I’m not a Luddite, but by the same token I’m not a technophile. So, while Willaim Gibson has written his first book to be based in the current era, much of it is slightly “ahead” of me. However, Gibson’s strength is in characterization, and that has drawn me to all his books, future or present.
The protagonist of “Pattern Recognition” is Cayce Pollard, a woman who “knows” what styles are going to be cool, and makes a living with this knowledge, advising businesses and people. “What people take for relentless minimalism is a side effect of too much exposure to the reactor-cores of fashion. This has resulted in a remorseless paring-down of what she can and will wear. She is, literally, allergic to fashion. She can only tolerate things that could have been worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000. She is a design-free zone, a one-woman school of anti whose very austerity periodically threatens to spawn its own cult” (p. 8). This means she has the logo ground off the buttons of her black Levi 501s. Cayce is also a follower of “footage,” a movie (perhaps) that has been showing up on the internet, a few short clips at a time, which now has its own following and discussion groups. Her life becomes particularly interesting when she is hired to find out who is creating this footage.
What I can relate to in this wonderful novel, is the place of the internet in her life. Cayce has friends in other states, other countries, whom she has never met. Very good friends. And it is awareness of internet trends and current events that often help her connect with the physical people around her.
I read this book because my husband ordered it for himself. (Grad school pretty much broke me of the habit of buying fiction — no time to read it.) Yet Gibson has reminded me again how fiction can mirror real life in a way non-fiction cannot always do. This was one of those books I stayed up all night to read, and am glad I did.
[To read an excerpt from “Pattern Recognition,” please go to http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/books/pattern .]