“Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson

Pattern RecognitionNeuromancer is apparently the William Gibson book I should have read 20 years ago. I didn’t. And still haven’t. But I did just finish his Pattern Recognition.

Quick impressions: It is – on the one hand – unlike anything I have ever read. On the other, it is a fairly typical but engaging mystery story.

His protagonist, Cayce Pollard, is a “coolhunter” with a bizarro allergic response to American advertising. She inhabits a world at once far cooler, far techier and far more strange than the humdrum one most of us experience. (It’s also a wee bit contrived. But hey, it’s a novel.)

Cayce is part of an online community focused on an underground film which is being released into the world one clip at a time. The mystery to be solved is the identity and motives of the filmmakers. There’s a Russian mafioso, an Italian high-fashionista, an Oklahoma-born Asian-American hacker, a couple of eastern European entrepreneurs, a Belgian advertising genius and lots of jet-setting around the world on unlimited expense accounts.

You know, pretty much like a normal day for any of us.

Things I loved: Gibson does an absolutely masterful job of creating a mystery that kept me completely engaged from beginning to end. He gets the technology world we inhabit now, (or at least the world we inhabited when this was published in 2003.)  The plot clips along at a nice pace throughout and the writing style is quirky but refined.

Things I didn’t love: Super strong plot, super undeveloped characters. I guess I’d describe this book as an internet-age version of a John Grisham novel. Also, the denouement felt, frankly, a bit contrived and a bit rushed. Almost like he looked up at the calendar and realized, “oh crap, this book is due at 5:00 this afternoon”.

I’d give it 3 stars out of 5.

“Made to Stick” makes it sticky

I get a kick out of it when academics spend a zillion years studying something obvious, quantifying it, categorizing it, slicing and dicing it, deconstructing it and then putting it all back together to prove that in fact everything we already knew is demonstrably true.

Book Review: Made to Stick

Made to Stick

The stolen kidney story.

If you’re still converting oxygen to CO2, you’ve probably heard about the guy who meets an attractive woman in a hotel bar and wakes up in a bathtub of ice. (If you haven’t, well… I dunno – start breathing.)

Made to Stick, by The Brothers Heath explains exactly precisely and intricately why such “stories” are more memorable than “jargon”.

Ok, maybe I’m being a tad harsh.

I actually enjoyed the book. It is well-written. The manner is engaging. The examples are plentiful and helpful. And frankly, the rubric they offer as a way to gauge the “stickiness” of any piece of writing is actually quite useful.

“What is that rubric”, you ask? ( I am so in tune with my readers…)

Duct Tape It To Your Brain

In short, if you want people to understand your message and remember your message, it needs to hit as many of these six hot buttons as possible:

  1. Simpleduct tape
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional
  6. Stories

That’s pretty much it.

Good, But Not Great

If you’re a writer who wants to make sure people remember your message, it wouldn’t hurt to absorb the lessons of this book.

I’d call it good but not great.

I’m glad I read it.  I’ll keep it close for reference as I write.