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Pattern Recognition

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Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

It is a trick of perspective that parallel lines seem to converge, which is the case with “Pattern Recognition” the most mimetic novel by William Gibson. Gibson is often tagged as a science fiction writer, but that is driven more by a need for a “file under” label than actual fact. Starting with his earliest work Gibson has always been a literary stylist who uses a cultural polarizing filter set for how soon is now.

That “Pattern Recognition” takes place “now” is more a function of the acceleration of change than anything else. As with Iain Banks’ “Dead Air”, the New York and London of Jay McInerny’s “Bright Lights, Big City” or Martin Amis’ “London Fields” is more alien and SF-like than Gibson, Banks, Copeland or Womack. After all, Kathy Acker used “Neuromancer” as the basis for her novel “Empire of the Senseless” which hardly fits in the box of SF. A literary remix.

Gibson has always been about style, and style has caught up with him, so why make things up when the here and now is just as strange. In chaos theory, there is a concept of attractors, which are patterns arising out of plotting non-linear equations. In this case, it is the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11. In “Pattern Recognition”, the protagonist Cayce Pollard loses her father in the disaster, something which doesn’t emerge until halfway through the book. In “Dead Air” it begins the book, with a party in London which is interrupted when everyone’s cell phone starts ringing at the same time on a Tuesday afternoon. Douglas Coupland’s response was to build an architectural scale model of the twin towers in his studio. Sonic Youth in “Daydream Nation” did a piece called “The Sprawl” inspired by “Neuromancer”, their latest album is “Murray Street” after their studio a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero. Patterns, attractors for non-linear phenomenon.

I mention Douglas Coupland and Jack Womack because they appear in the afterword of “Pattern Recognition” and because like William Gibson both are disconnected post-modern stylists on the periphery of SF. And if you haven’t read Jack Womack’s novels, do yourself a big chainsaw favour.

And hey, this internet thing might be catching on, because not only does William Gibson have a blog, but there is an otaku annotation of the book.

(as a side note, the fact that Amazon only shows “Dead Air” as an ebook means something is fucked up, dude, and I’m not talking about Stephen King’s Wang)

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About Jim Carruthers

  • I don’t think Dead Air has been released in the U.S. as yet — I seem to remember ordering my copy from the Amazon UK site…