I was hoping to be blown away by the legendary William Gibson (none of whose legendary books I have read), but I found that Pattern Recognition
reminded me a lot of Reamde
by Neal Stephenson: it's a pacey, interesting techno-thriller that just never quite reached the peak of Awesome. I found Gibson's writing to be stronger than Stephenson's, but his characterization weaker.
The main character is Cayce (pronounced "Case") Pollard, who has one of those odd freelance consultant jobs that can only exist in the modern world: she's got a sort of preternatural sense for marketing. She can take one look at a logo and know whether it will "click" with the zeitgeist, making her very valuable to image-obsessed corporations. The downside of her talent is a disability that can also only exist in the modern world: she is allergic to certain trademarks and corporate symbols. The Michelin Man, for example, sends her into near-panic attacks.
Cayce works for a firm called "Blue Ant," run by a genius wunderkind with inscrutable motives (of course) who goes by "Big End." Big End asks her to investigate the source of a viral video being obsessively discussed and followed on the Internet, a strange piece of work being released in segments by an unknown producer. Big End says he's captivated by its marketing potential, but soon it develops that many different people are interested in this video and its creator, for many different reasons. Cayce travels from London to Japan to Russia and is ensnared in one conspiracy after another in her quest for the maker.
Strictly speaking, this book isn't really science fiction, since it takes place in the present day (actually, in 2002, when it was written) and there is no technology that doesn't actually exist. It still has a sci-fi feel to it, though not really much of a cyberpunkish one, unless you consider anything that revolves around online subcultures to be "cyberpunk." (Yeah, I am still shelving it in both categories for sake of comparison when I browse for similar books.) I found Pattern Recognition
to have a strong build-up but a rather weak pay-off. Nonetheless, the story moved along without ever getting boring and Gibson has a nice way with language and unlike some other authors I could name with high geek cachet, he didn't get a lot of stuff absurdly wrong. I've been told his Neuromancer
series pretty much ignores everything that was actually known about computer science when it was written, but the Internet and computer technology in Pattern Recognition
, possibly because it does not take place in the future, is pretty realistic. This book is solidly 3.5 stars (and I really wish Goodreads allowed half star ratings!).