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Pattern Recognition (William Gibson)

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  • Pattern Recognition (William Gibson)

    No sir, I didn't like it.
    All Gibsons early novels (specifically, the first three) had a pretty deep exploration of the way in which globalisation and information technology impact the human experience. He seems to have abandoned that lately - his newer books don't have the same multi-layeredness.

    Pattern Recognition is essentially a paint by numbers suspense thriller. Vague references to 9/11 and the main character's unexplained 'allergy' to corporate branding. There's a story - just not many ideas going on to think about.
    Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

    Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

  • #2
    I gave up on Gibson early on. His early work was brilliant and unlike anything else I had ever read. Now he seems to be doing novels that would have cover blurbs reading "Imagine William Gibson writing noir..." of something of the sort.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Doc
      I gave up on Gibson early on. His early work was brilliant and unlike anything else I had ever read. Now he seems to be doing novels that would have cover blurbs reading "Imagine William Gibson writing noir..." of something of the sort.
      Judging by his output he's an extremely slow writer (I can relate) - but that makes it all the more disappointing that his later novels are relatively flat in comparison to the older ones.

      Don't get me wrong though - Idoru and Virtual Light had some pretty good ideas about internet subcultures and modes of expression.

      These days he just seems to be telling a basic paint-by-numbers story, which is ok if that's what you want to read. I guess I hold him to higher expectations based on his previous work. I always thought writers were supposed to get better, the more they write - I guess that just isn't true.
      Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

      Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree with you. Gibson is still better than many writers; his later work just suffers by comparison to his early stuff. Having said that, he has certainly earned the credibility to try whatever he wants to try as a writer, despite the results or lukewarm reception. People will still be talking about Burning Chrome and Nueromancer in 50 years. After all, those are two hard acts to follow!

        I'm trying to think of a parallel...
        Rick Moody comes to mind as someone who started out with his best work and seems to have gotten progressively less interesting, even though his worst work is better than most authors' best.

        In stock (and schock) fantasy, Robert Jordan may be a good parallel, although I would argue that Nueromancer is far, far more impressive than any part of the Wheel of Time series, and Gibson works with far more interesting and far less derivative ideas.

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        • #5
          Absolutely - which reminds me of a quote of Mikes once - where he said that he has always strived to better himself as a writer, tackling different ideas and increasingly complex forms.

          How much of this has Gibson really done, I wonder. Which makes you think, how much fun can it be to write something derivative, when you have already created a complex, interesting work?

          I'm inclined to think that for Gibson, it has become simply about the money.
          Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

          Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Doc
            I'm trying to think of a parallel...
            Tolkien produced a really good, nicely paced, children's book; followed it up with a three volume epic full of turgid prose and dreadful poetry which could happily have been edited down to 200 pages; then disappeared up his own bottom with The Silmarillion

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            • #7
              Originally posted by johneffay
              Tolkien produced a really good, nicely paced, children's book; followed it up with a three volume epic full of turgid prose and dreadful poetry which could happily have been edited down to 200 pages; then disappeared up his own bottom with The Silmarillion
              As a kid I enjoyed both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I find a lot wrong with LOTR specifically these days. I like the way the language gets imperceptably darker towards the end, but in terms of pacing - Treebeard was incredibly tedious (70+ pages where the story stops - to talk about a fcuking talking tree) and one the first occasion I tried to read the book, that chapter stopped me entirely.

              I still respect the book, and the work that went into it - but writers such as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Mike M and M. John Harrison are far superior IMO.
              Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

              Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by johneffay
                Tolkien produced a really good, nicely paced, children's book; followed it up with a three volume epic full of turgid prose and dreadful poetry which could happily have been edited down to 200 pages; then disappeared up his own bottom with The Silmarillion



                By the way, DC, I, too, think it is about the money. Shocking

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Doc



                  By the way, DC, I, too, think it is about the money. Shocking
                  Did you ever find Gibsons stuff difficult to recall after you'd read it?

                  I can read a whole chapter of Neuromancer and later remember little of anything about what I'd read. It's almost as though your eye slides off the text.

                  Might just be me.

                  I really hope Gibsons next book is more original.
                  Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                  Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Neuromancer @ 30

                    Ed Cumming revisits the impact of Neuromancer thirty years on for The Guardian.
                    Prescience can be tedious for science-fiction writers. Being proven right about a piece of technology or a trend distracts from the main aim of the work: to show us how we live now. William Gibson knows this as well as anyone. Since the late 70s, the American-born novelist has been pulling at the loose threads of our culture to imagine what will come out. He has been right about a great deal, but mainly about the shape of the internet and how it filters down to the lowest strata of society.

                    In Neuromancer, published 30 years ago this month, Gibson popularised the idea of cyberspace: a "consensual hallucination" created by millions of connected computers. This network can be "jacked" into, while in the real world characters flit from Tokyo to the Sprawl, an urban agglomeration running down the east coast of the US. Gritty urban clinics carry out horrendous sounding plastic surgery. A junkie-hacker, Case, is coaxed into hacking the system of a major corporation. What once seemed impossibly futuristic is now eerily familiar.

                    ...The vision was not perfect, though. As Gibson himself has joked, Neuromancer has a "complete absence of cellphones, which I'm sure young readers must assume is a key plot point".
                    Incidentally, on the subject of Pattern Recognition, Cumming writes:
                    Neuromancer is Gibson's most famous novel but not his most accomplished. Pattern Recognition was written in the wake of 9/11 and published in 2003. If Neuromancer looks at the future through a high-powered telescope, Pattern Recognition has its face pressed right up to the glass. Set partly in Camden Town, London, the book has as its protagonist Cayce Pollard, a marketing consultant who has a literal allergy to brands and logos. This makes her valuable to companies keen to seem cooler and less corporate.

                    The book is more than a decade old but, re-read today, it feels more astute than 99% of the novels written since.
                    I'm guessing there might be those that disagree with him...
                    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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                    • #11
                      I'm actually quite fond of Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. There's a bit in PR that I'll quote in full after I get home that is ... Profound. Additionally, I think that Gibson feels the pulse of popular culture from inside the juggler. I'll post a wee example of that as well. I always liked Neuromancer and mirrorshades generally. But, he was starting to sound like a broken record towards the end of that phase. I don't see much of a problem with liking both ends of the Gibson spectrum. For me, it's similar to liking both The Dreaming City and King of the City. Writers grow and experiment. So long as they keep telling great stories, I figure I should be open minded enough to appreciate the new stuff.
                      Kevin McCabe
                      The future is there, looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become. William Gibson

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