Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon & more...

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reamde is such a crock

stet, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 15:28 (eight years ago) link


Solange Knowles is my hero (DJP), Tuesday, 8 January 2013 15:29 (eight years ago) link

feels so like Stephenson trying to appease his critics and in the process toning down/losing the things I valued about his old ways. Have ranted on this before tho. Huge score on goodreads, higher than Cryptonomicon, so it must be working.

stet, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 15:49 (eight years ago) link

Tried to read Quicksilver last year, not long after I wrote this in the SF poll results thread:

Enjoyed Snow Crash, but the awkwardness of the infodumps stayed with me more than the plot or anything else; thought The Diamond Age a lot better, & it made my ballot. Keep looking at that Baroque Cycle, but I fear it will basically be x,000 pages of me shouting 'NO NO NO WRONG NO NOT LIKE THAT' at the book, since I am ok at Europe 1640-1740 (and I didn't enjoy Cryptonomicon so much. It was ok).
― portrait of velleity (woof), Wednesday, April 6, 2011 8:05 PM (1 year ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

The prophecy was fulfilled, except I stopped after 200pp. Might still read Anathem one of these days.

woof, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 15:54 (eight years ago) link

yeah, awkwardness of the infodumps otm, also it seems to amplify the sci fi writer's belief that they can predict the future to an annoying degree since the novel is set in the past, all the horses have run so that you get a lot of "there's this obscure thing the british are importing from the indies ... you steep it in water, it makes you feel excited ... they call it ... thé" which is just awful awful awful to read

乒乓, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 16:12 (eight years ago) link

Nell's father, Bud, is presented as an archetypal cyberpunk character [...] Stephenson attempts to establish The Diamond Age as a "postcyberpunk" book by killing this character early on, while acknowledging the influence of the cyberpunk genre.

cackhanded symbolism or harmless fan service? anyway i couldn't really deal with the overall ridiculous try-hard ideas factory run wild of the diamond age, thought anathem was a lot more simple and grounded in its world building.

ledge, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 16:32 (eight years ago) link


right and if he had a cute factoid about the past he would not hesitate to work it in; but in most ways it felt like a really underimagined version of history – weak sense for the language and politics, no feel for place, fixation on (relatively) Big Names. And not really trashy enough to be a romp; quite fancied itself.

I dunno, like I say, it's a period I'm a little too close to, but I couldn't deal with it.

woof, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 16:46 (eight years ago) link

hey, i finished those. i had totally forgotten that.

'anathem' and 'reamde' are basically waiting for me to i. see cheap paperbacks and ii. have a long haul flight

well, no, i'm waiting for that to happen. nothing i do is going to make the books give a shit.

attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or (thomp), Tuesday, 8 January 2013 17:54 (eight years ago) link

xp no, it's precisely a romp, that's why the things you're complaining about are kind of irrelevant, or let me rephrase that, irrelevant to me. you can boil most of stephenson down to a good old adventure wheeze with part of an encyclopaedia brazenly regurgitated into it. that's not everyone's good time but i'd say if it's worth you bothering with him that has to be more of an attraction than a distraction.

Roberto Spiralli, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 18:00 (eight years ago) link

i think anathem is his best book and the context that he makes for himself there - connected to our world but deliberately separated also, really works for him. what's less obvious is that the baroque cycle books are really the same thing - not quite our history, which i think becomes obvious. an not really just an alternative history. it is fiction with strands of our history papier machéd onto it.

Roberto Spiralli, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 18:04 (eight years ago) link

reamde is embarrassing garbage half of it felt like tommy friedman travel lit and the rest was unconvincing characters acting unconvincingly but most importantly it wasnt really that fun. its not like jack shaftoe was a particularly well-realized character but he was a lot of fun to spend time with - none of reamde's sunday magazine composites are allowed to be that much of a joy since theyre so busy illustrating some aspect of how the world is now or w/e

gray star, a settlement in the remotest northwest (Lamp), Tuesday, 8 January 2013 18:14 (eight years ago) link

lack of fun otm.

stet, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 18:47 (eight years ago) link

I posted my first reaction to Reamde before the part of the book when the characters get to the Pacific NW which is when it all went flat. Would have rather read Cryptonomicon again.

sunday magazine composites are allowed to be that much of a joy since theyre so busy illustrating some aspect of how the world is now or w/e

^^^^ OTM.

Elvis Telecom, Wednesday, 9 January 2013 00:01 (eight years ago) link

Really enjoyed Diamond Age and Snow Crash (though both had problems), but feel no desire at all to attempt these mountain-sized books

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Wednesday, 9 January 2013 00:55 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

Picked up Zodiac for a buck and plowed through it over the last few subway rides. I'd always expected it to be kind of dumb, but it wasically entertaining. The flaws do show pretty clearly (large, ill-defined cast, really awful 'bearded craze-o badass' protagonist (very Spider Jerusalem or King Mob), female characters are a mess, etc. etc.). Can see all kinds of stuff he comes back to in Snow Crash, or problems he tries to fix. Lot of... boating. If you can get past the stuff that just really doesn't make sense it's kind of fun - shorter than his others and structured a bit by being a neo-noir detective deal (that also feels a lot like it's pitching to be an action movie).

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 5 June 2014 00:50 (six years ago) link

so wait what was the deal with enoch root again

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 5 June 2014 16:40 (six years ago) link

There's a whole site dedicated to that I think. The best theory I read was that he was a robot sent back from the future to guide the timeline. The books, taken together, establish something rather different - is it safe to spoil Baroque Cycle at this point?

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 5 June 2014 17:05 (six years ago) link

yeah i figure if ive forgotten once already I can forget again pretty effectively should i ever decide I want to read them

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 5 June 2014 21:27 (six years ago) link

.. again

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 5 June 2014 21:27 (six years ago) link

enoch root is a wizard

dude (Lamp), Thursday, 5 June 2014 21:29 (six years ago) link

Still have trouble eating lobster tomalley ever since reading Zodiac xp

, Thursday, 5 June 2014 21:34 (six years ago) link

hahaha yeah the lobster thing is one of the definite "will stick with you" parts of the book.

Enoch Root is an alchemist, or alternately a wizard that is easily misinterpreted as an alchemist in the 17th century. He knows how to use the Solomonic heavier-than-normal gold to concoct a resurrection/eternal-life potion which is used successfuly on at least three other characters, shifting the books from science/historical fiction to fantasy I guess. He pokes around in history, meddling with things; his overall project isn't really explained, but his speeches in Cryptonomicon suggest it's a kind of quest to support 'Athena' over 'Ares' in Stephenson's moral universe. This seems to mean forcing the Waterhouses of the world (nebbish, apolitical thinkers) to get their hands dirty and take stands on good versus evil, and forcing the Shaftoes of the world (chaotic-neutral grunts who would, one suspects, be easily deployed by Ares) to some point of redemption, similarly pivoting them from selfish pursuits to morallly-driven quests. I think.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 5 June 2014 23:17 (six years ago) link

what a weird series of narrative decisions

do you remember his kickstarter, god

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 6 June 2014 07:26 (six years ago) link

I think it's more or less meaningless tbh. I don't really think writers have obligations to society in this respect, and that the building of spaceships is more to do with funding/military advantage than it is the mood of writing.

that said, conveying wonder is a meaningful thread of the science-fiction tapestry. Robert Conquest put it well in one his poems:

Imagination that debars
The deeps of time, the endless stars,
May grow too numb to harmonize
Its own rag-doll's two button eyes.

I may be feeling slightly sour towards Stephenson at the moment - have put down Quicksilver and will never pick it up again, a thought that gives me some pleasure.

Fizzles, Friday, 6 June 2014 09:29 (six years ago) link

^ Yes

, Friday, 6 June 2014 10:19 (six years ago) link

seven months pass...

Reading the (great) analysis of Cryptonomicon in N. Katherine Hayles's (great) My Mother Was A Computer must have given me the Stephenson bug again. Picked up a paperback of Quicksilver for what I realize now must be my third reading of this monstrosity (twice in the hardbacks, which I ditched years ago). They had Reamde also but something in me wanted familiar, labyrinthine comfort food. Enjoying it tremendously, though a lot of that is just from knowing the characters and where this is all going. Kind of amazed I got through it the first time, since so much of it appears to be just period scene-setting and detail for the sake of detail, and the narrative arc is virtually invisible.

Doctor Casino, Monday, 12 January 2015 17:45 (six years ago) link

three months pass...

Excerpt from his new book's up on his site now

stet, Monday, 13 April 2015 20:57 (five years ago) link

i genuinely enjoyed the most recent book of his i read about parallel realities despite the fact that the word 'praxis' appeared on a single page of the hardcover copy i was reading six times.

no (Lamp), Monday, 13 April 2015 22:29 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

seveneves: a bit better than the gun-nut one but man it was hard going as a novel sometimes. Some nice ideas, though.

stet, Wednesday, 3 June 2015 09:18 (five years ago) link

two months pass...

about 2/3 of the way through. A lot of the zero-g mechanical engineering stuff could have been edited...but I'll definitely finish it

calstars, Friday, 28 August 2015 11:38 (five years ago) link

i thought it was pretty good, definitely could've tightened up the first part which made the second seem a little rushed by contrast. reflected afterwards that i wasn't sure if i would've preferred more of the second part or none of it.

Roberto Spiralli, Friday, 28 August 2015 13:47 (five years ago) link

wife finished it last night and loved it - guess I'll start it next

Οὖτις, Friday, 28 August 2015 15:21 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

Carly Fiorina is going to get us all killed.

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Thursday, 8 October 2015 01:15 (five years ago) link


calstars, Thursday, 8 October 2015 01:47 (five years ago) link

JBF parallels

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Friday, 9 October 2015 16:06 (five years ago) link

one year passes...

100 pages into 'seveneves' and i've only just discovered it's not called 'seveneyes' (because seveneyes turns up no search results here)

koogs, Friday, 2 December 2016 18:22 (four years ago) link

Love Cryptonomicon. the physical comedy in the WWII parts was my favourite part

flopson, Friday, 2 December 2016 18:37 (four years ago) link

otm, i love those bits too

Flamenco Drop (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 2 December 2016 23:47 (four years ago) link

Seveneves is a palindrome, I now realise. Still not sure of the relevance of this though.

koogs, Saturday, 3 December 2016 08:47 (four years ago) link

I need to pick up Seveneves, Reamde was so dumb I just kind of tuned him out for years, which was probably unfair. But the politics of it retroactively ruined Cryptonomicon.

Anyone read Cobweb, one of those books he wrote with his uncle in the 90s? The one about terrorists?

erry red flag (f. hazel), Wednesday, 7 December 2016 05:06 (four years ago) link

Gotta love a book that starts part 3 with "five thousand years later"

koogs, Saturday, 10 December 2016 06:26 (four years ago) link

And he's just explained the name, and I totally missed it.

koogs, Saturday, 10 December 2016 06:28 (four years ago) link

two years pass...

New one Dodge is out next week, but is available on Kindle now. It's back in the Waterhouse universe, post Reamde.

stet, Friday, 5 July 2019 17:11 (one year ago) link

eight months pass...

been plowing through Seveneves which i don't really recommend as isolation reading given the emphasis on global catastrophe and dread. also it's not really that good. i just hit the big shift about 2/3 of the way through and i'm really not feeling it, kinda exposes a ton of his weaknesses as a writer as well as his increasingly dodgy politics. this book is shockingly comfortable with eugenics and genetics-as-destiny! there's even a character who invokes a "bell curve" type argument about race and intelligence that just goes totally unchecked by anyone else, as if it's trustworthy scientific information like all the other nerdy shit people spout off in his books. i guess if you're really into orbital mechanics it'd be a blast. but after devouring the Mars Trilogy twice over i'm ready for a lot more self-conscious politics in my books about spacefaring nerds.

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 16:30 (eleven months ago) link

I couldn't get past the first sentence of that book, which was laugh-out-loud hilarious and bad.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 16:33 (eleven months ago) link

The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.

I mean, this is like Daniel Pinkwater-level (and I love Pinkwater and would probably like Stephenson's books more if he wrote like Pinkwater, which he generally does not)

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 16:33 (eleven months ago) link

I think what I may end up remembering best about this book is the rather brassy choice on the back cover for one of the two review blurbs to be blatantly plucked from a savage pan:

"Fascinating . . . . Insights into the human character shine like occasional full moons." - Boston Globe

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 17:36 (eleven months ago) link

"Still, she couldn't help but flinch as the final few flynks snapped around toward them." (p. 617)

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 03:58 (eleven months ago) link

gawwwwd the world-building in this final section is just so stupid, in the most blinkered, weird, nerd-author-can't-perceive-how-strange-he's-become kind of way.

Doctor Casino, Friday, 3 April 2020 13:44 (eleven months ago) link

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