Monday, March 1, 2010

Pattern Recognition

Every once in a while my reading choices take on a decidely different flavor.  I feel like I need to try new things, especially authors that have great reputations.  So I was at work late last week and for only the second time I can remember, I had forgotten to bring my reading material with me and so was "forced" to go to the store and pick something out.  I seized the opportunity to try William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

William Gibson, for those that don't know, is the patron saint of "cyperpunk" literature.  Cyberpunk can be loosly defined as a combination of cybernetics and punk and has been described as "high tech meets low life".  Usually his books are futuristic and definitely science fiction but this particular novel takes place in the present day (published in 2005).  The protagonist is Cayce Pollard, an internet fanatic who works for various corporate clients who hire her to evaluate potential corporate logos due to her uncanny ability to discern their mass appeal.  Her hobby is to find meaning and patterns in a mysterious collection of videos that are being broadcast on the net called "the footage".  But her hobby and her work overlap when she is hired to find the source of the footage which leads her on a quest around the world.

I find this novel very hard to describe...almost as hard as it was to read it.  I really worked hard to follow the plot and while I was impressed by the author's use of dialogue to convey his characters' inner thoughts, I just found it difficult to follow.  The subject certainly ties in to today's young people (18-25) who seem to practically live on the internet and he captures their attitudes perfectly.  But that alone does not make for a good story.  They say Gibson writes for the intelligent reader; of this I have no doubt.  But I tend to think of myself as pretty intelligent, and I certainly read a lot, but I just found myself wishing the book would hurry up and end.  If I were less of a completist, I probably would have just tossed it aside.  But I stuck with it and actually enjoyed the final 50 pages or so when the action/thriller elements took over.  But unfortunately, by then, I really didn't care what happened to the characters.  Not a good sign.

So will I read more books by this author?  Doubtful.  Am I glad I read this one? Yes because now I know his style and can more easily pass up his other works when I'm browsing the book store shelves.  The only possibility that I can see right now is to try Neuromancer because it is such a definitive work in the science fiction genre.  But still that's doubtful...

But by way of contrast, I followed that book with Jeffrey Archer's second-to-last entry in his Cat O'Nine Tales collection, called "The Commishioner".  This story was a delightful entry, telling the story of a repentent ex-con who tries to pull one last scam and take advantage of a retiring police commishioner.  He does not succeed but how the scam comes to light falls into the "truth is stranger than fiction" category. 

Next up, the second in the Magician's House Quartet, "The Door in the Tree", a young adult novel by William Corlett.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire