Pattern Recognition: William Gibson


Cover of "Pattern Recognition"
Cover of Pattern Recognition

Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

Once in a while you read a book which begins on a weird note, demanding you to change your range of frequency when it comes to understanding it’s tone and layout.

This was, for me, one of those books.

Cayce Pollard is a freelancer who has a very specific task: she gauges the market’s reaction to brand logos and interprets them in a way that allows companies to know how they will be received by the public- and she is very good with that. Flown to London for one such project, Cayce finds that her temporary employer is also interested in hiring her for another purpose: to look into a set of anonymous online film, released randomly in tiny segments across the web, and discover the maker. Because this film has triggered a sub-culture and given rise to a cult, her employer is interested in meeting with the maker of the film in order to better understand the strategy that has allowed these clips to go so viral.

Cayce, a religious follower of the film herself, is unable to resist an offer to track down this film-maker. Meanwhile, somebody is constantly tailing her, choosing to break into her friend’s apartment where she is staying and tracking her emails and correspondence. With the help of friends, colleagues and coincidences, Cayce starts to get closer and closer to the truth. Her quest takes her from London to Tokyo and back and then into the steely grasp of a post-communist, PutinRussia where she will inevitably brush against Russia’s richest man.

Reading the blurb of Pattern Recognition had led me to believe that it would be a modern, internet-savvy detective novel but this book had only elements of what I had expected. It offered a cultural insight into London, Tokyo and Moscow. It also made you feel the indirect wrath of global events such as the Second World War, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and a deeper, more direct link to the 9/11 attacks, since the story here takes place in 2002 and we are told that Cayce’s father went missing on the same day. This obviously leads to direct references to that event, again and again, throughout the span of the novel.

The writing style can be a little distracting at first because it needs some getting used to. Also, the story line moves in a linear, predictable fashion at first and picks up pace very slowly.

But once I reached the ending, I had pretty much decided that I had enjoyed the book though it will be a while before I attempt to pick up another book by William Gibson.

My favourite thought relating to this book stemmed from the author’s observation explaining jet-lag: it occurs because the soul is not able to keep up with the speed of travel and unwinds behind us on an invisible thread as we travel. In the interim, while we wait for it to catch up, we must suffer the side-effects of not having a soul.

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