Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon & more...

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clive james wrote this article for the new yorker a couple of years ago about detective fiction where he basically claims that the narrative demands of detective fiction make a psychologically complex character unachievable. some harvard real talk about characters acting as types rather than ppl blah blah blah if henry james was a murder mystery. so, i guess my point was that eliza's actions seemed to work structurally and still feel psychologically real.

maybe that's why i didn't really like system of the world since eliza's personality is obscured in favour of daniel's pov.

igloo silver (Lamp), Tuesday, 16 September 2008 14:47 (eleven years ago) link

most prophetic 19th Century novelist evar

rogermexico., Wednesday, 17 September 2008 00:18 (eleven years ago) link

clive james wrote this article for the new yorker a couple of years ago about detective fiction where he basically claims that the narrative demands of detective fiction make a psychologically complex character unachievable

I actually used to teach a class in which it was demonstrated that ALL fiction is detective fiction. Good times.

rogermexico., Wednesday, 17 September 2008 00:18 (eleven years ago) link

On finishing up Confusion re-read - god, is Eliza's perspective ever dumped in this series! Her plots probably have more page time than either Daniel's or Jack's, through the first three-quarters of The Confusion, and then, what the hell happens to her? The seemingly really crucial moment of her and Jack coming face to face after all this time, and it's a really brief scene told in omniscient third person, maybe favoring Jack if anybody. (In general the ending to The Confusion is rushed, shocker I know, but really after all that gallivanting around the world you'd think he could linger on the actual getting-home as much as he does on the manufacture of watered steel or the primitive nature of the 17th century French credit economy...)

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 04:33 (eleven years ago) link

I was at the new B&N in Tupelo on Thursday (2nd day in business...seems like a risky venture in such a lowbrow town) picking up Anathem, and was appalled to see that for mass market publication, the Baroque Cycle is being broken down from three hardcovers to eight paperbacks.

Radiant Flowering Crab (Rock Hardy), Sunday, 21 September 2008 02:32 (eleven years ago) link

"clive james wrote this article for the new yorker a couple of years ago about detective fiction where he basically claims that the narrative demands of detective fiction make a psychologically complex character unachievable"--i want to read this, link?

thomp, Sunday, 21 September 2008 06:35 (eleven years ago) link

three years pass...

bump for the new one. anybody else doing REAMDE?

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Wednesday, 26 October 2011 10:47 (eight years ago) link

So far it's...a fun, techy shaggy-dog story that loves guns, maps, and MMORPGs. Stephenson can write a digression better than anybody, and I just read a fascinating 500 word treatise on the street design in Xianmin (?) city. One of his protagonists is a female African refugee, a hipster twice orphaned and raised in Iowa, who makes a living by writing code to represent the movement of magma in the underground of a virtual medieval world.

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Wednesday, 26 October 2011 10:50 (eight years ago) link

I loved REAMDE.

he carried yellow flowers (DJP), Wednesday, 26 October 2011 12:07 (eight years ago) link

I just got it from the library. I tend to read on the subway ride to work, so this is a bit unwieldy! I'm finding it much more engaging than Anathem, however.

rayuela, Tuesday, 1 November 2011 20:41 (eight years ago) link

Didn't hate it, but have forgotten almost everything about it, as I thought I would. Just, "meh", really. Felt the lack of digressions; also felt like he'd tried to cater to his critics at the expense of the aspects enjoyed by his audience.

stet, Tuesday, 1 November 2011 20:46 (eight years ago) link

it was entertaining but seemed pretty dumb for stephenson. basically a nerdy, 900-page airplane book - which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 1 November 2011 20:48 (eight years ago) link

maybe "dumb" should have been in scare quotes there.

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 1 November 2011 20:48 (eight years ago) link

I loved REAMDE and totally annoyed Mr. Jaq by staying up too late reading it with single-minded purpose. And then not being able to tell him anything about why it was so engrossing, because it's really not his kind of thing so attempts were met with ????
¯\(°_0)/¯ ???? kinds of looks.

Jaq, Tuesday, 1 November 2011 21:38 (eight years ago) link


I've heard his campus comedy novel thing is horrible and I have no real desire to read it

i liked it a lot when i read it in college. it wasn't as funny when i re-read it a few years ago, but it's still good.

sarahel, Tuesday, 1 November 2011 21:46 (eight years ago) link

700 pages in, and i'm still liking this a lot. there's only been one weird digression (bears and the t/f of menstrual blood attraction) and i agree it's an 'airplane novel' but i'd be v. satisfied to read a lot more of these, if that's what NS wanted to write

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Tuesday, 1 November 2011 21:48 (eight years ago) link

i thought anathem was better, despite some long boring unnecessary stretches. reamde was fun and i also burned through it pretty fast but was ultimately pretty silly.

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 1 November 2011 21:53 (eight years ago) link

i should reread cryptonomicon, maybe it was more straight-ahead and reamde-esque than i remember. in my memory it was fun and exciting but also pretty smart, but i read it like 10 years ago i think.

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 1 November 2011 21:55 (eight years ago) link

I read the campus college thing when I was in college too, and around the same time that I read Ballard's high rise--I don't know if this is actually true anymore but at the time I felt like those two books were making the nature vs nurture argument with each other.

rayuela, Tuesday, 1 November 2011 22:00 (eight years ago) link

I think I was also greatly influenced by chunks of reamde being set in my neighborhood (Georgetown) - it always makes me happy when there's a bit of home an author's got right.

n/a, I described it to someone as much more Cryptonomicon than Snowcrash, but I think it's possibly more Zodiac than Cryptonomicon.

Jaq, Tuesday, 1 November 2011 22:01 (eight years ago) link

It took me 50 pages to realize re-u meant reunion. I kept seeing "re-up". Sigh.

rayuela, Wednesday, 2 November 2011 00:14 (eight years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Marathoned through the last 600 pages yesterday and today. Loads of fun. I enjoyed the structure of overlapping scenes -- like watching roofers shingle a house the size of a football field.

Steamtable Willie (WmC), Saturday, 19 November 2011 04:33 (eight years ago) link

six months pass...

You know something? If I were a successful author and was looking for something different to do that can also take advantage of my obscure hobby, I'd probably do the same: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/260688528/clang

Elvis Telecom, Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:12 (seven years ago) link

i found a continuity error in anathem -- a character has a few lines in a scene despite supposedly being thousands of miles away -- and emailed him about it. three months later he wrote back admitting it and saying thanks. probably should have pressed him to hire me

mookieproof, Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:19 (seven years ago) link

Is anyone reading The Mongoliad?

calstars, Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:34 (seven years ago) link

Snow Crash to be directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block, Adam and Joe):
http://badassdigest.com/2012/06/14/attack-the-blocks-joe-cornish-to-direct-cyberpunk-classic-snow-crash/

Don't recall a think about snow crash. Should I reread or is life too short?

Jesu swept (ledge), Friday, 15 June 2012 09:45 (seven years ago) link

pizza delivery. lots of talk about sumerian proto language. lead character with stupid name.

koogs, Friday, 15 June 2012 09:47 (seven years ago) link

His great 3:30 single before he started on the concept albums. (this reading kind of ignores the bit where it slows to a stop for Sumerian chanting, but that only makes me love him more).

A question: Neal Stephenson is the only writer for whom I'll think "I really enjoyed reading that sentence. I think I'll read it again!". Where else should I be looking for this (which I understand (and am completely at peace with) to be non-correlated with literary "quality")

Andrew Farrell, Friday, 15 June 2012 12:29 (seven years ago) link

<I>lead character with stupid name.</I>

Hiro Protagonist is a great name, a great character detail _and_ a great joke, all in one!

Andrew Farrell, Friday, 15 June 2012 12:30 (seven years ago) link

that name broke the spell, made you remember you were reading a book, didn't like it for that reason as much as anything.

great central premise though (one they used in the New Avengers...) and there was some well thought-out virtual reality thing in there as well. all this makes me want to re-read it.

koogs, Friday, 15 June 2012 13:01 (seven years ago) link

A question: Neal Stephenson is the only writer for whom I'll think "I really enjoyed reading that sentence. I think I'll read it again!". Where else should I be looking for this

sounds like a cue for new ilb thread to me.

Jesu swept (ledge), Friday, 15 June 2012 13:06 (seven years ago) link

like david foster wallace, his non-fiction is a lot better. i kind of wish he did a 'remix' of all his fiction books reformulated as speculative essays.

Philip Nunez, Friday, 15 June 2012 14:54 (seven years ago) link

also, a silly name is less of a spell-breaking thing than characters being mouthpieces for concepts and information stephenson wants to get across that he could do (and does) much better just speaking directly to the reader. I know that's a standard deficiency in SF writing, but I feel like other authors should get a pass because they don't seem to know any better way to communicate, but Stephenson is just fine at expressing weird or technical ideas to laymen without these unnecessary character props.

Philip Nunez, Friday, 15 June 2012 14:59 (seven years ago) link

Seems like it should get the Game of Thrones treatment, not get edited down into meaninglessness in order to fit in two or so hours.

the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Friday, 15 June 2012 17:05 (seven years ago) link

but Stephenson is just fine at expressing weird or technical ideas to laymen without these unnecessary character props.

Or was until he took misguided criticism of the infodumps to heart and started doing it via characters in Reamde

stet, Friday, 15 June 2012 20:44 (seven years ago) link

r(ea)mde

un® (dayo), Friday, 15 June 2012 23:23 (seven years ago) link

six months pass...

Really loving the hell out of Reamde.

Elvis Telecom, Friday, 4 January 2013 05:56 (seven years ago) link

Stephenson talks about REAMDE with lawyers at the UW Law School

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6-gpVmHh4c

Elvis Telecom, Friday, 4 January 2013 05:57 (seven years ago) link

tried agin to read quicksilver and literally could not make it past 10 pages, what a piece of shit

乒乓, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 14:45 (seven years ago) link

rong but lol

Roberto Spiralli, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 14:55 (seven years ago) link

haha I am a big stephenson fan! like back in high school I even read the big u and those things he published as 'stephen bury'

乒乓, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 14:56 (seven years ago) link

reamde is such a crock

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

rong

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

xp

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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven years ago) link

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 (three years ago) link

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

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

otm, i love those bits too

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

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

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

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

koogs, Saturday, 10 December 2016 06:28 (three 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 (eleven months 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 (two 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 (two 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 (two 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 (two 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 (two 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 (two months ago) link

author-can't-perceive-how-strange-he's-become kind of way.

― Doctor Casino, Friday, April 3, 2020 2:44 PM

This can either be the best thing or the worst thing.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Friday, 3 April 2020 21:17 (two months ago) link

worst in this case

watched The Core last night and was struck by how much it basically is a dumb and sometimes fun version of this book

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 16:45 (one month ago) link

the book is already dumb obv so what i mean is "less nerdy"

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 16:45 (one month ago) link


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