Book Recommendations?

@Tangle, I crapped out at book 2. Loved Reamde and am about 1/2 through The Fall and it may be my new fave.

My husband bought book 1 of the Baroque cycle, and I think that's the point where he decided that Stephenson needed more editing before he produced the sort of book he'd enjoy. (He did like Anathem, though.) It's entirely possible I will feel the same about it, but since the book is somewhere in the house, it's worth it to me to add to the TBR list.

There may be three years' worth of books in FRONT of it on the list, but it's allowed on the list.

Uh I mean I've read all 3 and they have ups and downs. One is arguably the dullest (shut up science bitch, get back to Shaftoe), but wait until you get to rudimentary stock market explanations for several hundred pages in book three!

I love the Baroque Cycle. If you’ve read a good amount of period literature and history, they are fantastic. Brilliant, subtle references and allusions at every turn.

That said, they are written in a period style, and if you don’t like the style, it won’t matter that the story is good. The style is the architecture of the books, really. It wanders around various references, but it’s never going to be brief and succinct, like many modern novels.

The Baroque Cycle is well-named. Took me three attempts to get past the first book, but after that it went smoother. Not sure if that's because they're easier, or by then I'd just adapted to the style by treating the whole thing as the text equivalent of Connections.

It was a hard slog to get into the Baroque Cycle. However, by the end, I was glad I pushed through that stuff. Shaftoe's syphilis adventures were great.

It was years and years ago since I read them. I've always thought about going back and listening to audio versions.

The Baroque Cycle is incredible, one of my favourite series of all time. I am truly shocked by the ambivalence here, I just assumed everyone into Stephenson felt the same way!

ComfortZone wrote:

The Baroque Cycle is incredible, one of my favourite series of all time. I am truly shocked by the ambivalence here, I just assumed everyone into Stephenson felt the same way!

Nope, I bounced after book one as well, despite otherwise devouring all things Stephonsonian. Thinking maybe I should give them another shot.

The more you know of early novels in English, Restoration comedies, the English Civil War and it’s aftermath, the lives of Isaac Newton and the founders of the Royal Society, the Enlightenment, European colonial expansion, the history of banking, the rise of the concept of Human Rights, the history and philosophy of science, alchemy and historical chemistry, glass-working, early biology, the development of the Calculus, history of coffee, chocolate and tea, relations between countries in the early 18th century, and rivalries between the leaders of the major countries of Europe at the time, the more you’ll enjoy the book.

It’s not so much of an ask, is it?

benign1 wrote:
ComfortZone wrote:

The Baroque Cycle is incredible, one of my favourite series of all time. I am truly shocked by the ambivalence here, I just assumed everyone into Stephenson felt the same way!

Nope, I bounced after book one as well, despite otherwise devouring all things Stephonsonian. Thinking maybe I should give them another shot.

Ditto for me but two shots was enough for me.

I'm not sure whether taking two shots before reading it is a great idea or a terrible one.

Robear wrote:

The more you know of early novels in English, Restoration comedies, the English Civil War and it’s aftermath, the lives of Isaac Newton and the founders of the Royal Society, the Enlightenment, European colonial expansion, the history of banking, the rise of the concept of Human Rights, the history and philosophy of science, alchemy and historical chemistry, glass-working, early biology, the development of the Calculus, history of coffee, chocolate and tea, relations between countries in the early 18th century, and rivalries between the leaders of the major countries of Europe at the time, the more you’ll enjoy the book.

It’s not so much of an ask, is it? :-)

I think I fell asleep at “restoration comedies”.... can you repeat everything after that? ;P

Robear wrote:

The more you know of early novels in English, Restoration comedies, the English Civil War and it’s aftermath, the lives of Isaac Newton and the founders of the Royal Society, the Enlightenment, European colonial expansion, the history of banking, the rise of the concept of Human Rights, the history and philosophy of science, alchemy and historical chemistry, glass-working, early biology, the development of the Calculus, history of coffee, chocolate and tea, relations between countries in the early 18th century, and rivalries between the leaders of the major countries of Europe at the time, the more you’ll enjoy the book.

It’s not so much of an ask, is it? :-)

And even then, it is still a slog.

Stephenson is not my jam anymore. I reread Cryptonomicon last year, it was hard to get through. I always thought the last 1/3rd was not great but man it is kind of bad. The first 2/3rds were not great either upon re-read. Reamde was not good. Anathem was okay I guess but I have never wanted to go back to it. I am not sure about his earlier stuff, what I would think of it now.

Seveneves was downright awful IMO.

Authors change over time. I have changed too. Me and Stephenson not simpatico anymore. It is fine but I am done with him.

In short, I find he has really great ideas but is quite tiresome to read. Life is too short to read stuff you don't like. If you like his stuff, enjoy it!

Seveneves is the only one that I had to force myself to read, but the last section made it worthwhile. Still, a lot there could have been... compressed? The problem is that taking too much out would make it a pointless story - not enough characterization - while expanding it would have turned it into a trilogy. But really, it’s a setup for the follow-on books. Which, hopefully, will be forthcoming.

He's a good idea man, but not my favorite world builder or author at this point.

I bought it on sale a long time ago, but I’m finally getting to The Lies of Locke Lamora. I’m sucked in. I’ve been pretty obsessively reading it over the last few days.

Thanks to whom ever recommended it.

I have finished Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson. Short take: There are portions of this book that I love, but I ultimately feel unfulfilled.

Spoiler: Whole book spoilers

I came into the book completely blind, so tying the book into the Waterhouse-verse was unexpected. The scene early on in which two characters have a conversation literally inside of/among the Leibniz-archiv was pure Stephenson fanservice. Having ever-loving Enoch Root pop up just kept that going, though the capper there was when one of the first things a character asked him was (not knowing anything of his nature), "What are you?"

So that was all fun.

The "Ameristan" section was simultaneously absurd and terrifying. At the moment I would call it the most memorable part of the book, but it is also the most topical, so I wonder how it will stand the test of time. It was pretty clear what point Stephenson was making when he started the whole Moab, Utah section, but the stuff post-time-skip just dialed that to 11.

Everything from the "detonation" of Moab to Sophia's job interview felt like the most interesting part of the book to me. The transition into being an out-and-out fantasy novel was interesting, but that latter half of the book just didn't feel like it had the same teeth.

I am particularly unsatisfied with the character of Elmo Shepherd, a.k.a. El, who felt like someone with a rich internal life, and strong motives, but we only really got to see that from the edges of things. A huge part of his motive was the prospect of a computerized afterlife starting from scratch, as it were. This mostly ends up being defined by his opposition to the rest of the characters, but I was genuinely curious: What did he think that meant? What did he want? Once he took over Bitworld, we got to see the gradual expansion of "the Hive," which I can only assume was some manner of hive mind. But... that's it, really. He had very strong ideas about how things should be, and he acted on that to put those ideas into practice, but I'm still really unsure about what those ideas were.

I was sort of expecting the end of the book to involve Dodge (or someone) confronting El and actually getting more to the heart of what he thought he was doing... But, no, he just got chucked in a hole and that was that.

It was a very Stephenson ending, which is not a compliment. Before reading this book, I'd have said Stephenson has generally gotten better about endings. But this thing was largely a return to form. The Quest reaches its end, then we briefly check in with the various characters, then the book stops.

The final sci-fi concept seemed fairly pat: Humanity declines in numbers in the real world, transitioning almost totally into Bitworld, leaving reality over to its robots while they expand humanity's computing resources into a Dyson sphere. It's a neat idea! But I've seen it before, and it just seemed inevitable from the start. There was no real story or conflict there. It was impressive, but it wasn't especially interesting.

The suggestion that the supposed real world was, itself, generated from some higher reality, just as Bitworld was generated from the real world, was just sort of there. It gave Enoch his I must go now! moment, but it was an idea with nothing to bounce off, and no conflict or consequence.

A large portion of the book was a basically straightforward fantasy story. I felt this was enhanced by its relationship to the "real world" part of the story. But I also felt it was not very well served by its Tolkien-esque approach of conveying a journey via lengthy descriptions of terrain, and camping, and other minutiae. This is certainly a staple of the genre, but I found myself skimming certain sections.

Still: Stephenson doing fantasy was a novel experience, and I don't regret reading it.

Final conclusion: Not Stephenson's strongest work. I've seen many of the big ideas here before, and the conflict, such as it was, was more obligatory than compelling. The "Ameristan" section was the most interesting, largely because the big idea (this idea of "post-reality" civilization) was not something I'd seen explored like that before.

firesloth, I probably bought Locke Lamora on the same sale--I remember getting it for like $1.99 on kindle quite a while ago, but haven't gotten around to it. Maybe I will soon!

Taking advantage of my last weeks of A2 public library with The Water Knife and Norco 80

The October Man, a novella in the a Rivers Of London series is out. Grant is not in this book, though he's mentioned. It's told from the POV of Tobias Winter, a German equivalent of Peter, and is set in Trier.

I quite enjoyed it. It doesn't really advance the main plot it anything, and mostly just broadens the world, and demonstrates that the kinds of things happening in the UK are also happening in Germany.

I think I read that Ben is doing one of these for Reynolds in the US too.

In case anyone missed the fireworks, James Ellroy's new book, "This Storm", is out. It starts January 1 1942, and features all the familiar mugs of the LAPD of the time from his previous books, this time tied up in anti-immigrant skullduggery as well as the usual PD politicking. Tight prose, fevered images, fast pace, all the good stuff.

I was just thinking about rereading The Black Dahlia too

Always a good choice.

firesloth wrote:

I bought it on sale a long time ago, but I’m finally getting to The Lies of Locke Lamora. I’m sucked in.

It falls to me to bear warning to the unwary. If you liked the book in large part because it was good and had cool thievery, stop after the first book.

Someone will soon chime in and say “I don’t know I thought 2 and 3 were okay” and then you’ll think “I should go for it.” Resist that thought.

That's good advice Crink.

Mr Crinkle wrote:
firesloth wrote:

I bought it on sale a long time ago, but I’m finally getting to The Lies of Locke Lamora. I’m sucked in.

It falls to me to bear warning to the unwary. If you liked the book in large part because it was good and had cool thievery, stop after the first book.

Someone will soon chime in and say “I don’t know I thought 2 and 3 were okay” and then you’ll think “I should go for it.” Resist that thought.

Thanks for the heads-up! Too bad, as the world-building is excellent in this book.

It’s okay, though, as the library has notified me that my loans of Tigana, A Memory Called Empire, and Name of the Wind expire soon. I’ve turned on airplane mode for my Kindle, but I’ve now got to read those before thinking of anything else. Chances are I will have moved on from Camorr by the time you get through all of those.

I liked 2 and 3, and the manuscript has been turned in for 4

I agree. Book one was the best, two was ok, three was better than two. I don't regret reading them.

Mr Crinkle's prophecy is coming true!

I loved all three and can't wait for the fourth .