I find it fascinating how this book divides people. After listening to it, I can definitely see why many would label it boring. But it really goes to show you different reasons for reading certain books. If you are expecting a "beach read"-paced thriller, this is not the book for you. If you are interested in a lilting, introspective work which weaves a quiet spell of language and mystery, please give it a try. Somehow the combination of conspiracy, the contemporary setting, a poetic sensibility, and the narrators wonderfully soothing voice all blended to make this book beyond the sum of its parts. I loved it and miss it now that it is over.
I have to disagree with the comment about the narrator. I found her to be quite listenable and found her characterizations and accents well done. I actually went and looked for other books she had narrated after listening to this excellent book.
This is a mixed bag. The protagonist treads the border between attractive and insufferably smug, with her pilates, ibook, and "allergy" to trendiness. The plot similarly is on the edge of sophisticated and bone-headed with a gee-whizness about technology combined with embarassing ignorance (a "render farm" with dozens of people rendering video full time?) It also could have used better editing, as there are many verbal ticks that find their way into the text repeatedly.
All that aside, its a good listen, worth the time, and very well read.
I read Pattern Recognition last year and thought I might enjoy listening to the story once again on ipod. I was quite fond of the book and looked forward to listening to the story while doing chores and exercising, my usual audible pass-times.
For the first time, I found that the narrator actually made the story unlistenable. Shelly Frasier does not come across as a storyteller. I really wish that the crew that has done most of the Orson Scott Card books had a chance with Pattern Recognition, or the narrator of Ringworld. Books like The Secret Life of Bees and Tara Road are such fabulous stories to listen to, in large part because of their talented narrators. I'm afraid that Pattern Recognition was a loss for me--both as a wasted book credit and as a disappointment. I know this book could have been a fabulous audio story.
I was hoping to be blown away by the legendary William Gibson (none of whose legendary books I have read), but I found that Pattern Recognition reminded me a lot of "Reamde" by Neal Stephenson: it's a pacey, interesting techno-thriller that just never quite reached the peak of Awesome. I found Gibson's writing to be stronger than Stephenson's, but his characterization weaker.
The main character is Cayce (pronounced "Case") Pollard, who has one of those odd freelance consultant jobs that can only exist in the modern world: she's got a sort of preternatural sense for marketing. She can take one look at a logo and know whether it will "click" with the zeitgeist, making her very valuable to image-obsessed corporations. The downside of her talent is a disability that can also only exist in the modern world: she is allergic to certain trademarks and corporate symbols. The Michelin Man, for example, sends her into near-panic attacks.
Cayce works for a firm called "Blue Ant," run by a genius wunderkind with inscrutable motives (of course) who goes by "Big End." Big End asks her to investigate the source of a viral video being obsessively discussed and followed on the Internet, a strange piece of work being released in segments by an unknown producer. Big End says he's captivated by its marketing potential, but soon it develops that many different people are interested in this video and its creator, for many different reasons. Cayce travels from London to Japan to Russia and is ensnared in one conspiracy after another in her quest for the maker.
Strictly speaking, this book isn't really science fiction, since it takes place in the present day (actually, in 2002, when it was written) and there is no technology that doesn't actually exist. It still has a sci-fi feel to it, though not really much of a cyberpunkish one, unless you consider anything that revolves around online subcultures to be "cyberpunk." I found Pattern Recognition to have a strong build-up but a rather weak pay-off. Nonetheless, the story moved along without ever getting boring and Gibson has a nice way with language and unlike some other authors I could name with high geek cachet, he didn't get a lot of stuff absurdly wrong. I've been told his Neuromancer series pretty much ignores everything that was actually known about computer science when it was written, but the Internet and computer technology in Pattern Recognition, possibly because it does not take place in the future, is pretty realistic. This book is solidly 3.5 stars.
audible listener!! :o)
Cayce is, hands down, the best girl geek character EVER written.
The story is fairly esoteric Gibson-ish, as you might expect. It does meander, and I have not ever wrapped my head around the ending, but while you're immersed in it the characters are so vivid and wonderful.
GO listen & enjoy. Then check out the follow on novels (Spook Country and Zero History) - they share a few characters. Loved them all as a set, Gibson's take on our world of today.
I reviewed Part One separately. By Part Two, I was hooked on the book and couldn't stop listening. I actually carried my computer into work and into my house listening as I walked. It reminded me of the Russian spy novels I read for fun before the end of the cold war. The language was very intriguing, subtle, and clever, and I thought the narrator did some of the voices very well. Yes, her "regular" voice was a little grating, but I rather imagined that's how Cayce herself might have sounded. My husband never got into the book, but I ended up really liking it.
From Austen to zombies!
I'm a fan of William Gibson and I loved this book. The main character, Cayce Pollard, was well-drawn and believable, even with her uncanny ability to spot trends and trademarks that will work.
The secondary characters are all rounded as well, which is unusual in the science fiction I normally read. The characters change and grow; they have their own story arcs. The book is masterfully put together, with a steadily-increasing index of tension in the plot.
And I can't say enough about Gibson's writing style. While not for everybody, it's poetic, full of images that make you feel like you're really there, where the story is happening.
It's too bad that the narrator made such a hash out of that language. I'm always willing to forgive a mispronunciation or two, especially on uncommon words, but these were inexplicable: "Born-a-mouth" for Bournemouth, UK? "Siggle" for sigil? Those were two of the most annoying, but there were dozens of others, all on fairly common words you can find in Webster's. I'm not a stickler for correctness, but in an audiobook, mispronounced words can make things confusing.
Adding to my dislike of the narrator was her flat, singsong delivery. I don't require acting in an audiobook, but some emotion would have been welcome, especially in the suspenseful parts.
Fans will probably be OK with this rendition, but if this is your first Gibson experience, I recommend the paper version.
This title seems to have the most extreme two-humped distribution of ratings by reviewers that I've seen on audible. I'd like to address this note to a potential reader who doesn't know whom to believe. Listen to the entire preview; my guess is that if you don't like it, you won't like listening to the rest. Personally, I found this to be one of the most pleasant and interesting books I've heard lately. I'm interested in the issues confronting (and afflicting) the protagonist, including the ubiquitousness of branding, the power of and limits to anonymity in the modern world, and the monetization of culture. If you are expecting this story to turn into a James Bond movie plot, you ought to look elsewhere.
Inventive, sassy, and smart, orbiting somewhere in the triangle between sci-fi, cyberpunk, and contemporary urban style thriller, without quite being any of those genres. At the core there's a haunting story based on a (just-about) plausible premise. The plot occasionally loses direction and pace, and sometimes the style neuroses are heavy-handed, but still I ended up caring about Cayce Pollard. Can we hear more about her?
A good drive-time listen, if occasionally difficult to follow on the details of the dialogue.