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Pattern Recognition | [William Gibson]

Pattern Recognition

Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected.
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Publisher's Summary

Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected.

Still, Cayce is her father's daughter, and the danger makes her stubborn. Win Pollard, ex-security expert, probably ex-CIA, took a taxi in the direction of the World Trade Center on September 11 one year ago, and is presumed dead. Win taught Cayce a bit about the way agents work. She is still numb at his loss, and, as much for him as for any other reason, she refuses to give up this newly weird job, which will take her to Tokyo and on to Russia. With help and betrayal from equally unlikely quarters, Cayce will follow the trail of the mysterious film to its source, and in the process will learn something about her father's life and death.

©2003 William Gibson; (P)2004 Tantor Media, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"With incredibly evocative prose, Gibson masterfully captures the essence of a specific time and place and the often chaotic sense of disorientation experienced while globe hopping." (Booklist)
"William Gibson's new novel is so good it defies all the usual superlatives." (Seattle Times)
"Gibson's ability to hit the sweet spot of cutting-edge culture is uncanny." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"Elegant, entrancing." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (1036 )
5 star
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4.0 (307 )
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3 star
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Story
4.0 (306 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Jason West Lafayette, IN, USA 06-17-04
    Jason West Lafayette, IN, USA 06-17-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enjoyed the narrator"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Ardsley, NY, USA 05-16-04
    Eric Ardsley, NY, USA 05-16-04 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Uneven"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Shelton 05-08-04 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Mystery - not Science Fiction"

    This is a good Mystery story. Very good narration - if you are listening on an Otis use format 3 - 2 loses too much nuance. Pattern recognition (the technology) isn?t science fiction nor is most of the technology described in the book and the story takes place in the recent past. The author does a great job of helping you see the world as he does and his prose is excellent. I found the pace a little slow but really enjoyed this book.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Wellings 06-03-04
    P. Wellings 06-03-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "realizing how important the narrator is"

    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.

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 06-28-12
    David 06-28-12 Member Since 2012

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Strong build-up, weak finish"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    WendyT1 Newark, NJ, United States 10-01-11
    WendyT1 Newark, NJ, United States 10-01-11

    audible listener!! :o)

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of my all time favorites"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Irvine, CA, USA 09-23-07
    Sharon Irvine, CA, USA 09-23-07 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Listen to the end"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lesley Seattle, WA, United States 01-07-07
    Lesley Seattle, WA, United States 01-07-07 Member Since 2005

    From Austen to zombies!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Book 5, narrator 2"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J 10-08-06
    J 10-08-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "disagreement among reviewers"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    angel 01-01-05
    angel 01-01-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unrecognizable Pattern"

    If you can get through the first five hours, it's fair to middlin'.
    I dont know which was more mysterious, the writing or the narration. Perhaps it was just a bit too "inside baseball" (read Mario Bros) to strike a note of familiarity. It's a bit like learning a language via immersion, instead of exposition. After the first five hours, the plot seems to finally rise to the top. I was a bit surprised to hear that it is going to be made into a movie, but the more I think about it, it could be a pretty good movie. If you're a cybercafe habituee, this one will appeal to you. If not, it's like jumping into a ChuckyCheese-type balloon mosh pit without a life preserver.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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