Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pattern Recognition (Blue Ant #1), by William Gibson

The only other work of William Gibson I'd read before this was the Sprawl books, which were futuristic & cyberpunky & just really not my thing at all. Any time I mentioned this, people were like, "Yeah, that's just William Gibson." So I probably wouldn't have picked up another of his books except that Pattern Recognition kept appearing over and over on all kinds of "Best-of" lists from the 2000s.

FIRST: It is nothing like the Sprawl books. NOTHING. Not futuristic or cyberpunky at all. I mean people use email and web forums & what have you, but I think there is only one technological thing that might be sort of speculative, and if someone who works in that field were to tell me, "Nope, we can totally do that," I would believe them. In fact, being set in 2002, it actually comes across as a little dated, technology-wise.

SECOND: I've seen it described in some places as a thriller, which to me just don't scan. In fact it actually felt fairly slow in places. Yes, there is tension & a bit of international intrigue here & there, but those bits are interspersed with plenty of contemplation, philosophy, & inner monologue. Definitely not a fast-paced, action-packed adventure novel.

THIRD: What it does have is a lot of very subtle, delicately-woven-together existential themes, including the relationship between art and commercialism, the relationship between the past/present/future, how the idea of "the future" becomes less and less meaningful as the world changes so fast that we're able to make accurate predictions about it less and less farther out, and of course, to what extent looking for patterns--in art, life, history--is possible and/or ultimately useful.

So yeah. If you're looking for a fast-paced, bleeding edge, super-exciting sci-fi thriller, this is probably not your book. But it's well-written and I liked most of the characters, so if you're into big, deep existential questions & clever handling of subtle thematic elements, you could do worse.

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