“Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson

I have something to admit. At the risk of losing my geek-girl cred, I had not read anything by William Gibson. Not even Neuromancer. Like many other books and movies, I’d always wanted to read it, but hadn’t yet managed to. Gibson’s Pattern Recognition started waving at me last year, when John Warner at the Morning News did a Biblioracle session; he asked readers for the last 5 books they’d read and recommended one to read next. He picked Pattern Recognition for me. Between one thing and another, I didn’t get around to it. A little later I noticed Pattern Recognition again on a friend’s Facebook page; she listed it as one of her favorite books. Third (and finally) my husband started the new William Gibson, Zero History, and felt he needed to return to Pattern Recognition, the first of the trilogy. As he re-read Pattern Recognition, then Spook Country, then Zero History, he kept telling me he thought I’d like them and if I read them we could discuss them. So, here I am, finally having read Gibson and Pattern Recognition. And I’m very glad I did.

Cayce (pronounced Case) Pollard is an advertising savant, hired for big bucks by global companies to evaluate logos and other marketing stuff. She’s also a “footage-head,” a devotee of found video clips from the internet by an anonymous creator. She’s doing work for the improbably named Belgian, Hubertus Bigend, when her worlds start to collide in intriguing and dangerous ways.

“The heart is a muscle,” Bigend corrects. “You ‘know’ in your limbic brain. The seat of instinct. The mammalian brain. Deeper, wider, beyond logic. That is where advertising works, not in the upstart cortex. What we think of as ‘mind’ is only a sort of jumped-up gland, piggybacking on the reptilian brainstem and the older, mammalian mind, but our culture tricks us into recognizing it as all of consciousness. The mammalian spreads continent-wide beneath it, mute and muscular, attending to its ancient agenda. And makes us buy things.” (69)

Gibson is shelved in sci-fi/fantasy, and while this book has elements of both, it’s much more complex than that. It’s also a mystery, with some philosophy, post-modernism and who knows what else thrown in. As I read, I was reminded of, among others, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49, Jasper Fforde’s Eyre Affair, and Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I felt my brain twisting and turning as I read, firing synapses usually dormant. I very much look forward to Spook Country.

3 Responses to ““Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson”

  1. weirleader Says:

    If you ever get around to Neuromancer, I’ll be interested in your opinion of it. I read it because I felt that my own geek-cred was at stake… and I was underwhelmed. Therefore, as the only Gibson book I’ve read, it left me with a bit of an aversion to him (not fair, just the way it is).

  2. thalia Says:

    now you describe this, I read it a while ago and really enjoyed it. I would not have recognised the title or the author, though, which is unusual for me. Should I read the rest of the trilogy, then?

  3. girldetective Says:

    Based on G’s recommendation, yes, but I haven’t yet read them. But he does recommend re-reading PR first.