William Gibson, 2003, Berkeley Books
William Gibson is one of the more important creators of the Cyberpunk movement, so it’s easy to take for granted that his work will be imaginative and original. What’s not so obvious, however, is that Gibson is a truly great observer, and very gifted writer.
Gibson’s sense of place is one of the more delightful aspects of his writing. I don’t know whether he’s actually been to the locations he describes, but his descriptions capture something deep about the feelings of the places. There’s an almost emotional connection. While reading Pattern Recognition, I couldn’t help but think of the awful descriptions inflicted upon us by Dan Brown, for example, that sound like a bored tour guide repeating facts and figures. In comparison, Gibson’s places feel familiar and real. While we may not know how many football-fields long the Blue Ant headquarters is, but we feel the size. We may not know the square footage of Damien’s apartment, but we’d recognize a picture of it. And we could almost paint a picture of Hobbs’ “gypsy” caravan.
Gibson is also a master of the brilliant throw-away description. Pattern Recognition is filled with simple observations that are unrelated to the story itself, but which create the fabric of the world and make it very real. The description of the tabloid that Cayce picks up in a train station stands out, but there are many, many others.
Plotwise, Pattern Recognition doesn’t break extraordinary new ground. It’s interesting, but the journey is a greater pleasure than the destination.