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PATTERN RECOGNITION

A slick but surprisingly humane piece of work from the father of cyberpunk.

A return to the present makes this SF scribe more prescient than ever.

It’s been a long time since Gibson wowed us with Neuromancer (1984) and the rest of the Sprawl trilogy that changed the then-moribund field of science fiction forever. Unfortunately, it’s been a hard act to live up to. His latest might not satisfy his readers’ high level of expectation, either, but it’s doubtless his best work since Count Zero (1986). Even though it’s his first novel set entirely in present time, there’s a sense that he’s getting back to his roots. The heroine, Cayce, is a nod to the hacker in Neuromancer who became the prototypical cyberpunk antihero. She’s a cool, slinky, yet insecure piece of mystery who has a near-oracular ability to predict the Next Big Thing. After being called in to consult on whether a new logo will work, Cayce says only one word, “No,” and her fee is earned. She’s then hired for a bigger project by über-cool marketing firm Blue Ant to investigate the origins of a strange series of film clips—over a 130 now—that have been showing up on the Internet and attracting a wide cult of fans, including Cayce, who try to figure their origin and purpose. Soon Cayce is jetting off to Tokyo, back to London, then off to Russia, following the wispiest threads of evidence, rumor, and blind conjecture. Someone’s tracking her, and a sinister fog of suspicion fills Cayce’s jet-setting, wireless world. Gibson’s narrative is more relaxed than it has been in years, trusting in Cayce’s strangely addictive personality and in his own laser-perfect cultural radar—Malcolm Gladwell meets Marshall McLuhan in a chat room—to carry the story along. Some elements could have easily been jettisoned (Cayce’s literal allergy to brands and logos is ridiculous), but for every misstep there’s a dash of pure, beautiful insight: “We have no future because our present is too volatile . . . We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition.”

A slick but surprisingly humane piece of work from the father of cyberpunk.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-14986-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE WINNER

Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should be—poor, undereducated but proud—and if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100- million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay an enormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52259-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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