William Gibson,
Pattern Recognition
(Berkeley, 2003)

The father of cyberpunk returns in a seductively fascinating and socially prophetic story. Pattern Recognition involves the ubiquitous nature of branding and labels and the work that goes into creating quality branding rather than quality products. It also involves the nature of Internet crazes -- specifically, a small, cult-like group that follows the production of film stills secretly released by an unknown creator.

Cayce is a corporate consultant with an allergy to brands that makes her peculiarly useful; she can tell almost instantly if a logo or branded character will work. Corporations hire her to work with their advertising departments to create the most successful campaigns. Her avocation is a message board dedicated to "The Footage," a series of stills released anonymously on the Internet, which do not seem to form a cohesive whole. The message board is her family, especially Parkaboy, whom she feels is her best friend even though they have never met in person.

Hired at first by a London firm led by Hubertus Bigend, an ingratiatingly rich CEO, to create a new ad campaign, Cayce is later asked by Bigend to investigate the footage at his expense. Despite her distaste for him personally, Cayce takes advantage of the trip to indulge her own curiosity. Traveling to Hong Kong and Russia, Cayce's investigation leads her to discover the secret of the footage, but also clarifies personal mysteries related to her father.

One of my favorite parts of this book was Cayce's description of jet lag as the separation of the soul from the body, and the time it takes to recover is how long it takes the soul to catch up to the rest of the person. This concept delighted me, and Gibson's unique perspective on this and many other ordinary parts of life create the tapestry of the book.

Pattern Recognition is a well-written and thoughtful reflection of what our times could become. Gibson's slightly cynical view of advertising and branding pokes sly fun at those who believe having the right brand makes a difference. His protagonist makes it clear that it's who you are that matters, not what brand you wear.

- Rambles
written by Beth Derochea
published 19 June 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.