Sprawling dystopian cities, strange interstitial havens, nebulous virtual worlds, a seemingly effortless mix of bleeding-edge technology and ancient mysticism, 'cyberpunk' ... these are the some of the things we have come to expect from the novels of William Gibson.
Even if you've only read his first book, Neuromancer (the inspiration for the original Matrix movie), you'll know exactly what I mean.
But here, for the first time in his career, Gibson has decided to stay very much in the present, combining his knack for keeping pulse with modern culture with an enviable ability for creating three dimensional characters who are both quirky and often quite unpredictable - without being too contrived.
Despite its contemporary rather than futuristic nature, there are enough Gibson motifs in Pattern Recognition to keep fans happy. As in all his novels, Geeks are center stage - it is the thinker and not the warrior who drives the plot along. The various uses (and abuses) of technology and the dissemination of information are central themes, as are questions of personal and cultural identity.
The story follows Cayce Pollard, a professional 'cool hunter' who is hired by an eccentric millionaire to unravel the mystery of a strange series of chopped-up video footage that has gained a kind of cult following on the internet. A trail of digital evidence, shady characters, and unusual antiques takes Cayce on a journey from London, through Tokyo, on to Moscow and ends in Paris.
Pattern Recognition is a modern detective novel, but breaks away from the traditional genre by offering us much more than the obligatory plot twists and two dimensional characters one might expect.
Cayce Pollard herself is not your typical investigator. Fatherless since September 11th 2001, practically motherless, she is a puzzle with some very important pieces missing. The job she is hired to do she only begrudgingly accepts because she herself is infatuated with the idea that the footage is something new and virginal in a world that is mostly sullied by the darker shades of capitalism - omnipresent, superficial media; subliminal advertising; product exposure and fashion accessorizing in every aspect of our daily lives.
Having been afflicted from a young age by a bizarre phobia of corporate trademarks and logos, you would not expect her to be employed as the very person expected to analyze and critique them, yet this is exactly what she does. Pollard is similar to the remarkably intuitive Colin Laney (Idoru) in that she has an innate ability to perceive trends and patterns in products and culture. This of course makes her an ideal candidate for extrapolating the origin and the meaning of the video footage - which has become a global phenomenon amongst online file-sharing communities.