Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
Pattern Recognition found its way to my reading list as do most books for review on ARWZ. There was a combination of motivating factors—it was written by one of the greats of SFF literature, it was available on audiobook... What I did not expect, however, was to enjoy it as much as I did.

It may even be vaguely incorrect to review this novel on ARWZ because it isn't, as it turns out, truly SFF. This novel is set on present-day earth—present day for the time it was published, at least. In fact, this novel is quite strictly dated to the years directly post-9/11. The main protagonist of Pattern Recognition is Cayce, a woman whose father disappeared the morning of September 11th in New York. Cayce is still generally haunted by the irresolution of his disappearance, as well as plagued by a vague discomfort with the world she lives in. This discomfort is spurred both by changes in the post-9/11 years stemming from the attacks and to changes in Cayce's life that arose at the same time more coincidently. One of the only things about this novel that is SFF-ish is Cayce's peculiar sensitivity to brand names and images, many of which cause her virulent anxiety. As the novel opens, Cayce has gone to London on assignment for a company that aims to use her special powers of brand name recognition to assist in the development of a new logo they hope to trademark. Shortly after arrival, though, Cayce realizes she is under surveillance by forces much more powerful than the corporation that has contracted her.

Book Cover

On Audio
I did not expect to enjoy this novel, in part, because Neuromancer did not appeal to me when I read it. This Cayce, however (and yes, it's pronounced "Case"), turned out to be a very engaging and relatable character, one of the best female characters I've encountered in fiction, by far. The dynamics of the present-day setting are also very fascinating. I was amazed at how much this novel reads like SFF/cyberpunk at times, even though the technology is not speculative, but rather technology from our everyday lives. I'm tempted to interpret this choice on Gibson's part as a statement that we've reached a level of cyber-technology where it lends to stories just as interesting as speculative tales. At other times, though, this novel reads more like literary fiction, and I was very much drawn in by Gibson's subtle character crafting of Cayce.

This audio production of this novel is also exceptional; Shelly Fraiser's narration was spot-on with Cayce's character and added significantly to the enjoyment of this novel.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.