Pattern Recogntion

William Gibson made a huge splash with Neuromancer, and hasn’t had a second big hit. That’s too bad. People have been missing some very fine books.

I haven’t re-read Neuromancer, which I liked a lot (the scene with the engineered riot is hilarious) but which I recall as having a Big Idea and some snappy writing but not especially well-drawn characters: a gripping story, but not really a very good novel.

Idoru wasn’t nearly as exciting a tale, but I found it better-told than Neuromancer.

And now comes Pattern Recognition, which I read at a single sitting and want to read again soon. The central character is a woman who is allergic to marketing, and especially to branding, and who turns that allergy into a business.

Pattern Recognition might be thought of as the nightmare version of The Substance of Style, or perhaps one should say the exposition of the nightmare that The Substance of Style embodies: a world in which brand identity is substituted for quality rather than signaling quality, in which design is sacrificed to decoration, and in which simplicity, integrity, and aesthetic economy are made the servants of “marketing” rather than standing as alternatives to it.

If you sometimes wonder why people want to wear designer labels on the outside of their clothing, you’re ready to read this book. If, on the other hand that phenomenon never struck you as odd, maybe you need to read this book. And you get some fine dialogue, memorable characterization, and a chilling portrait of Russia under the oligarchs thrown in for good measure.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: