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Search tags: Neal-Stephenson
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review 2019-08-06 16:40
The Big U, Neal Stephenson
The Big U - Neal Stephenson

A compelling, largely accurate satire of modern higher education that gets progressively more surreal, crazed and violent as it goes along. This was Stephenson's first published novel and you can tell - every apparently pointless chunk of bizarre exposition is actually important, the book is no longer than it needs to be, characters aren't picked up and dropped like a toddler with a toy and the "Guns make the USA Great, everybody should have one, preferably several" bullshit is at least minimally disguised and not the whole point of the story. (Btw, Stephenson, the refutation of your argument on this is splashed all across the news these last few days...I mean years...I mean decades..I mean the last century. Let's face it, reform has been over-due in your country since the end of the era of the Wild West.)

 

Anyway, the only book by this guy that I've read and thought was better was Zodiac, which manages to remain grounded in reality through-out instead of jumping the shark (or giant rat) like this does.

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text 2019-08-05 12:17
Reading progress update: I've read 188 out of 308 pages.
The Big U - Neal Stephenson

Rapid and drastic improvement into a compelling and bonkers tale of American uni life.

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text 2019-08-05 03:15
Reading progress update: I've read 18 out of 308 pages.
The Big U - Neal Stephenson

So far, so irritating.

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text 2019-08-02 15:35
Neal Stephenson's New Book

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson's most recent work is two novels in one. 

Novel #1: There is, as you may have heard a vast self-indulgent re-telling of various mythologies, including allusions to Summerian mythos and Biblical mythos. That part is boring, video-game-derived fan fiction written clearly by someone who thought it would be cool to pretend to be Milton for awhile, but has the parse vocabulary and flat descriptive power of the lackluster contemporary SF milieu. Imagine great mythic poetry rewritten by someone who has never read the King James, and you'll get the gist. I don't read a novel to read about the events of a video game, where there is no inner struggle, no character growth, and no sense of real human activity. Pretty sad as a novel. 

Novel #2: 
However, this videogame-style post-death story is wrapped in a highly compelling vision of our emerging future, which contains all of the brilliant observations, near-future forecasting and prescient insights that made me a Neal Stephenson fan in the first place. How easy would it be to "fake" a nuclear attack using social media? Pretty damn easy, and Stephenson shows us how. How rapidly would the midwest population's evangelical righteousness drift into a full-throated embrace of the Old Testament's Levitical dictates? Pretty fast, and Stephenson shows us a just-that-side-of-n0w reality. What is it like to live on the coasts in the high tech circuit today, and yet feel a kinship with a bygone middle America? Yep, that's here, and it's pretty poignant. This real grounded story in the novel is powerful, real, visceral and demonstrates all the wonderful power that Stephenson can bring to bear as a novelist. 

Stephenson just needs a stronger editor who can tell him to knock off the blowhard self-indulgent crap (Novel #1) and focus on a real story with real characters (Novel #2), which in the end is more compelling and more emotionally powerful and contains pointers to both the worst and the best of our shared future.

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review 2019-07-29 19:27
Review of The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson

I would give this a 3.5 rating. The futuristic premise of the book of a world divided by class and culture full of nanotechnology was fascinating. The characters were also interesting and seeing their growth was well worth the read. I think the latter part of the book kind of lost the thread for me and I didn't enjoy getting through to the end as much as I enjoyed the world building of the first half. Worth the read and Stephenson is still one of my favorites.

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