Pattern Recognition by William Gibson is one of the most 'loaded' books that can be read right now.
Almost every line in the book is a carefully crafted pop culture cool reference cunnningly rendered with love and devotion. Chris Cunningham is in the book as 'Damien'. Bjork's robots from her 'All Is Full Of Love' video reside there in a still London apartment. There's an online forum complete with fanboys and a domineering post-matron fascist. And a corporation that does nothing but research the coolest symbols and trademarks for other companies.
It is unlike anything by William Gibson so far. The heart of it is a William Gibson story, characters marginalised by technology and a society that is driven by materialism, but somehow the settings are so 'unfamiliar', ironically. Gone are the skies of dead television and the perverted, twisted hive mind intellect, instead in it is found legions of dedicated fans of cool and snippets of arcane footage scattered across the Web and known only as 'the footage'.
Contrasted with Neuromancer, this is set so strikingly in the present and the now, it seems to be strangely otherwordly. Even jarringly so, to some who might have been more comfortable with his Sprawl books. It is also so much more 'emotional' than his other books; in the sense that sensitivity and a somewhat palpable sense of domestication form a central core of the characters interactions now. This is starkly antithetical to the going-ons in the Sprawl, where hedonism and self-centeredness were the order of the day.
In that respect, Cayce Pollard; the female thirtysomething protaganist; is the anti-Case, the demolished, apathetic anti-hero of Neuromancer (note the similar pronounciation). She is a highly indiviualistic and subtly driven woman, who is a little insecure and a little quirky; but always purposeful, always headstrong.
The story is thrust forward by her musings and actions as she is drawn into intrigue that spans much of the globe and which begins when she is called to London for an assignment; a cool hunting assignment for 'Blue Ant', a fictitious company that is cleverly named; considering the fact that the 'Blue Ant', or Diamma bicolor is in fact a large solitary parasitic wasp. A common, recurring theme in Mr. Gibson's work, the wasp is usually representative of the hive mind or group intellect. Here though, the wasp is couched in symbolism and drawn away from the hive. From there she is introduced to a multitude of characters, the cold advertising executive Dorotea Benedetti, the unhumourously named Hubertus Bigend; founder of Blue Ant, a number of mob-linked Russians and of course, a few internationally-renowned spies.
There is no mistaking however; Cayce Pollard is the central figure in these proceedings, the other characters; varied and textured as they are made to be so by William Gibson's sparse, tightly-drawn, minimalist prose; are merely accompaniment to Cayce's prima ballerina assoluta. Every move she makes; every singular thought, is painted vividly and with precise detail by William Gibson. She flows through the story like gracious water in a symmetrically assured Japanese garden. As she is driven deeper into the story, her voice is the voice of reason and sanity that anchors the story within perceivable bounds. Cayce Pollard is the lens through which Mr. Gibson projects his highly unique, highly focused vision of modernity and hip onto the screen that is Pattern Recognition.
Overall, the story presents a window into a post-everything world, that peers deep; William Gibson does not hide or skirt any aspect or issue of modern culture; he throws everything into it and at the same time moulds a jet-propelled plotline that weaves all the aspects of modern culture and society into a cohesive, coherent whole that is much more than the sum of its parts. It is infintely readable and a triumphant work by a writer who has reached the pinnacle of his craft, even inspiring New York art-rockers Sonic Youth to name a song after it. At the very least, a masterfully constructed gleaming white plastic piece of post-modern prose, Pattern Recognition is a glimpse into the present that is the first decade of the 21st century; through the layers of advertising, sleek design and cold, long-chain monomers.