New In Print

New In Print

Pattern Recognition

by William Gibson

Putnam, 368 pp., $25.95 Is cyberpunk author William Gibson burned out on the future? Of course, Gibson has stated that he has always been writing about the present, using science fiction as a kind of prop. But writers cannot always be trusted to tell the truth about their writing. In any event, Gibson's seventh novel, Pattern Recognition, is this time actually set in the present. Cayce Pollard is a market researcher who has a sixth sense that allows her to spot trends and products before they hit the commercial big time. Yet she is haunted by the twin wounds of witnessing the WTC attack and the memory of her CIA asset father, Win Pollard, who, unbeknownst to her at that time, was in New York City that fateful morning and was never seen again. She travels to London to consult on a corporate logo featuring a "syncopated sperm" for the multinational mega-advertising agency Blue Ant, which is run by the reptilian Hubertus Bigend. Bigend takes Cayce aside and gives her another, less conventional assignment: Track down the origin of a series of film strips known only as "the footage," which is being downloaded by persons unknown on to the Internet and has spawned an international cult of obsessives who swap e-mails speculating on the true nature of the footage and the identity of the auteur who made it. Gibson's trademark wordplay is still in evidence here, with the acronym CPU (Central Processing Unit) converted to "Cayce Pollard Units," meaning designer clothing from which Cayce has removed the logos -- certain logos that trigger anxiety attacks -- making them now wearable. Gibson fetishizes just about every spiffy object he describes, as if he had downloaded a year's supply of Wallpaper magazine into his DNA. And Gibson, a self-confessed fan of kook journalist Charles Fort, seems to be getting New Agey on us, with references to soul-retrieval, bilocation, and Electronic Voice Phenomena. Even Cayce's name is lifted from the noted clairvoyant Edgar Cayce. A certain ambiguity over the fate of Win Pollard indicates that Gibson will be cranking out a sequel to Pattern Recognition, just as he did with the exquisite Idoru and the subsequent All Tomorrow's Parties. Pattern RecognitionWilliam Gibson

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