Pattern Recognition

RECOMMENDED. "If it's that small a world, it starts to smell funny."

Pattern Recognition

William Gibson

You can very effectively create verisimilitude in media by invoking specific and particular brands, brand associations and/or the behaviours people have with regards certain kinds of product. I say "media"—for various reasons, you can't really do it as much in TV or films, so it's largely confined to books[1]. The best example I can think of is the bit in the first Alex Rider book where they make a point of saying that supermarket own-brand coke is crap. Well, Pattern Recognition is a book with that woven into its core.

I really liked this book. I like the way it moves, I liked the way that it manages to feel dramatic while remaining resolutely quite low-stakes, I even liked the fact that ultimately there wasn't really an antagonist; it was just a misunderstanding between two arms of a rich guy's security service. I didn't like that it tried to make marketing people cool, because they're not, even if they're Belgian billionares called Bigend.

What it really captured for me was a feeling of modernity and a world-in-flux, literally immediately post-9/11, that still managed to feel quite contemporary despite a lot of the stuff having changed completely by now. It's all about forums and internet people, and even has a very funny bit where someone who was being used as a catfish without their knowledge falls in love with the person they were inadvertently catfishing. I think (and of course I could be wrong) the reason everyone gets excited about the videos on the internet is that they're videos, on the internet, and at the time the book was written Youtube was still quite a while away.

The thing that I like best, though, is that amid all the globetrotting, they take some time out to head down to Dorset, where my grandparents live, for what is transparently Big Willy G's Holiday Snaps: In Words. They drive past Corfe Castle for pity's sake. They go to Poole. I was really not expecting, in the book with the jacket that got made of it, for them to go to Poole. There's a mention of a curry house called the Light of India—which I looked up and does exist. There are two possibilities here: one, it already existed, he had dinner there when he was on holiday. The other one, which I prefer, is that much like Buzz Rickson's, some enterprising young Poolers responded to nerd demand and started the restaurant because of the book. I'll drop in next time I'm down that way and report back.


  1. and music, to an extent: I think about JME's 'Integrity': "While you was typing up your CV/I was downloading on Windows NT/Bare sample packs for Fruity Loops 3" ↩︎