Pattern Recognition’s major theme considers humans’ tendency to see order out of chaos, patterns when there are none. Other themes include branding, marketing, and consumerism, among others. The multiple themes that require abstractions on top of abstractions left me cold and not invested. I am empathetic to the dangers of consumerism, branding, and the post-modern marketing conceit wherein you are designated as “cool” and being a rebel for using a certain product. Of course, if you use that product, you are possibly succumbing to the marketing and not cool or a rebel. David Foster Wallace discussed this in his essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction.” DFW cites the (now almost forgotten) Sprite campaign “Image is Nothing! Thirst is Everything!” From the essay: “Above all, of course, the audience is not supposed to recognize the absurdity of products being billed as distinguishing individuals from crowds in order to sell to huge crowds.” I am also simpatico with the main theme that our advanced primate evolution doesn’t get us beyond seeing Mother Mary on the surface of a squash. That’s a crude way to put it – in other words, humans want order and organization in their lives and sometimes events, people, etc., simply can’t be ascribed order and that’s a source of anxiety. We then find order out of randomness to help dispel this anxiety.
It’s a coincidence (is it? Or is Gibson reading my mind?! Ahem.) that just today Gibson tweeted an article from Psychology Today about apophenia – the tendency of humans to see patterns in randomness. After reading this, I probably shouldn’t wax flippant about our advanced primate evolution – it’s far better (from an evolutionary standpoint) to find patterns when there are none vs. not finding a pattern when there IS one.
Despite my affinity for these themes, I simply don’t think Gibson’s combination and explication of them makes a good story. All of the underlying themes are quite interesting, but I learn more from the non-fiction material concerning these concepts and therefore find the non-fiction material also more engaging.
His prose is always very good, but I also must admit that it felt too… precious(?) at times – “The spent match makes a tiny ceramic sound when he drops it into the ashtray. “
Perhaps the book is too smart for me and I just don’t “get” it. In any event, moving on, and debating whether or not I want to read the other books in the “Blue Ant” or “Bigend” series.