Friday, 7 September 2007

Pattern Recognition

I thought it was about time to write about something other than a movie. For the first time in a while I've read a novel worthy of note. It's the first novel I've read from William Gibson, though I hope to read a few others at least now. Like Coupland (who appears to be a friend of his), Gibson is one of those writers who does a great job of getting a handle on the changing feel of contemporary culture. Two things drew me to this novel: a reference in Scott Bader-Saye's Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear (also a good book) and a general sense that the idea of pattern recognition is an important element in contemporary notions of what it means to search for truth. The novel didn't disappoint as an exploration of that theme.

The theme of pattern recognition appears in multi-layered ways throughout the story. There's the cynical view of pattern recognition as a technique that is exploited and commercialized; there's the acknowledgement that it's sometimes wasted on attempts to find patterns and meaning where there is none; and then there's the more authentic and human need to use art as a means to express hope and create community among those looking to find truth in a potentially meaningless world.

While the context is a fast-moving, mobile, technophile, young culture, I was pleased to see the writing was not annoyingly dense, confusing and aimless. Sorry postmodern lit lovers but I just like a good story, and Gibson doesn't shy from the good old beginning-middle-end method. It's not just his form, but it testifies to a point that I think he's making. Pattern recognition, seeking after truth, is not just about the search, but it's about the real possibility that there is a goal - a search can actually reveal something significant. Best read in many months.

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