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#95 ~ Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

I had never heard of William Gibson or the novel Pattern Recognition until it arrived on my front porch back in June, a gift from my good friend, Mark. What I found was an interesting novel that truly did stretch and challenge me as a reader. In fact, I will have to read this novel again because I was unable to grasp all that was being done.

Pattern Recognition tells the story or Cayce (pronounced Casey) Pollard, a woman highly in tune with up and coming trends. She, more than anyone else, sees patterns in dress, attitudes and interests on the streets. This awareness makes her opinions sought after by marketing departments developing new logos. She earns a very comfortable living providing these services and travels extensively. As a result of being so attuned to what will be cool or perhaps because of it, Cayce cannot stand being around logos and other corporate symbols. She does not wear brand named clothing. She considers it an allergy. Because of her phobia, I will never again look at the Michelin Man in the same way after reading this book.

For someone on the cutting edge of cool, Cayce is introverted and her hobby borders on geeky. Outside of her work her passion is to hang out on a board discussing clips of a movie that mysteriously and randomly appear on the Internet. With each new piece of footage that is discovered, the boards become increasingly active with theoretical discussions about the footage. Is it a completed piece? In what order are the clips being released. Is it or will it be a movie at all? Cayce’s best friend on her favorite board, f:f:f, is Parkaboy. He is very opinionated when it comes to the footage and is known to get into heated discussions with other members. This level of dedication and interest over clips reminds me quite a bit of those people I know who are obsessed with Star Trek, The X-Files, and other science fiction/paranormal favorites. In that way, Cayce strikes me as a hero for the everyday nerd. She dictates cool for the outside world while making her home among those who don’t follow the trends.

Much of the detail in this novel went straight over my head. There were large stretches where I felt that significant things were happening, but I missed them entirely. Reading those sections over again did not change that. Even as I finished the novel the pieces weren’t fitting together for me. There were also important themes, such as the antique calculators, that I really didn’t understand. For this reason, I will need to reread this novel. I want to find the patterns in the novel that I missed.

Despite feeling lost at times and not comprehending all that was happening, I enjoyed reading Pattern Recognition. I very much enjoyed getting to know Cayce and follow her along on her adventures and her trek to find out more about the footage. She goes from London to Paris to Moscow and in the midst of these big cities, she even sneaks in a reference to Roanoke, Virginia. What I was left with most of all, were interesting ideas that I continue to think about. What would life be like if I were allergic to or had a phobia of logos, mascots, and other visual forms of marketing? What does globalization mean? What importance does corporate marketing have in my life? I like to think I’m somewhat immune to all of the advertising I see on a daily basis, but am I really?

A novel that makes you ask questions and think about the larger issues in society. Somehow, I’m not surprised at all that this is one of Mark’s favorite books. We are going to have quite a bit to discuss the next time we’re together.

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To buy this book, click here.

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This is my inaugural review in my new Expand Your Horizons Reading Challenge. Click here for more information on how this started and how you can participate.

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William Gibson won the 2004 Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work for Pattern Recognition. As such, this is my first review for the Book Awards Challenge II.

3 Comments

  • At 2008.08.23 22:18, lucidlunatic said:

    I’m rather fond of this book as well. William Gibson has a unique and intriguing writing style. I’d recommend Neuromancer and Count Zero by him as well, though perhaps not if you felt some of Pattern Recognition was going over your head. He does tend to immerse himself in technicalities- something I enjoy greatly but which many I know have trouble with.

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    • At 2008.08.24 17:44, Shana said:

      Jennifer, I’m having difficulty imagining exactly what this book is like but it sounds interesting all the same!

      • At 2013.12.21 15:33, Steven Wayne Johnson, CPA, *PRT said:

        I am a 5eerSLK (pronounced Seer Sell Cay), a Certified Public Accountant, and a Star/Global Pattern Recognition Thinker/Technician/Theologist

        There are manifold patterns in this book, including the primary character – NOT exactly rhetorically allegorical as he (William Gibson) didn’t even bother to mask Edgar’s name (see Edgar Cayce).

        The very fact that you posted this in 2008, in month 08 and I’m posting this response in 2013 is a STRONG pattern when you look up allegory in the WITCH PEDIAS to find it first appeared in the English language in 1382! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory – and then, of course, as patterns do – it gets, umm, “curiouser and curiouser”

        The reason people find content such as you mention (x-files, star trek, et al) so fascinating and even addicting is because of the “depth of field” represented by their patterns, which is enormous.

        Your mention of Roanoke, Virginia is a very, very common and current pattern – just watch a few episodes of BGT (got talent?) or XFactor or Idol and you’ll see AND hear it – RV – Recording Vocal – as well as the niche itself – Recreational Vehicle – and what the big record companies use it for: Recruiting Vessel – ahh, Dreamboat Annie, little SHIP OF DREAMS, right?

        Now for the pattern inherent in THE AUTHOR’S OWN NAME – first, I get immediately Bee Gees (Bill Gibson), followed by the boy in line for the throne of UK (William and derivatives – like Will-I-Am and the BARD HIMSELF, and then it can get kinda trekkie and all Stephen King’ish with Wil Wheaton alias Wesley Crusher (ST|NG – Star Trek | Next Gen) which gives you that Brit rocker: Sting – and King’s old book “The Body” made into Stand By Me with Will and River Phoenix in Brownsville, OR (formerly known as “Kirk’s Ferry” – look at that one!! not even the same Star Trek version as Will’s!! haha) I could go on…

        I’ll finish with the heroine herself – Cayce – which, if you play FAUX-NEME or FOE-NEME games, you get Kansas City (bombing? royals?) or K Sea (k in computers = 1,000 thus 3 orders of magnitude OCEAN) or even Kay Sees (there are twin “C”s right?) which is a JEWELER and a CHOCOLATIER, I believe…

        oh, and YES, if you learn to recognize patterns, like, oh, I don’t know FIBONACCI CLUSTERS? well, like Cayce (the mythical one AND the real one from the late 1800’s) you can get really rich from the skill.

        (Required)
        (Required, will not be published)

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