Pattern Recognition

William Gibson
Pattern Recognition Cover

Cyberpunk Maturity


I remember the profound sense of fascination I felt when I read Gibson's 'Neuromancer' many years ago. 'Pattern Recognition' has triggered that same sense of wonder and thoughtfulness. One cannot help but wonder how Gibson himself feels at seeing the Information Age he unknowingly prophecised come true around him, but this novel is an undeniable proof that Gibson has his writer's finger on the "Zeitgeist" of it all.

The story behind 'Pattern Recognition' is rather simple: Cayce Pollard, a 'coolhunter' and marketing consultant, is hired by an ad agency to hunt down the source of an Internet subculture revolving around mysterious video footage. The story, in itself, is not incredibly engaging, but it matters little because there is a lot more to like. The fact that Cayce is 'allergic' to branding is what initially drew me into this novel, but it turns out it plays only an anecdotical role. I did not care about the mystery of the footage at the beginning, but when everything came together, I found the concept behind this poignant and thought-provoking.

To put it simply, the way Gibson writes about culture and technology is awe-inspiring. The novel is littered with little gems, too numerous to recount here. It reminded me of the early Douglas Coupland, but with a more somber, dramatic and meaningful tone. Pattern Recognition, as the title implies, provides thought-provoking themes about chaos, order, and how the human mind struggles to make the later emerge from the former. The many ways in which Casey searches for 'patterns', in the world around her and in her personal life, are moving and deeply satisfying.

I'm amazed at how much more 'mature' Pattern Recognition feels in comparison with Gibson's earlier cyberpunk stuff. It's not that Neuromancer is not as good as it used to be, but you can definitely feel the wiser, more thoughtful approach that two decades of writing have brought to Gibson. It's a joy to see a writer evolve as such, and I hope to see more of this kind of work from Gibson in the future.