Monday, January 18, 2010

"Pattern Recognition" and "Count Zero"

I reread Count Zero when I was in Athens last month, and it's still one of my favorite books. One thing that struck me was how similar the subplot involving Marly was to the plot of Pattern Recognition (a later novel by the same author, William Gibson.) In both books, a wealthy and mysterious older man hires (with a truly unlimited budget) a stylish young woman to trace the origin of an unusually evocative and eclectic collage. In Count Zero, the creator turns out to be an artificial intelligence residing on an abandoned space station. In Pattern Recognition, the artist is a brain-damaged woman.
What interested me was that in both cases, the mystery, having been traced back to its source, still isn't solved. We don't understand where the creativity in the machine is coming from; we don't understand where the creativity in the subconscious is coming from. We can tell in the novels that it has something to do with the richness of life and the tragedy of death and loss, but beyond that, finding the source of the artwork has just led to the realization that we still can't reach the source of the artwork, and perhaps never will be able to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was just re-reading pattern recognition to get ready for zero history, noticed the same thing. It's definitely a re-telling of the same story, but a more minimal and modern version.

I wonder how his Russian oil prediction is panning out :)

Idoru is still my favorite of his. I read it in 1996 when I was still a kid, and have used its description of what is now any smartphone as the standard for whether we've finally arrived in the future or not. Yay future!