Review: Patterns, Pat Cadigan

Pat Cadigan is one of the rare authors whose short work I admire, but whose novels I have never read. I naturally gravitate towards novels; however, Cadigan is best known as one of the key figures in cyberpunk, a subgenre that generally does not interest me. The Locus Award-winning Patterns, on the other hand, is an excellent collection and one of the few single-author anthologies I own.

The best stories in Patterns provoke emotional reactions with compact, understated prose. "Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateenie" evokes the terror of childhood as effectively as any Stephen King novel (and in far less space); "Angel" is a quietly devastating tale of society's outcasts. My favorite story, "The Power and the Passion," is a chilling examination of just what kind of person would be really good at killing vampires.

Some of these stories are indeed cyberpunk, such as the excellent "Pretty Boy Crossover." Many are not; these range over fantasy, horror, science fiction, and the unclassifiable bits in-between ("Two" could be either fantasy or sf, depending on your opinion of telepathy). Two particularly good stories are "It Was the Heat," a clever, affectionate, fantastic examination of the sensuality of New Orleans and its effect on a working white-collar mother and wife, and "Roadside Rescue," a clever, nasty, science-fictional examination of the sensuality of an alien and its effect on a distressed motorist. Cadigan has an impressively flexible style and tone, which is on full display here.

There are a few weak stories, but not many. I'm not generally a fan of punchline stories unless they're exceptional punchlines (such as "The Nine Billion Names of God"); "The Day the Martels Got the Cable" and "Heal" don't quite meet that standard. I also found the introductions to the stories distracting, but that problem is easily solved by pretending they're afterwords. These are small quibbles, though, considering the overall excellence of the collection.

%T  Patterns
%A  Cadigan, Pat 
%C  New York
%I  Tor
%D  1989
%G  0-312-86837-5
%P  207pp
%O  trade paperback reprint

Copyright April 23, 1999 by Kate Nepveu.

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