Just Not Evenly Distributed
Cory Doctorow on William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

In Pattern Recognition, Gibson, for the first time in a novel, turns his attention to the present day. Ono-Sendai decks are replaced with iBooks and cell phones. Websites and MPEG movies take the place of the consensual hallucination of cyberspace. Cory Doctorow has our review.

Published: February 24, 2003

In Pattern Recognition, the future is here. Cayce, the heroine of PR, is addicted to Hotmail. She travels with an iBook and logs into her ISP with a tethered GPRS cellphone (note to Apple/Nokia: you missed a hell of a promotional opportunity when you failed to give Gibson a gratis Bluetooth notebook and a matching phone). She is obsessed with a series of MPEG clips that surface at irregular intervals and are the subject of fierce debate in online communities. 

Cayce is a brand-consultant. She has a particular and improbable mental disorder: an environmental allergy to shitty marketing. Drop her in the Tommy Hilfiger ward at the local Sak’s and she’ll have a nervous breakdown. She has bemused tradesmen grind the trademarks off the rivets in her Levi’s. This is, of course, a brilliant conceit, one that affords Gibson endless opportunity to indulge in fantastically clever, captivating observances on the nature of brands and the regional differences thereof — PR follows Cayce from London to Tokyo and elsewhere, and Gibson’s riffs on the “looking-glass world” of British brands and consumer goods are nothing shy of genius.

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