Review: Stephenson’s Fall, Or Dodge In Hell


Fall or Dodge in Hell
Neal Stephenson

I read every Neal Stephenson book as soon as they come out. Some are amazing, some are just ok, but never do I regret the experience.

As is standard with a Neal Stephenson novel, this one is a joyous hodgepodge of adventure, science, and philosophy held together by an improbable but enjoyable plot. The basic outline? Cryogenics gets real and we’re able to replicate the human experience in a digital world. Then shit gets really weird. This starts as a near future science fiction novel and ends as a high fantasy novel. While not entirely successful, its still very enjoyable if, like me, you enjoy Stephenson’s kitchen sink approach to the novel.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review Stephenson’s Diamond Age

Diamond Age: or  a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

Neal Stephenson

The coming of age story of a poor girl in future in which nanotechnology has revolutionized the way we live. The protagonist, Nell, is a poor girl who accidentally receives a complex toy / educational tool (a sort of interactive book) which gives her insight into a world her class would normally exclude her from.  The book follows both her interactions with the book, and its effects on her life. In a parallel plot, it tracks the downfall of the book’s creator for, essentially, failing to keep the knowledge and gifts associated with the book out of the hands of average people.

It’s a book about class and race in a future, and because its Neal Stephenson, its plot is complex and absorbing and its ideas fascinating and challenging. Without a doubt better than most science fiction, but not my favorite of his works.  In my mind, Stephenson is at his best when he’s getting deep inside the ways technology, real or imagined, effects our world. I didn’t feel like this one has as much of that as some of his other, better, books (Crytonomicon, or Seveneves, for example). Still if imagination science fiction done by a master of the genre is your thing (and why wouldn’t it be?) this is world your time.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Stephenson’s The System of the World

The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3)
Neal Stephenson

The third volume in Stephenson’s ambitious and fun recounting of the world events circa the late 18th century. This has got the birth of the royal society, the growing pains of international trade and the intrigues at Versailles for starters. As I remember, this volume is tying up a number of lose ends, and focuses more on the Royal Society and Versailles then on the swashbuckling adventurers that take up a lot of space in volume two. It’s good fun, especially if you have any interest in doorstop historical fiction.

Stephenson does an especially excellent job with the members of the royal society, I think, and Issac Newton in particular. Newton was, as everyone knows, a nutjob. He was also very into alchemy, as were, apparently, a number of members of the royal society. It is fascinating how, stripped of some of its spiritual components, alchemy laid the basis for enlightenment era western science.

Recommended for the enthusiast.