Off Topic: Pattern Recognition is a Gibsonian hymn to jetlag


It’s fitting, I think, that I first read about Pattern Recognition in the book review column of Edge Magazine. 20 odd years later, in my memory at least, the book and the magazine as it was in that part of the early 2000s cannot fully be separated. Pattern Recognition, like Edge, was serious but also bright-eyed – in love with the futuristic possibilities of the new present, always willing to drop everything and scarper to Tokyo, and drawn, in a way that it clearly found troubling, to glossy and expensive things.

Pattern Recognition is a novel by William Gibson. It’s the first of a trilogy – like the Ramans, Gibson cannot help but worry out his preoccupations in threes; he’s at it again at the moment – and it’s also Gibson’s 9/11 novel. It’s deft in that regard – it captures the echoing numbness of global shock in all its billowing strangeness. But it’s also interesting for Gibsonians because this is Gibson, for what felt like the first time, exploring the present rather than the future.

This was almost predictable. The previous two trilogies of books had seen Gibson move steadily back in time from the cyberpunk horizons of Neuromancer. Idoru, Tomorrow’s Parties, the clock spins backwards and then with Pattern Recognition we’re suddenly here. Early 2000s, London, Tokyo, Moscow et al. A protagonist who flies on 747s and couch surfs at the home of a director friend who makes music videos and owns Apple computers. Ad agencies, government agencies, a particular agency – Blue Ant – that may be on its way to becoming a bit of everything. If you’ve been itching for William Gibson to tell you his thoughts on the Michelin Man, on the best thing about the interior of a civilian Humvee, your ship has arrived.

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