And obviously her mother is looking for another kind of meaning, rather like Victorian spiritualists. Cayce is named after Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, which seems meaningful, but is it really? I found myself questioning all the connections that I would usually expect to create a structure to hang the book on. Gibson seems to be having fun, seeding the novel with coincidences and synchronicities, leaving it up to the reader to sort the noise from the message.

I also enjoyed Gibson's sense of humour—one man whose ex-girlfriend referred to him as a Lombard. Not an Italian from Lombardy--it's an acronym: loads of money but a real dickhead. I was amused by Cayce's calm-down mantra (about a pilot whose cockpit was bombarded by birds and “he took a duck to the face at 350 knots.”). Why that phrase would be calming is one of the mysteries of human psychology.

There are two more Blue Ant books, but this one ends satisfactorily (at least for me) so I doubt that I will continue on. My TBR is already groaning!

Book number 424 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

Profile Image for Jamie Collins.
1,418 reviews261 followers
March 5, 2011
This was my first William Gibson book, and I thought it was beautifully written, quite a literary novel. I liked the characters, and I liked the idea of Cayce being sensitive to trends and brands, and having a logo "allergy". I'm now contemplating scratching the logos off of everything I own.

Plot-wise, this isn't the most exciting book I've ever read. I was never bored, but the pacing was sedate, to say the least. The tone of the book was cool and deliberate - even the single fight scene followed by a chase seemed to move in slow motion. Still, it was a very readable, intriguing story, and I'll continue with the trilogy.

The weakest point of the novel for me was the mysterious "footage" that drives the plot. I was never drawn into the characters' fascination with it.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,821 reviews1,322 followers
November 28, 2022
There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul.

A few key directional events happened just before I grabbed this novel. It was a long holiday weekend and I had started to watch a series on Prime featuring an adaptation of Gibson. I also found myself looking at a snapshot that was taken of my wife and I in London from 2002 -- twenty years ago this very week. Our malleable memories can be demonic, yet there isn't nostalgia, no active move towards those times. This novel concerns itself with cool, branding and technology. There's also corporate intrigue and a, "gosh did September the Eleventh change everything" sort of miasma. Everything in Gibson's world is too cool for school. Very Cronenberg -- and i hated it. The protagonist is a Lisbeth Salander without most of the damage and her job as a coolhunter sounds terrible. Coolhunters determine the next trends operating in street culture. I am very tired of found digital art and the possibility of haunted media.

We have no future because our present is too volatile. We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment's scenarios. Pattern recognition.

There's your title (Robert is a sibling of your parent). I noticed that my favorite novels of the year Libra The Passenger and The Name of the Rose all concern revelation and hermeneutics. I won't be including Pattern Recognition is conversation with those other triumphs.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews998 followers
September 29, 2013
Much has been made of Gibson's latest not being science-fiction – and it's not – but it's still Gibson, much like Cryptonomicon was still Neal Stephenson. Incidentally, I'd highly recommend this book to fans of Cryptonomicon, as well as to anyone who has enjoyed any of Gibson's other books.

The ‘cyberpunk' attitude is still there, as the plot interweaves the world of high tech with subculture, organized crime, and the lives of individuals... just instead of in the near future, it's happening now.

Cayce is a young woman with an unusual neurosis – she's phobic about brand names and logos – which can cause serious problems when she's walking around today's advertising-rich, fashion-conscious cities.... However, she's made this psychological tic work for her – she's in high demand as a marketing consultant who can tell if a proposed logo will be a ‘hit' or not.
In her free time, Cayce ‘hangs out' in an online chat forum devoted to discussing ‘the footage' – a collection of video clips that have been anonymously released onto the Internet. The high quality of the video and the mystery surrounding the clips' provenance have intrigued a growing number of film fans... so many in fact, that Cayce is hired to find out who the filmmaker is, since the ‘marketing strategy' is so brilliant.
Little does she guess that the search will bring her from her New York City apartment to London, Tokyo, and Moscow, involving her with vicious businesspeople who may be cutthroat in more ways than one, Cold War era spies, mobsters, millionaires, hired thugs, computer nerds, dealers in vintage calculators, conceptual artists... and other odd characters.

The book's got suspense, mystery, action... but it's also full of really interesting ideas and bits of information.
It also truly excels at conveying both the ‘feel' and details of visiting cities overseas – their similarities and small differences, the disconnect and the exoticism... I got that ‘yes! It's just like that!!' feeling a LOT with both the London and Tokyo scenes.... Moscow, I'm not sure – I haven't been there. But I suspect that Gibson visited both London and Tokyo during the writing of the book – but not Russia.

In the future, I suspect people will read this book to gain a feel for what it was like to live at the dawning of the 21st century – and they'll get some pretty accurate information (mixed in with the spy thriller stuff!)
Profile Image for Mike.
297 reviews134 followers
June 28, 2022

Cyberpunk, is that what we call this? Or maybe tech-noir, is that a term? Pattern Recognition (2003) was my first acquaintance with William Gibson, outside of having read a few interviews over the years, and for the most part I enjoyed it. Two main strengths of his writing stood out to me- on one hand he's attuned to the ideas and marketing-models and corporate fever-dreams and artistic endeavors that drift through the zeitgeist, shaping it and being shaped themselves; but he's also very attentive to the tactile world, to the ways the zeitgeist manifests in people's everyday lives. So it may not sound all that compelling, for example, to describe a character checking e-mails and posting to a message board, but Gibson understood that these moments were not insignificant interludes between important real life events; but increasingly the substance of what real life was becoming, as well as what our minds would be preoccupied with, for better or worse. He captures, post-9/11 but way before the Snowden revelations, the impulse to engage with a virtual community, and how that conflicts with the awareness that the Internet is a fishbowl and that privacy as we used to know it is probably a thing of the past. I also liked the idea of "mirror-worlds", the term one of his globe-hopping characters uses for foreign places, and the notion that the mirror-worlds are slowly disappearing (or at least receding towards the hinterlands), major world cities through the ubiquity of marketing beginning to resemble each other more than the countries that physically surround them, almost like some post-geographic nation. It seemed to me that the main character, Cayce, who has a special sensitivity/perceptiveness towards corporate logos, experienced this acutely as a loss of the possibility of adventure and of seeing anything new, a closing off of the future in a way that vibes with the writing of someone like Mark Fisher. But more than that, there's a suggestion that in some fundamental way we need mirror-worlds. At any rate, in general, I enjoyed the way Gibson captured a moment of global existential change. These ideas are wrapped up in a reasonably engaging mystery about the pursuit of an elusive garage Kubrick (or is it a moonlighting Spielberg?) that eventually leads the characters to Russia, a country itself in the midst of great changes. That said, I found the characters and the dialogue a little cloying at times, a little too clever in their interactions and repartee, and there seemed to me a tameness to the way Gibson told the story when contrasted with, say, the anarchic sensibility of Philip K. Dick. Then again, the vast majority of writers seem conservative (in terms of how they present a narrative) compared to PKD, and this is just my impression of Gibson from one novel.
Profile Image for Denis.
Author 1 book19 followers
December 30, 2019
The writing is so good! That's what William Gibson does best; he is a great writer. For me, however, the story itself was not so interesting and it takes a while to figure out what "Blue Ant" really is - still not entirely sure actually... What I do like very much is how much Gibson knows what is to come; he is a true master of the "near future" sub-genre of scifi. Overall a good read, though some might get Gibson better than I do - I can not fault him for that.
Profile Image for Adam.
68 reviews9 followers
July 6, 2016
“The medium is the message” – Marshall McLuhan

“We have no future because our present is too volatile... We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition.” – Herbertus Bigend, Pattern Recognition

---

Pattern Recognition is the story of an eccentric trend spotter, Cayce Pollard, and her mission to find the latest viral videos clips attracting a cult-like appeal. William Gibson masterfully blends concise and powerful storytelling with present-day reality in a strangely compelling tale that’ll hook you within the first page.

What follows is my spoiler free review of the novel and an analysis of its themes and plot devices. I decided to include an analysis since there are so many reviews focused on the “big picture.” In this review, you’ll find both the macro and the micro view of the novel!

*

Story and at Glance:

PR is not long. It’s an extremely quick read and features the short sentence structure Gibson is known for utilizing. Shotgun sentences fired in rapid succession, their aim, true, on point and efficient. Word choice is paramount as the small sentences convey images and ideas far beyond their textual representations. The pacing of the novel is as quick as a simple adventure read but PR is so much more than that.

Cayce lives label-free, practically allowing things to happen to her instead of taking an active role in her life. Pattern Recognition isn’t just about the big picture. It’s about Cayce accepting her past, breaking the bubble of isolation that’s surrounded her most of her adult life.

In a world where adventure awaits around every corner – a world of hidden codes, where corporate espionage runs wild – Cayce is forced to make tough choices, both during the course of her investigation as well as her personal life.

Cayce is deeply involved in the “footage” sub-culture. The novel spans multiple countries as she taps her F:F:F network - Fetish:Footage:Forum – in hopes of tracking down the clips creator. Cayce is tasked with piecing together the mystery and delivering her findings to Hubertus Bigend, CEO of the advertising and marketing firm Blue Ant – a figure that hires the “cool hunter” (Cayce) to uncover more details about the viral video clip. He’s the key facilitator in PR, thrusting Cayce into the dangerous world of ancillary characters using marketing and advertising to sway hearts and minds.

Cayce is teamed up with Boon Chu, a security guru and former failed entrepreneur, to go on a country-hopping quest. The mission will threaten to upend Cayce’s life and force her to take a close look at her chosen profession and way of thinking.

As you’ve no doubt read, 9/11 and apopthenia play a huge role in PR. Cayce’s own feelings are brought to the foreground as she is forced to deal with her past and – connected with the 9/11 attacks - uncover secrets in a world of criminals and spies. Gibson believes that 9/11 is one of many nodal points in history in which people began making connections and patterns out of seemingly random things (such as the “it’s-really-like” phenomena Cayce notes upon going to a new city). Of course apopthenia has existed long before this sad historic event but the post-9/11 climate is the focus of the story and serves as a foundation for an excellent tale.

But as Cayce’s investigation progresses she’ll have to answer the big question: are her experiences apopthetic and a result of past or are they really connected?

How 9/11 and an “apopthenia bias” relates to Cayce’s past and her addiction for finding “footage” is a critical element to the narrative and is explored completely in Pattern Recognition.

In that sense, Cayce – flawlessly designed – grows as the novel progresses. Changes to her personality and ways of thinking are deep and intrinsic and you will be satisfied. If you’re concerned with how well apopthenia is explored (and if you’ll “get it,” or think it’s worth reading about), don’t be: Gibson does an excellent job of exploring this phenomenon and relating it to the story.

**

Protagonist, Structure and Themes:

Cayce is an extremely interesting character with complex thoughts and actions. She’s so “real” that many of her thoughts and actions come across as contradictory to one another. But unlike novels that portray characters poorly, this contradiction is intended. She’s seriously allergic to fashion and labels but is surrounded by them through working freelance for advertising companies. She has huge contracts with major companies but prefers to live her own life like a shadow, as little intervention as possible. Living in the now, Cayce is disconnected from both her past and unsure of her future.

From early on we learn that Cayce is strongly against conventional corporate environments and labels. She’s a 100%Gibson Rebel, not dissimilar to his cyberpunk characters. Cayce takes this eccentricity further by scratching out the brand and designer names on her own clothing. Her clothing – which the reader may describe as “almost stylish” in a rebellious way – is meant to be anti-fashionable, another contradiction Gibson handles well.

In Cayce’s thoughts regarding Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Stalker (early on in the book), for example, her mindset is described flawlessly as: “not one of those who think that much will be gained by the analysis of the maker’s imagined influences.” She takes an object in and can see beyond subjective analysis; she can sense the inherent meaningfulness of the images themselves and their ability to gain attraction (the “cool” factor, the thing she searches for during her day job; the next big thing, critical in trademarking).

Cayce is more of a sociologist or social psychologist than she realizes. Her “abilities” are tied to her understanding of how people interact and what they desire. Cayce may take a passenger’s role in the world, allowing things to happen to her instead of taking the reins, but she’s a master passenger, foreseeing speed bumps and points of interest along the way.

Cayce “likes Pilates because it isn’t, in the way she thinks of yoga, as meditative.” In another instance, the Shinx position she’s practicing is described as having the following mentality: “[y]ou do not get there by thinking about not thinking”. The importance of the quotes shines through when considering Cayce’s take on things of value in present day life. She believes such things require no deep meditative thought, they simply are or aren’t. When Cayce rates a piece of art or marketing design, she doesn’t “think” about the item’s meaning, she says “Yes” or “No” on intuition, her “cool” barometer is a mystery even to her.

Everything Cayce thinks or does is bound to this structure. She is, in essence, a neutral or passive observer in all things.

Philosophy and or cinema majors will instantly note that Pattern Recognition has a strong element of self-reflexivity, a commentary on the media as a whole, a story referring to itself. This is obvious because Gibson refers to Cayce’s anti-art/fashion/logical thinking mindset and yet he makes this a novel, clearly wanting the reader to think critically or at least acknowledge some "deeper" ideas. Cayce becomes “real” in the eyes of the reader because her method is flawed, her pre-conceived notions of film and art on a meta-level actually requires deeper thought and reflection. She battles this during the course of PR, growing as a character.

The Cayce character plays into the overall theme and story of Pattern Recognition: the past can be portrayed in any way, making reality malleable and the future unknowable. The modern world in which we live is completely volatile.

In one indirect reference to the transient nature of history, Cayce touches a replacement jacket (the original had a hole in it); the text describes her going to touch the non-existent hole only to find, “history erased via the substitution of an identical object” (Pg. 194). Finely crafted sentences convey powerful ideas.

Other ideas expressed bring up interesting questions for the reader: what does art mean or say about the subject matter? Does it stand by itself, devoid of introspective thought? Is video clips part of a greater sequence? Is it part of a greater historical commentary? What does the text say of our relationship with the media, news, advertising and media?

Or maybe this deeper analysis is yet another example of apopthenia? Gibson jests about this on interviews, clearly giving a nod to Pattern Recognition’s overarching themes while letting the novel stand on its own with little "revelations" beyond what is written. Since Pattern Recognition is so well written - its ideas expressed so clearly - I find all of the answers in the novel to be satisfactory.

***

Conclusion:

The characters of Pattern Recognition are just as complex and interesting as Cayce Pollard. From the antique computer guy Voytek Biroshak to Hobbs Baranov, a retired math whiz with connections to the NSA. All of them receive considerable depth and seem believable.

While Gibson’s previous work was futuristic, this contemporary work manages to pull off high-tech with reality. If you’re at all interested in the media’s influence, marketing, espionage, steganography, codes, and the history of antiquities, you’ll love PR.

Pattern Recognition is a terrific standalone novel that takes place in a world that mirrors our own. Not only does it have an excellent and intriguing story, it has speculative themes that serve as critiques to the instant gratification world in which we live. In a world in which anything can go viral, advertising and media outlets really do control all that we see and hear, but are those their associations real? What gives them power? This novel will get you thinking and entertain you all at the same time.

A huge fan of William Gibson’s work and all things cyberpunk (including the dozens of spin-off series and role playing games like CP2020 and SR), I’ve got to admit that Pattern Recognition tops anything he’s ever written. While I’m a bigger fan of reading about dystopian, high-tech futures than the present, this novel paints such an amazing picture of the world that I can’t deny its strength as a classic work fiction.

Even if you aren’t into over analyzing Gibson tales (like yours truly), you’ll probably love this highly regarded novel. It’s extremely insightful, smart, fast paced, and easily worth the rating of 5/5.
Profile Image for David.
Author 17 books333 followers
June 28, 2012
I was hoping to be blown away by the legendary William Gibson (none of whose legendary books I have read), but I found that Pattern Recognition reminded me a lot of Reamde by Neal Stephenson: it's a pacey, interesting techno-thriller that just never quite reached the peak of Awesome. I found Gibson's writing to be stronger than Stephenson's, but his characterization weaker.

The main character is Cayce (pronounced "Case") Pollard, who has one of those odd freelance consultant jobs that can only exist in the modern world: she's got a sort of preternatural sense for marketing. She can take one look at a logo and know whether it will "click" with the zeitgeist, making her very valuable to image-obsessed corporations. The downside of her talent is a disability that can also only exist in the modern world: she is allergic to certain trademarks and corporate symbols. The Michelin Man, for example, sends her into near-panic attacks.

Cayce works for a firm called "Blue Ant," run by a genius wunderkind with inscrutable motives (of course) who goes by "Big End." Big End asks her to investigate the source of a viral video being obsessively discussed and followed on the Internet, a strange piece of work being released in segments by an unknown producer. Big End says he's captivated by its marketing potential, but soon it develops that many different people are interested in this video and its creator, for many different reasons. Cayce travels from London to Japan to Russia and is ensnared in one conspiracy after another in her quest for the maker.

Strictly speaking, this book isn't really science fiction, since it takes place in the present day (actually, in 2002, when it was written) and there is no technology that doesn't actually exist. It still has a sci-fi feel to it, though not really much of a cyberpunkish one, unless you consider anything that revolves around online subcultures to be "cyberpunk." (Yeah, I am still shelving it in both categories for sake of comparison when I browse for similar books.) I found Pattern Recognition to have a strong build-up but a rather weak pay-off. Nonetheless, the story moved along without ever getting boring and Gibson has a nice way with language and unlike some other authors I could name with high geek cachet, he didn't get a lot of stuff absurdly wrong. I've been told his Neuromancer series pretty much ignores everything that was actually known about computer science when it was written, but the Internet and computer technology in Pattern Recognition, possibly because it does not take place in the future, is pretty realistic. This book is solidly 3.5 stars (and I really wish Goodreads allowed half star ratings!).
Profile Image for notgettingenough .
1,015 reviews1,162 followers
October 5, 2013
As goodreads is Amazon, I am taking my reviews off goodreads. Nonetheless, I hope by providing links along with this ongoing message about why Amazon should not be part of our lives, this message is kept alive. I include some text from the beginning of each review because goodreads has been removing my reviews from places they can be seen and apparently this may make it less likely for them to do this. Read my lips, go on. Whilst a semblance of free speech exists on goodreads. FUCK AMAZON. It is so obvious why it is bad. And yet it is hard to wake up in the morning without seeing its encroachment into more of the world. As it happens, this is an apt introduction to this particular book.

Mentioned one day by my friend Margaret, I happened to spot a copy in an English bookshop cafe in Grenoble just a couple of days later. May I describe it as a bookseller must? Hard cover in good nick, dust-jacket, 5Euros. Bargain.

I have to say it rather depressed me, reading this. It described a world I don’t live in and would not want to. The obsession with brand which bizarrely meant not that this girl eschewed brand in her own life, but that every bit of her life consists of the high snob factor of brand. Brand nonetheless. I found it completely mysterious that although labelling made her break out in spots and panic and so on – an allergy to the notion – nonetheless she lives in Starbucks. I thought we were going to have an explanation of that at one point, when a character actually asked her what gives, but no. She just stares at him and they move on. Well, they might have, but I couldn’t. Starbucks gives me the willies and I don’t vomit on sight of Michelin Man, the childhood start of her issues. So why was she immune? She has a well paying job as a consequence of her weirdness, telling companies whether or not a proposed logo makes her chunder. Nice work if you can get it.

Here for the rest.

http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres...
Profile Image for Kathryn.
837 reviews
December 29, 2015
2.5 stars
This wasn’t what I was expecting. My fault entirely, as I misread the blurb. But the story was hard to follow at times with the author making points that went way over my head at times.

It is written in a semi-stream of consciousness style, which didn’t help me to follow what was happening. Stream-of-consciousness writing would have to be one of the things that most turns me off a book. That, and lack of punctuation for dialogue. Happily this one does have adequate punctuation.

This was first published in 2003 and the references to technology make me think back to what I remember of technology in 2003. I can’t work out whether the references to technology throughout are things that were current at the time, or how the author imagined technology would develop. I think in 2003 I didn’t even have the internet on at home, so my perception of what was commonplace technology is probably skewed!

The last 60 pages were the best part as things started to come together and make (a little) more sense.

So there were aspects of this that were interesting, but overall, the difficult to follow plot made it hard going. I finished it because it fit into a few challenges, but if it hadn’t been for that, I might have ditched it in the first 50 pages. (But then, there is always the possibility that a book will get better and I’ll have missed out if I stop too soon! So I don’t often quit books anyway - whether for a challenge or not…)

NB I started listening to the audiobook of this and gave it up as I felt the narrator's almost monotone made it difficult listening - but now I know the monotone probably suited the main character, and it might have actually been the style of writing that made listening difficult, rather than the narrator.
Profile Image for Gilbert Stack.
Author 55 books43 followers
December 17, 2021
This is no Neuromancer. The plot creeps along like cold molasses spilling across a table. The story is wrapped around some “intriguing” video clips that are appearing on the web and the interest in the heroine’s (Cayce) employer in finding their source and capitalizing on them. Along the way is a lot of industrial espionage “action” that never really pulled me in. I think that aside from the very slow pace, the major problem was the video clips. They’re the McGuffin that drives the plot, but you have to completely take them on faith. Even when Cayce finds the source and “watches” them being made (an almost religious experience for her) I felt totally unmoved by them and was wishing the plot would advance faster.

There were some interesting issues being dealt with like did Cayce’s father really die on 9/11, but ultimately, that storyline didn’t get enough traction to hold my interest. Unfortunately, this is a novel that just didn’t work for me.

If you liked this review, you can find more at www.gilberstack.com/reviews.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,891 reviews1,207 followers
December 4, 2014
After reading Neuromancer I took a short detour into some of Gibson’s other works of fiction, and then I read Virtual Light. With Pattern Recognition I seem to have established a trend of reading his three trilogies in a breadth-first rather than depth-first mode: having completed all of the first books, I will now read all three second books, etc. This might be an unusual way to go about it, but I hope it offers some insights and connections that might not make themselves apparent were I to read all of, say, the Sprawl trilogy first before moving on to Bridge and Bigend.

William Gibson is a much-celebrated author of science fiction. There’s just something about the way he writes that elevates his stories above simpler, more reliable forms of science fictional stories. He has this almost childlike fascination with technology and where it is taking us now, here in the present, not fifty or a hundred or a hundred thousand years in the future. (I love the far-future posthumanist authors; I really do, but there is a certain amount of discontinuity between their depictions and what we see today.) I want to call it prescience, but that is definitely not the right term to use: there is nothing about Neuromancer that is prescient so much as influential. I follow him on Twitter, and he is always posting and retweeting links to the strangest stories of technological innovation, changes to the way corporations manipulate media to advertise, etc. I feel like Gibson gets it, whatever “it” means—that crucial comprehension and vision of how technology is changing what we are as a species.

Once again someone is trying to film Neuromancer, and I wish them the best of luck—this is no doubt a tricky project, although I would love to finally see it as a movie. Neuromancer is an excellent novel, both in general and for its role it played in inspiring cyberpunk. My review is somewhat pretentious, especially toward the end, but I still agree with most of its sentiment. As much as I love William Gibson as a writer, something has held me back from ever giving one of his books five stars.

Until now.

So what changed? One sentence, one phrase, talking about Cayce’s unusual sensitivity to logos and branding, has become the symbol for why I think Pattern Recognition is worth five stars. Here’s the paragraph for context:

The national symbols of her homeland don’t trigger her, or so far haven’t. And over the past year, in New York, she’s been deeply grateful for this. An allergy to flags or eagles would have reduced her to shut-in status: a species of semiotic agoraphobia.


The emphasis is mine, highlighting the phrase that confirmed Pattern Recognition’s status. I just love that turn of phrase! Maybe it’s the Umberto Eco fan in me talking now, but the phrase is just so poetic and so apt, for it describes what it would be like to feel the impact of every symbol we experience. Mass media and consumer culture have teamed up to inundate us with symbols, and in turn that has desensitized us to the vast majority of them: I think nothing of seeing the logo for Coca-Cola when I’m driving, because that’s just a part of the scenery. That’s why companies are now seizing on alternative marketing strategies, like the viral strategies we see a bit of in Pattern Recognition. Media have changed us as a species, so the advertisers are striving to keep up and move on to the next paradigm.

I find it interesting that Gibson named his protagonist “Cayce”, which looks so similar to the name of Neuromancer’s protagonist, “Case”. It’s supposed to be pronounced “Casey”, but Cayce herself says she prefers “Case”, and indeed, that’s how I first read it in my head. I’m not sure what kind of parallels, if any, he is attempting to draw—although both are somewhat isolated people who seem more comfortable socializing online than they do in person, and both have a rare skill they use to get jobs. Cayce’s suspicion and small rebellions against Bigend also remind me of Case’s self-empowerment while working for Wintermute—they aren’t just pawns of the big player, but quite vocal employees who have the ability to affect the outcome of the game, if not completely change its balance.

But Pattern Recognition affected me on a much deeper level than Neuromancer, which is why I feel comfortable giving it five stars. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been contemplating the way media attempt to influence us (especially for my Education, Media, and Gender class). Whatever the reason, I’m in a phase of my life where the effects of media and the critique of media are very much at the forefront of my mind, and so those elements of Pattern Recognition spoke volumes to me. When I say Gibson “gets it”, what I mean is that he takes all of these ideas about companies and advertising strategies, globalization and viral marketing on the Internet, and rotates them ever so slightly, giving us a slightly skewed version of the world—that’s the science fiction. We get Bigend, Blue Ant, and the footage, and it all works out into a very compelling commentary on the evolution of marketing in our global, digital village.

There’s a certain zaniness to Pattern Recognition too. The back cover copy of my edition captures this:

But when she is co-opted into the search for the creator of a strangely addictive on-line film, Cayce wonders if she has done the right—or indeed, safe—thing. And that’s before violence, Japanese computer crazies, and Russian Mafia men are in the mix.


Just Japanese computer crazies or Russian mafia might make the novel a suitably noir thriller; both, however, are greedy and over the top. The description sounds more like something suited to Nick Harkaway than Gibson; “absurd” doesn’t really seem his style. Somehow, though, just as he does in Virtual Light, Gibson manages to unify these disparate story elements into something less absurd and more unusual. Pattern Recognition is definitely fiction, and it might be a little over the top, but that’s part of its charm and why it was so difficult to put it down.

The next amazing ingredient is Cayce herself: she is an excellent character. From Molly to Chevette Gibson writes interesting, complex female characters, but Cayce is my favourite so far. She is so human and flawed: there are mentions of past relationships, boyfriends who didn’t work out and the strained thread between her and her mother. And Gibson avoids some of the common missteps that seem to undermine otherwise strong female characters in fiction: she never moons over another character or hooks up with a male companion only to regret it later (I was worried when Boone arrived on the scene, but I should have had more faith). Yet she does eventually find some kind of human companionship toward the end of the book—Gibson leaves the exact nature of their relationship somewhat open for interpretation, in my opinion, which is all the better. Are you taking notes, Stephenie Meyer?

Pattern Recognition is much closer to Neuromancer than Virtual Light in the sense that Cayce is the main character and everyone else is supporting cast. She succumbs—and I do think that’s the correct word to use here—to Bigend’s offer to hire her to find the creator of the footage, but she does so for a very personal reason. As a result, Cayce’s social world constricts as different elements come into contact: her new Polish acquaintances suddenly provide a contact who has friends in the NSA; her online acquaintance Parkaboy becomes an unlikely ally as Russian mafia agents close in on her. Gibson takes all of these ideas about viral videos and marketing and turns them into a close-knit, suspense-laden thriller—the result being, I suspect, a slightly science-fictional book that would appeal to a lot of readers. I’m often very snobbish when it comes to thrillers, and I admit I might be biased because it’s a thriller by William Gibson. But I do feel that it’s the union of all these elements that makes this book so successful. It has the same gritty feel of Neuromancer and a similar, intelligent sight on our zeitgeist, but it felt a lot more relevant to me than his other works. And for that reason, Pattern Recognition is the Gibson book that broke the five-star barrier.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Brooke.
537 reviews285 followers
April 27, 2010
Definitely the most accessible Gibson novel written up to this point in his bibliography - it lacks the complex density of Neuromancer and is pretty rooted in the here-and-now. Also unlike his previous novels, Pattern Recognition only follows one protagonist, Cayce Pollard, instead of jumping between several entwining storylines.

Gibson's portrayal of internet groups and internet friendships feels very authentic, especially when compared with fellow sci-fi author Cory Doctorow's. The mysterious footage clips in the novel remind me of a recent similar event from real life (see: iamamiwhoami).

The only downside is the ending, which feels fuzzy despite being completely forthcoming about the book's mysteries. But as I think about it, Gibson's endings are all pretty identical, aren't they?
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
August 28, 2020
Firstly, I will say that I absolutely loved the concept of the protagonist's metahuman ability; it was completely original and nothing short of a stroke of genius on the author's part. The protagonist herself was also very likeable and easy to spend time with.

The trouble with the book is that it's trying to be present-day SF noir, which I'm all for, but fails to ever create any real tension or any sense that the protagonist won't eventually accomplish her goals. I never felt she was in any real danger and, as a result, the whole book feels a bit flat. It didn't help that the 'revelations' of the ending were almost completely anticlimactic.

Essentially, while I did enjoy it, it was frustrating as it could have been so much better. A very intelligent book, with some nice concepts, but lacking any real heart.
Profile Image for CëRïSë.
282 reviews3 followers
May 11, 2010
I don't know how this book got to be a best-seller. Yet as I was traveling last month, I noticed that, for the first time, I was toting, along with my rolling suitcase, a paperback that was all over the airport booksellers' racks.

I thought it was abysmal. A good friend had mentioned it to me, and I thought that he had recommended it, so when I saw a used copy at one of my favorite local bookstores, I grabbed it. I realized later, when I checked my notes, that he had actually recommended Count Zero. Oops.

I found Pattern Recognition better-written than Neuromancer, which is saying very little indeed, but far from enjoyable. Although the premise was certainly interesting (involving, among other things, a protagonist whose lucrative career is based on her highly sensitive intrinsic ability to sense fashion trends), the characters were vaguely intriguing, and certain phrases (such as mirror-world) seemed fairly hip, I mostly thought it was boring and, for all its attempted hipness, somewhat overwrought.

Bummer.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
January 16, 2016
This was a really fun book to read that I enjoyed all the way through. Unfortunately, the end did not live up the rest, leaving me sitting there wondering just a little bit what the point had been. It wasn't bad enough to spoil the enjoyment I got out of reading this book, but it was certainly a little jarring.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 25 books781 followers
Read
August 19, 2015
Set about a year after 9/11, this book is closer to thriller than SF - indeed, I'm not sure I would count it as SF at all. Cayce is a kind of marketing design savant, able to spot by instinct when a brand or logo would be successful. Logos provoke a kind of allergic reaction in her. She's also one of a growing group obsessed with "the footage" - compelling fragments of film released anonymously onto the internet. Cayce frequents a forum that analyses every frame of the footage, debating clothing history, possible meaning, the likelihood of completed film, and why so many viewers are so powerfully affected by the footage. Then she is hired by a very rich marketing mogul, who wants her to track down who is releasing the footage.

This is a story about internet zeitgeist, about forum friendships, about the psychology of advertising and viral video - and also of the changing of eras, as the internet increasingly erases the lines between borders. It is an old world slipping away and a new forming.

It's also that moment you have, when you're watching Grand Designs, where the host - after for some time doubting whether or not this week's house owner's architectural ambitions will work - smiles as the music cranks up and he starts extolling the virtues of yet another glass and polished steel box, and you the viewer, without a spare million pounds to throw away on titanium countertops and 'integrity', mutter: "What fucking wank" and change channels.

The beginning of Pattern Recognition, particularly, is a morass of design-speak that is difficult to swallow. I kept grimacing whenever Cayce would talk so passionately about the soul-less imitation that is Tommy Hilfiger, or buy Levi 501s and then have every recognisable feature removed. This is someone allergic to branding, but who is deeply into fashion. But, still, putting aside my vast disinterest in designer clothing, Cayce was likeable enough, in a kind of anxious but determined way, and I was as curious as any about the explanation for the footage.

I won't go into that particular plot resolution. It was neither entirely disappointing, nor exciting and powerful. Though the relative fade of interest at the ending is also to do with Cayce's role in the plot.

There are quite a few women in this story, but all the powerful actors are men. Only Cayce and one other woman (who is your standard eviljealousbitch) have real plot importance in the efforts to solve the mystery. And the mystery solving is not done by Cayce. Oh, she technically does so, by being the physical actor, but the solving is all coordinated by men. Man 1 hires her. Man 2 gives her a clue to follow up and sets up a meeting. She meets up with Man 3 to get that information. Man 4 physically helps her out. Man 5 tells her how to pressure Man 6 to get another bit of information, and a favour related to Daddy is involved. Woman antagonist gets in her way a couple of times throughout. Man 2 shows up for another rescue, while Man 3 is dismissed as not being competent enough, and Man 1 gets what he wanted all along. Some women are artistic and protected in the background. Cayce's brand-sensitivity seems to contribute nothing to the resolution.

The end, where Cayce simply bleats reaction to various men explaining things to her (after being incredibly naive and stupid so that she is put into danger) is particularly frustrating, since she started out as a more interesting character.

Anyway, the concept drew me in and I was drawn through by wanting to know the explanation, but definitely not on my re-read pile. [I'll also need to redefine my definition of science fiction, it seems, since there is nothing in this story that is not contemporary, yet this was a finalist for numerous SF awards.]
Profile Image for Christopher.
354 reviews47 followers
April 15, 2017
I find reading reviews for books I've read depressing. It is so difficult to figure out where people were coming from that led them to such seemingly wrong* reviews. Understanding the reviewer is the most important aspect to understanding any review. They complain about something central to the genre and you're left wondering if they just aren't familiar with the genre, and would dislike all of it if they were, or if this is a bad example of said genre. Who knows?

Some reviewers are kind in this regard. They don't force me over to their ratings shelf to see how they rate other books in the genre. They will straight up tell you that this is their first William Gibson book, or their first cyberpunk book. Listen... read Neuromancer before you read any other Gibson. If you're new to cyberpunk, read that or/and Altered Carbon by Morgan. Perhaps Snow Crash, but Stephenson gets long-winded, so I understand avoiding him.

So let's start from there. You've read at least Neuromancer and like the whole cyberpunk thing, so you either saw this on a list of cyberpunk novels or you noticed that it's Gibson, so you're thinking about giving it a shot.

Opening line:
"Five hours’ New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm."


This isn't fully cyberpunk, despite what genre tag we may give it. Yes, it has large corporations running things, and there is espionage, and trade secrets, and electronic surveillance, and a lone freelance operative navigating it all. But there isn't something I consider central to cyberpunk, which is implants or wearable tech. There is lots of tech, and the internet and how information spreads is central to the novel, but I want people with screens over their face, or phones in their hands, or eyes that are cameras. But that's just me. And now you know. None of that is here, for what it's worth.

What is here is mostly a story that could take place in the current day reality, minus a couple of odd abilities, like our MC having an actual allergic reaction to certain brands, and having the ability to know what good branding is and isn't. It's super weird, and I like it... but there's not a lot of that sort of thing here. For better or worse.

Our MC is hired to track down the creator of a set of anonymously released videos, which is what brings in all of the above espionage and electronic surveillance and such. There's even a spy or two along the way.

We're kept tight to our MC, only knowing what she knows, which keeps the twists and turns unexpected, and thankfully Cayce is not an idiot, which keeps me from throwing the book out the nearest window.

This isn't an incredibly fast paced story, with all of its traveling from country to country. And there aren't a ton of action sequences, by which I mean there is one.. and a half of one if you have need for the first to not feel lonely. But I remained interested the entire time, knocking out the book in a couple of sittings. Others have noted the writing can feel a little disjointed, which I think I agree with, but wouldn't use that word. It has a sort of literary feel to it, but it's still telling a down on the streets tech story, with just enough of a noir feel to not want to add that label, but not be too offended if someone else suggests it.

It's fun and worth a read, but do try Neuromancer first. I mean, they are very different books, but this is just such a weird place to jump into Gibson. Or not. You do you.


* I kid, I kid. Reviews are just opinions. They can't be wrong, per se.
Profile Image for Jim.
39 reviews6 followers
November 8, 2008
I'd been meaning to read something by Gibson for a long time. I thought it would be Neuromancer. But this book fell into my hands first. Despite its 2003 copyright, which makes it very old by computer-world standards, the high-tech world that Gibson whips up here feels fresh. It takes place today--not in the distant future. Email, the web, viral marketing, high fashion, international espionage, contemporary underground art all collide here. I could not put it down. Takes place mostly in London, woth side trips to New York, Tokyo and Moscow.
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