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William Gibson

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William Gibson replaced nature with technology 20 years ago, with the first sentence of his first novel: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." The cyberspace that his hackers, whores, and hit men swung through was a lot sexier than what we ended up with--an Internet that lets me pay my phone bill online--but science fiction always says more about the present than the future. Despite the techno gloss Gibson gave his cyberpunk trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive), the world he conjured was still a gritty place where love was cheaper than life and duct tape fixed anything that money couldn't. His most recent book, Pattern Recognition (now out in a Berkley paperback edition), is touted as his first novel set in the present, but its reality is decidedly synthetic. Cayce Pollard is a "coolhunter" whose visceral instinct for what the marketplace will embrace sends her ricocheting around a logo-stamped globe. Gibson deploys her in pursuit of a MacGuffin in the form of a series of arresting video clips mysteriously appearing on the Web, but that's just the good genre plotter in him (he left enough loose ends for a sequel or two). His real interest lies in explicating his heroine's jet-lagged feelings of displacement and misplaced trust in a post-9/11 world. From London to Tokyo to Moscow, in the company of people impossibly well-informed and robotically proficient with the latest gadgets, she scrambles for a solid grip in the digitized ether. Gibson reads from Pattern Recognition at 7 PM on Thursday, February 12, at Borders Books & Music, 2817 N. Clark, 773-935-3909.

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