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review 2017-08-29 18:17
Review: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (Neal Stephenson, Nicolle Galland)
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: A Novel - Neal Stephenson,Nicole Galland

SeriesN/A

Publisher: William Morrow (2017)

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy

 

Could have been great, but it lacked focus in a big way. We were explained all the science but not the magic. Also, I felt like I was reading the notes of the entire backstory. There are things that don't need to be there.

Mainly, I got the feeling that the plot was really thin, so the authors just shoved lots of info about how DODO developed over 5 years, memos, staff convos, parties, amongst other stuff.

There was some action sprinkled throughout, but mostly it was this and then the climax, which was... disapointing. And open.

So, overall, while all the info-dumpy backstory was cool to an extent, it didn't advance the plot and this book is huge. There was just too much detail, too much minutiae about everyday stuff in a government funded organization, sometimes... it was boring. I'm guessing that without the info-dump it would be roughly 300 pages or something.

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review 2017-08-18 17:35
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Seveneves - Neal Stephenson

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

Seveneves is an entertaining, complex and thought provoking hard-science fiction book that takes a look at humanity, the good and the bad, during an apocalyptic event.

 

The book is split into three sections.  The first sections deals with humanities' preparation for the cataclysm that will result from the split moon.  The second section focuses on the people in space immediately after the cataclysm, who have the task of keeping the human species alive or the duration of the catastrophe.  The third part of the book takes a look at what happens when the Earth is made habitable again five thousand years after the cataclysm.

The author has a fondness for lengthy explanations and descriptions of new environments, but is short of character development.  There is a great deal of focus on hard science in this novel - everything from orbital mechanics, robotics and the physics of keeping a space station in space to genetic engineering and psychology.  However, this story is still enthralling, the world building is fascinating and the character cast entertaining and their interactions complex.  I enjoyed this book immensely, but wish there was more to the second and third sections.  There are some poignant moments, some funny moments, feats of heroics, and then there are the moments where you wish you could toss a particular character out the airlock!  

NOTE:  Seveneves is a palindrome.

 

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text 2017-07-31 02:18
Space 5, second landing
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson

A really cool mix of cyberpunk, Sumerian and a "post-apocalypse" society. The apocalypse is simply the breakdown of America into Burbclaves, franchulates and mini-countries. The terminology and the lines of breakdown are both understandable and not unexpected. The main character is a hacker carrying samurai swords in both Reality and the Metaverse. Add in Enki, Innana, a Kourier, an Aleut and a power hungry preacher and you have the makings of a classic. Like so many science fiction writers, what Stephenson describes is not only plausible, but some of it has happened since the book was published. Read it and see if you can make the matches.

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review 2017-07-05 17:10
Reamde - Neal Stephenson 
Reamde - Neal Stephenson

Gold farming in MMPORG, and game building, veterans and draft-dodgers, a British writer of fantasy with exquisitely hand-crafted languages and cultures and also an American fantasist of the most prolific stripe, Seattle hipsters and Iowan wind farmers, private jets and slow boats from China: everything and everyone has a foil in this book, but since it's over nine hundred pages, an exhaustive catalog would be really long, and far less entertaining. Stephenson manages to take a Clancy-like scenario, give it a Dickensian and international cast, keep up a Dan Brown kind of momentum even as he takes time for National Treasure sort of thinking. Lots of thinking.

 

And also I happened to notice a particular device Stephenson used to good effect: the first time a name is introduced he spells it kind of phonetically, the way the character heard it, but when the character actually appears on stage, as it were, the name is spelled as it is using the Roman alphabet and English transliteration. It's important because there are quite a few people with nonEnglish names and nonRoman writing. In the same way he keeps the plot going without taking the time to explain everything: eventually all becomes clear for a character without a lot of telling. I don't usually notice technical aspects of a novel's construction, but at over 900 pages I had a fair number of opportunities to ponder whilst doing other things which were not reading.

 

So, the upshot: an incredibly entertaining book that one can feel smug about reading. Recommended for ereaders because of the heaviness and awkwardness of holding a bound copy.

 

Library copy 

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review 2017-06-22 06:52
Review: Zodiac by Neal Stephenson
Zodiac - Neal Stephenson

Zodiac is the first book I’ve read by Neal Stephenson, an author I see mentioned fairly often, often with mixed reviews. My own reaction to this particular book is a little mixed. 

 

The title, Zodiac, refers to a type of motorized raft the characters used. The story is set in Boston and is told from the first-person perspective of a character who tries to catch, publicize, and prevent corporations from dumping toxic chemicals into the Boston Harbor.  Naturally the big, powerful corporation people aren’t happy and don’t take his interference lying down. 

 

The book is probably better classified as a Thriller than as Science Fiction. There was at least one small science fiction element but, for the most part, it seemed entirely based on technology and scientific knowledge from the 1980’s, when the book was published.  There’s a decent amount of science, usually explained well enough for the layman to understand, and I never felt like I was reading infodumps.  I learned some things, and I liked that. 

 

On the other hand, the story itself just wasn’t that appealing to me. Since the book is more story-driven than character-driven, it was hard to be too enthusiastic about it if I wasn’t enthusiastic about the story itself.  I liked the main character well enough, but I never felt attached, and I didn’t feel much interest in the other characters at all. 

 

As far as entertainment level, this was pretty middle-of-the-road for me. There were parts when I did feel more eager to learn what would happen next but, mostly, I didn’t feel any compulsion to keep reading when I had other things to do.  Fortunately, this was a pretty short book.  If it had been stretched out into a longer book, I might have had more trouble making it to the end.

 

Next Book

I’ll be continuing on to the fourth Temeraire book with Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik.

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