On Saturday I officially finished reading “Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson, the first in his “Bigend” series. It takes his classic suspenseful cyberpunk prose and superimposes it on a quasi-realistic version of everyday reality. “Cool hunter” Cayce Pollard gets wrapped up in a web of international creative intrigue as she tries to track down a mysterious filmmaker disseminating viral video clips to worldwide acclaim.
I wrapped up the Sprawl trilogy earlier this year, so I felt like I had a strong grasp on Gibson’s style, but I still walked away from this one feeling somewhat weirded out. His style really shines when he’s creating his own worlds, because that terse suspenseful tone bleeds into the way I imagine his dystopic universe itself. It becomes part of the world, in essence, and reinforces it.
When staged in the real world though, that same tone has the opposite effect. Instead of adopting Cayce Pollard’s view of the world, I wind up merely questioning her character. Her phobias and mopey approach to her craft are less forgivable because I can plausibly imagine myself in her place and can’t muster much sympathy.
Probably the biggest fault with the book, however, was tying its leash to September 11th. I imagine the compulsion to write fiction that dealt with living in a post-9/11 world was still quite strong in 2005, but by 2011 I think all it wound up doing was automatically dating the book. Especially with Osama Bin Laden in the rearview mirror, it just feels trite now… like looking back at journal entries just after a death in the family.
If the next two in the series are more of the same, I think I might be done with Gibson for the time being.
Ideas I Will Steal For My Hypothetical Future Book: Give the protagonist an interesting job that the reader has never heard of before… but wants!
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