Doug Stewart on 8 Jun 2012 10:30:04 -0700

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Re: [PLUG] I need a book recommendation

On Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 1:20 PM, Rich Freeman <> wrote:
> On Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 12:45 PM, Doug Stewart <> wrote:
>> On Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 12:24 PM, Jay Dobies <> wrote:
>>> I'm one of the few geeks who just doesn't get Stephenson. I want to try Snow
>>> Crash again but I hated Cryptonomicon. It felt like 100 pages of story
>>> stretched out into 800 pages of fluff.
>> That's definitely a position I can respect. I think it's something to
>> do with his OCD-esque prose at points. He focuses on details that
>> might seem trivial (Proper Methodology For Eating Cap'n Crunch comes
>> to mind) but that appeal to a certain strain in some folks. I read
>> those sections and think "Well played, good sir." while others think
>> "What a waste...!"
> Can't agree more.  I liked Cryptonomicon, tolerated Snow Crash, and
> really enjoyed Anathem.  Sometimes he gets a bit carried away with
> side-topics, like the Bazian Arks and Qwghlmian culture.  Perhaps a
> telling sign is that in the Anathem plot summary (4 pages long) there
> is the sentence fragment "After a dangerous journey over the planet's
> frozen pole," which is multiple chapters in the 928-page book that has
> relatively little alignment to the overall plot (even as backstory,
> aside from showing the Vale'rs in action).
> When I clear up some space in my audiobook queue I will probably
> attack another of his novels.
> Certainly a good author for any geek to follow - you'll either love it or not.

I did Anathem via the audiobook route, so I missed the appendices
(speaking of OCD sections!). I was given the meatspace incarnation as
a gift and have enjoyed that fleshing-out, but I do think there's
something to the audio version -- the names and places are all
pronounced according to Stephenson's wishes, so there's no trying to
suss out how to say "Qwglhm", Geometers, etc.

Stephenson also seems to encapsulate between 3-5 Big Ideas per work.
Snow Crash was about virtual reality, the dissolution of society into
franchised city-states, and the correlation between neurological
development and linguistics. Diamond Age was about abundant
nanotechnology's affect on society, neo-Victorian reactions to such,
and virtual/distance parenting. Cryptonomicon was about cryptology,
computer hacking, world finance, and probably a few things I'm
forgetting. The Big U was a Lord of the Flies set in a university
dorm, mainframe hacking, university politics and LARPing.

I could go on.

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