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posted by CoolHand on Wednesday August 17 2016, @05:41PM   Printer-friendly

This review contains spoilers.

I thought I'd got a remaindered, 1000 page, hardback book, from a prominent author, at an absolute bargain price because the publisher made a typo on the cover. Unfortunately, that typo is deliberate. It was made by one of the characters in the book and gets propagated widely in malware.

I read this book to the end so that I could provide a fair review for SoylentNews but I really wish that I hadn't. At around the 75% mark, I wanted to abandon the book. Around the 95% mark, I was more interested in my bookmark than the book itself. The problem is that the book is too detailed and yet not detailed enough. The plot flips from a semi-autobiographical character to a dodgy Scottish accountant for the Russian Mafia to a needlessly exotic Black, Welsh, lesser-known contemporary of Osama bin Laden. Internal motive is rarely explained and therefore Welsh's Islamic subjugation of another needlessly exotic character makes her seem like a really irritating Mary Sue when it should have been a highly researched study of cultural belief.

Until reading What ISIS Really Wants, I thought the book would have benefited highly from Mary Sue being killed in the first half. Either way, it may be beneficial to read this book while referring to an atlas. It certainly seems to be written that way.

[More...]

Other reviews note the comic relief. This made me think "What comic relief?" Then I remembered the rivalry between a snob and a hack who provide a superfluous backstory for an inconsistent online game which adds very little to the plot. The snob, when he is able, has his email translated into a language of his own devising, written onto vellum and delivered on a velvet cushion. Unfortunately, Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (published in 1934) has superior observations about telecommunications and doesn't explain its Noodle Incident in full.

One seemingly outrageous section of the book involves a siege and building collapse. However, subsequent events in Paris made this a case of life imitating art. Unfortunately, this occurs in one of a series of exotic locations reminiscent of a James Bond film. (Quantum of Solace springs to mind but SPECTRE also fits.)

The plot isn't resolved in a satisfactory manner and an epilog doesn't help. Every bad guy dies. Every good guy lives. A character with dubious morals receives an injury which forces reform. What happens to the mafia guys? Who cares because it was just a device to get to the jihadists.

Three people are credited in the book as providing expertise for ships, guns and geography. Unfortunately, due to the repetition of "gunwales", "clip" and "talus", and the lack of editing thereof, it seems more like Neal Stephenson collected on three bets. This is the overall problem with the work. Light editing of a literary great has destroyed the value. Applying a firmer process between author and editor would have been far more beneficial.

Neal Stephenson's early novel, Zodiac, is preferable to REAMDE and this is generally regarded as inferior to Snow Crash, The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon. On this basis, REAMDE is probably the worst Neal Stephenson novel ever published. Publishers, William Morrow and Atlantic Books, should be ashamed.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Book Review: Rainbows End by Rudy Rucker 5 comments

I previously reviewed Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy and Postsingular and found that Rudy Rucker's best work comes after ideas had the most time to percolate. Postsingular was a relative dud, although still far superior to Neal Stephenson's REAMDE. In contrast, Rainbows End is highly recommended. Indeed, it is essential reading for anyone concerned about the progression of software from desktop, web and mobile to augmented reality. The book has a shockingly similar game to Pokémon Go in addition to a plausible mix of tech mergers and new entrants in a near-future universe where smartphones have given way to wearable augmented reality.

Many books, comics and films have covered the purgatory of high school and some have covered the special purgatory of going back to high school (for a re-union or as a student). The film: 21 Jump Street is a particularly silly example of the sub-genre. Rainbows End covers a world leading humanities academic who spends years in the fugue of dementia, responds almost perfectly to medical advances and is enrolled in high school to complete his therapy. While he looks almost perfectly like a 17 year old, his contemporaries remain in decline or have bounced back with far more random results.

Although he has physically recovered, he has lost his razor-sharp insight and biting wit[1]. Like other patients, he finds talents in unrelated areas. His computer fluency, which was sufficient to publish in academic journals, is now 20 years out of date. During this period, laptops have become as thin as paper and also horrendously obsolete. Although the paper-thin laptops can be configured as a variety of legacy desktop environments and legacy web browsers, rendering data from the (almost) ubiquitous wireless network is less successful than accessing the current World Wide Web without images or JavaScript. However, this is only one slice of purgatory.

"Biggest Ransomware Attack in History" Hits Around 100 Countries, Disrupts UK's NHS 88 comments

NSA-created cyber tool spawns global ransomware attacks

From Politico via Edward Snowden via Vinay Gupta:

Leaked alleged NSA hacking tools appear to be behind a massive cyberattack disrupting hospitals and companies across Europe, Asia and the U.S., with Russia among the hardest-hit countries.

The unique malware causing the attacks - which has spread to tens of thousands of companies in 99 countries, according to the cyber firm Avast - have forced some hospitals to stop admitting new patients with serious medical conditions and driven other companies to shut down their networks, leaving valuable files unavailable.

The source of the world-wide digital assault seems to be a version of an apparent NSA-created hacking tool that was dumped online in April by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. The tool, a type of ransomware, locks up a company's networks and holds files and data hostage until a fee is paid. Researchers said the malware is exploiting a Microsoft software flaw.

Thoughts on a similar scenario were published by the Harvard Business Review two days before this incident.

One or more anti-virus companies may have been hacked prior to WannaCrypt infecting 75000 Microsoft Windows computers in 99 countries. First, anti-virus software like Avast fails to make HTTP connections. Second, five million of ransomware emails are rapidly sent. Although many centralized email servers were able to stem the onslaught, many instances of anti-virus software had outdated virus definitions and were defenseless against the attack. Indeed, successful attacks were above 1%. Of these, more than 1% have already paid the ransom. Although various governments have rules (or laws) against paying ransom, it is possible that ransoms have been paid to regain access to some systems.

Also, file scrambling ransomware has similarities to REAMDE by Neal Stephenson. Although the book is extremely badly written, its scenarios (offline and online) seem to come true with forceful regularity.

Further sources: BBC (and here), Russia Today, DailyFail, Telegraph, Guardian.

Telefónica reportedly affected. NHS failed to patch computers which affected US hospitals in 2016. 16 divisions of the UK's NHS taken offline with aid of NSA Fuzzbunch exploit. The fun of a public blockchain is that ransom payments of £415,000 have been confirmed. Cancellation of heart surgery confirmed. Doctors unable to check allergies or prescribe medication. Patient access to emergency treatment denied in part due to hospital telephone exchange being offline.

It also appears that one of the affected parties refused to answer a Freedom of Information request in Nov 2016 about cyber-security due to impact on crime detection. Similar parties provided responses to the same request.

Book Review: Postsingular by Rudy Rucker 3 comments

I was initally under the impression that Postsingular and Hylozoic continued the Ware Tetralogy but these are two distinct fictional "universes". Although there is an expectation for authors to continually out-do themselves with ever more fantastical ideas, Postsingular fails to satisfy on multiple criteria. It is too knowingly in the present, using "tweet" in the contemporary context and also having search engines. It may be that Rudy Rucker's feedback from fans and increased knowledge about computing makes the book less entertaining.

Regardless, nanotechnology, synthetic telepathy, natural telepathy and multiple forms of teleportation are explored in depth in the context of reality television, augmented reality spam and post-scarcity economics. Several characters are introduced very poorly and Rudy Rucker continues a tradition of ridiculous character names. Thankfully, characters become more rounded as plot develops. One character, Dick Dibbs, is uncannily similar to Donald Trump and Postsingular accurately captures some of the North American 2016 pre-election hysteria almost 10 years before it occurred.

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by VLM on Wednesday August 17 2016, @05:43PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @05:43PM (#389210)

    Unfortunately, that typo is deliberate.

    Note the SN story has "corrected" the typo in the title, LOL. Maybe you got a gray market fake after all.

    • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:56PM

      by aristarchus (2645) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:56PM (#389249) Journal

      And . . . . It is fixed. Now we can all wonder if it is a typa, again.

      Seems to me that professional writers get tired. It is almost like you can spot exactly where they lost interest in the project, and the rest of the work becomes wooden.

      --
      #Free{nick}_NOW!!!
  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday August 17 2016, @05:55PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @05:55PM (#389214)

    How about commentary in comparison to the culture of the era?

    The 90s were an awesome time for sci fi. Diamond Age. Snow Crash. KSR's trilogy. Heavy Weather. The peak of Star Trek in quantity if not quality, you got TNG, DS9 and Voyager in the same decade plus a pile of movies. Everything was awesome, wasn't it? Even side issue kinda sci fi but not really was totally awesome like "guns of the south".

    Now in the 10's, what we have to compare to? We got Reamde, and um. Well. Um... Oh I know, we got us some shit tier remake reimaginings of 80s trek and 80s star wars trying to turn them into kids action flicks. And um... thats it? So up against the contemporaries, reamde isn't that bad... I mean what are you going to do as an alternate choice, watch the trek action flick remake again?

    • (Score: 2) by Zz9zZ on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:05PM

      by Zz9zZ (1348) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:05PM (#389219)

      Heh, no kidding! I enjoyed the first Trek remake but feel it should have been a stand alone. Or they should have moved back to real Trek values (science and exploration of the human condition!) instead of going the drama/action route.

      Recent Sci-fi movies/tv feels pretty lacking. Any suggestions?

      --
      ~Tilting at windmills~
      • (Score: 4, Informative) by tibman on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:36PM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:36PM (#389241)

        The Expanse is a good TV series and just starting up. Season 2 starts next spring.

        --
        SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
        • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Friday August 19 2016, @05:27AM

          by RamiK (1813) on Friday August 19 2016, @05:27AM (#389936)

          Picked it up on your recommendation.

          Thanks!

          --
          compiling...
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by SunTzuWarmaster on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:45PM

        by SunTzuWarmaster (3971) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:45PM (#389245)

        SciFi isn't all the trifecta of "alien civilization", "orbiting spaceship", and "intriguing artifact". Shows/Movies such as Humans, Ghost in the Shell, Firefly, Stargate, Primer, Minority Report, The Martian, and Battlestar really do carry the water for the genre. I think that what you are really missing is "exploration" movies, which is a sorely lacking category.

        If you haven't watched Humans or Primer, you should really do yourself a favor immediately. They explore their respective concepts extremely well.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:53PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:53PM (#389269)

        How about audio drama? Since writing my post I've been trying to think of 10s era sci fi thats good and I've failed.

        However, Nathan Lowell's "quarter share" series started in 2010 and I listened to the entire series in podcast format. I assume the books which are a later transcription of the podcasts are good?

        Are the Leviathan Chronicles any good?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Rich on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:09PM

      by Rich (945) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:09PM (#389225)

      Now in the 10's, what we have to compare to?

      Well, we've got "Ready Player One", which I found halfway decent - but then, it celebrates the good ol' days themselves :P

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tibman on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:17PM

      by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:17PM (#389254)

      90's were awesome for sci-fi but the computer graphics weren't really there yet. We started to really see it in shows like Stargate (Atlantis especially). Firefly was good. Farscape was great. But then it seemed like computer graphics started substituting for story : /

      We have had some big production sci-fi movies in theaters recently: Oblivion, Interstellar, Prometheus (maybe good?), District 9, Tron:Legacy, Mad Max:Fury Road, Pandorum, Guardians of the Galaxy. Could use some help naming more.. sure there are some

      As for books.. Jack McDevitt, Alastair Reynolds, Dan Simmons, Gregory Benford, James S.A. Corey, Larry Niven, and plenty others are still writing books. I pretty much buy every McDevitt and Reynolds book on release day. Dan Simmons' Hyperion is supposed to become a TV series. Looking forward to seeing the Shrike : )

      --
      SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:57PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:57PM (#389270)

        District 9

        I watched that and got the impression that ET and the X-files TV show mated and produced an action/gore flick. It was mostly a special effects demo reel although there was some story in there somewhere.

        I'm just saying the sci fi skin was extremely thinly applied. Slap on some castles and you'd have a fantasy epic, give the aliens sharp teeth and it would be a chicks vampire movie, etc.

        It was a movie with a very thinly applied sci fi skin. Not really a sci fi movie that happened to be a fill-in-the-blank movie.

        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by edIII on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:25AM

          by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:25AM (#389396)

          You know, I have to disagree.

          The lack of English for the alien, and Copley's ability to still understand, turned the film into art piece as well as sci-fi. It was about his metamorphosis, in a literal Kafka-esque way. We saw him change from the antagonist to the protagonist, while being the protagonist during the whole affair. The aliens were always thought to be weirdly inferior, but were simply unprogrammed. The alien he deals with is in fact the only surviving crew member that stills possesses sophisticated intellect, as evidenced by him teaching his offspring. Having written off the rest of his race as unprogrammable, he spends the entire time hiding from humans and plotting to regain control over the ship and to leave. By the end of the movie, we understand the humans to be bigoted and cruel, and the aliens to be child like and refugees.

          It was gritty and full of gore, but there was an actual story there. Admittedly, more drama than sci-fi. If you think that is gory, watch Copley's new movie Hardcore Henry.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Friday August 19 2016, @12:22PM

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 19 2016, @12:22PM (#390037)

            Its interesting that I agree with your analysis of disagreement completely. Its an interesting story. HOWEVER its not inherently sci fi, the sci fi part is extremely superficially applied. Could have been watercolored with any semi-genocidal "world war" in history from semi-prehistory to the Romans vs the Barbarians to the Crusades (that would be an interesting reskin). To obvious 20th century examples, maybe Japanese internment camps vs the local townies. Extremely soft sci fi.

            Also its sad that WRT quantity of gore you pretty much got 90% of the interesting part of the story in a paragraph and most of the movie was just filler, well we can't release this as a 5 minute youtube video even though thats all we gots so heres an hour or two of pointless gore around about 5 minutes of actual good story.

            To take you Kafka metamorphosis example to an extreme, it would be like calling a pr0n flick Kafka-esque if the first five minutes of "plot" had the actress reading the book and the rest of the flick was an hour of XXX sex. Thats not "really" a Kafka movie its a pr0n flick. Not that there's anything wrong with either...

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:21PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:21PM (#389280)

        Alastair Reynolds ... Larry Niven

        I didn't count those guys and Stross, because debatably their best books were pre 2010 or their genre defining series or big ideas predate 2010.

        Stross has a new Laundry book roughly every summer but that started in like 2005.

        Niven is still milking the ringworld from 1970 and the man-kzin wars from the 80s. I'm not saying he's doing it wrong, but he's like the most famous guy from the 70s or maybe 80s, not a guy you think of for 2010.

        Reynolds suffers from the Stross problem above, he had an AWESOME decade in the 00s but the decade of 10s for Reynolds is just Poseidons Children and I have no opinion on that. Terminal World JUST barely makes the cutoff and is pretty interesting... Still Reynolds is going to get the thumbs up as a cool guy of the 00s.

        Another guy writing in the 10s but his most famous was in the 00s is John Ringo. The whole legacy of the aldentata / posleen saga thing that just burned wild for like the whole decade of the 00s. OK sure again Troy Rising series starts in 2010 and its pretty entertaining, well, maple syrup WTF but whatever. Still people are going to look back at him as a king of the 00s not 10s (well probably)

        I suppose in a decade or two people are going to be sitting around talking about the good old days "wow man remember sci fi in the 00s it was awesome we had Stross and Reynolds and Ringo and ... but man the '40s are so dang boring nobody has wrote nothing yet worth commenting on and all we got is the 15th remake of star wars again, boring as heck"

      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:30PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:30PM (#389283)

        As for books.. Jack McDevitt

        Man, I wish they would make a TV show out of his Priscilla Hutchins [tvtropes.org] books. That would be terrific. Kind of like the 2010 movie IIRC.

        I've been reading Iain Banks' The Culture novels slowly, but he has a tendency to put at least one squick scene in each book for some annoying reason.

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
        • (Score: 2) by tibman on Friday August 19 2016, @03:11PM

          by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 19 2016, @03:11PM (#390112)

          I like that there are deeper mysteries. Like the monument builders leaving that pleading statue on one of Saturn's moons. Little bits of information here and there about the monument builders is fun to piece together each book.

          The Alex Benedict [eyrie.org] series is pretty good too. The stories develop agonizingly slow though because not everything that happens is important. The main character could be tracking down a lead over 20 pages and then find out it was a waste of time. A talent for war is one of my favorite Jack McDevitt books. History has a way of distorting facts and we all know it. Are the heroes of WWII actual heroes? More importantly, who are they heroes to?

          --
          SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
          • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Friday August 19 2016, @03:43PM

            by tangomargarine (667) on Friday August 19 2016, @03:43PM (#390127)

            Yeah, I've read a couple of those, too. Interestingly both The Engines of God and A Talent For War were initially one-shot novels that JMD ended up turning into series.

            Since so much of the books is spent sitting around in the ship waiting to get where they're going, I imagine the writers would be like kids in candy stores vis-a-vis character drama/padding.

            --
            "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:54PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:54PM (#389291)

      How about commentary in comparison to the culture of the era?

      The 90s were an awesome time for sci fi. Diamond Age. Snow Crash. KSR's trilogy. Heavy Weather. The peak of Star Trek in quantity if not quality, you got TNG, DS9 and Voyager in the same decade plus a pile of movies. Everything was awesome, wasn't it? Even side issue kinda sci fi but not really was totally awesome like "guns of the south".

      Now in the 10's, what we have to compare to? We got Reamde, and um. Well. Um... Oh I know, we got us some shit tier remake reimaginings of 80s trek and 80s star wars trying to turn them into kids action flicks. And um... thats it? So up against the contemporaries, reamde isn't that bad... I mean what are you going to do as an alternate choice, watch the trek action flick remake again?

      Yes, 90% of what we have now is crap. 90% of everything is crap. Yay Sturgeon's Law [wikipedia.org]. You just don't remember all the garbage from the 90's because you only remember the exceptionally good and the exceptionally bad.

      I don't follow mass culture that much anymore, but off the top of my head, blog/book/movie "The Martian" probably passes muster for any science fiction fan. I've never seen it, but I've been told "Inception" is quite good, too. The BBC TV show "Black Mirror" would also qualify for many.

      From a video game perspective, "Portal," "Dead Space," "BioShock," and "Mass Effect" all came out in the last decade.

      I guarantee there is a ton of good stuff out there even now. You just need to sift through the 90% "let's remake Star Trek again, with more lens flare!" to find the 10% worth proverbially dying for... just like you always did... just like you always will (unless some science fiction becomes reality, that is).

    • (Score: 2) by Fnord666 on Wednesday August 17 2016, @09:31PM

      by Fnord666 (652) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @09:31PM (#389307)

      Now in the 10's, what we have to compare to?

      I found William Gibson's "The Peripheral" to be a pretty good read. I've also been reading a lot of "Singularity" type books such as William Hurtling's "Singularity Series", books by Harmon Cooper, William Massa, Hugh Howey and Colin F. Barnes. There have also been a number of good anthologies published recently. LEt's not forget "The Martian" either.

      As for movies we have "The Martian", "Transcendence", "Predestination" and "Ex Machina" for starters. Personally I liked the ideas explored in "Her" as well.

      Anyone else?

    • (Score: 1) by Gnuthulhu on Thursday August 18 2016, @08:27PM

      by Gnuthulhu (2718) on Thursday August 18 2016, @08:27PM (#389731) Homepage

      That was a pretty good Stephenson sci-fi from the 10's. Not to mention the non sci-fi trilogy starting with Quicksilver (forget the series title).

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:40PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:40PM (#389242)

    I can only figure that because you think REAMDE is the worst that you have not read Seveneves. I will give a quick review of Seveneves, spoilers ahead.

    The moon is destroyed by something, causes a ring to form, and scientists figure out that there will be a "hard rain" of debris hitting the Earth in about two years that will destroy all life. All the world leaders agree to send the best and brightest into space to set up a orbiting civilization to ride out the next 5k years. Part of this arrangement is that there is to be no politicians in the choosing process. When everything is good to go President Hillary Clinton kills Bill and gets to the colony. Because she is useless she does what she does best, and convinces half of the people they are being oppressed causing the colony to fracture after her people performed a terrorist act. Half go off into deeper space with her, half stay where they were before, the breakup caused more than half of remaining humanity to die, which was around 3k before this event. The main group find a way to get to get to the iron core of the moon's fragment to set up camp there, there are like 12 people left in this group. Hillary's group finds out about this and her group wants to join up, when they get closer they attack and try to take over the main station, evidently her policies failed so they had to eat eachother for food. After the attack she is allowed to live and humanity is down to like 10 people total. All the men die, then its just seven women left. They get to make offspring using genetics and make them however they want. Hillary ends up being the founder of a race of people who are only good at deceit.

    Don't know if the book was pro or against Hillary. It was terrible and I want my time back. If you are buttmad about me saying it was Hillary, which it clearly was, maybe substitute LBJ. But she really is the better fit.

    • (Score: 2) by scruffybeard on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:27PM

      by scruffybeard (533) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:27PM (#389256)

      I thought Seveneves was an interesting well paced book, until the third act. The last section has way too many details and new characters. It would have worked much better as a short epilogue or a sequel novel. It may not be the best sci-fi novel, but it introduces very interesting themes and scenarios.

      • (Score: 2) by Jeremiah Cornelius on Wednesday August 17 2016, @10:38PM

        by Jeremiah Cornelius (2785) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @10:38PM (#389344) Journal

        Stephenson is barely a pulp writer.

        The vaunted "Snow Crash" contains self-conscious, laughable fantasy projections as female characters - causing one to actually wince and exclaim "really?!" to oneself.

        The extreme contrivance of his characterization - when not mere cardboard construction - is matched by the improbably invented names they bear. Every one of them so earnestly intended to make an impression, rather than reflect some possible real arrangement. I suffer this of Dickens. Stephenson is not Dickens. He's more like a latter-day Ayn Rand, trying to cobble-up stories after reading Harrison and Spinrad.

        Were he to produce outlines, with placeholders for character names, I'm sure some real writer could produce entertaining fiction from his theses. Such would have at least verisimilitude, that the reader would not be constantly drawn out of the story, to wonder about the author.

        --
        You're betting on the pantomime horse...
        • (Score: 2, Informative) by dingus on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:24AM

          by dingus (5224) on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:24AM (#389395)

          Cryptonomicon and Anathem put him far ahead of any pulp writer, IMO. And I've never read the Baroque Cycle but I hear it's pretty good too.

          • (Score: 4, Insightful) by julian on Thursday August 18 2016, @03:44AM

            by julian (6003) on Thursday August 18 2016, @03:44AM (#389472)

            The Baroque Cycle is a masterpiece and when reading it one can scarcely believe it was the product of a single human mind. The audiobooks are also worth the massive time investment, adding another dimension just as rich as the text itself. I can't recommend it highly enough. It also improves your appreciation for Cryptonomicon, as many of the characters in The Baroque Cycle are the ancestors of the characters in that novel.

        • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Thursday August 18 2016, @06:15AM

          by jelizondo (653) on Thursday August 18 2016, @06:15AM (#389502)

          Sorry Jeremiah, you might be an expert on women, but I'm not, so I enjoyed Snow Crash enough to have read it at least three times...

          And no, I'm not a teenager; I'm past fifty, with two marriages and several girl-friends in the past... So, clearly not the expert you are on women and fantasy projections, but I found the meme and Summerian language mix very interesting and disturbing. Kind of like watching Fox News and seeing its effects on people, who might otherwise seem inteligent.

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:43PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:43PM (#389262)

      Well, thats creative at least. Anti-hero books like "Kren of the Mitchegai" are often just plain old weird. Kren gets my vote as the most WTF-ful book I've read in the last decade or so.

    • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:44PM

      by hemocyanin (186) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:44PM (#389264)

      I listened to it as an audiobook. It isn't up to Snow Crash or Diamond Age standards, but it was a good story. The recent one I found to be forgettable was the one about a politician who has a stroke and some brain implant -- can't even remember what it is called.

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:23PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @08:23PM (#389281)

      This is an actual book?! The entire time I was reading this post I had a hard time believing this wasn't just a particularly good SN poster idea.

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 2, Disagree) by dingus on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:21AM

      by dingus (5224) on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:21AM (#389391)

      I read Seveneves very soon after REAMDE(I got them both for christmas) and I think that Seveneves is leagues better. The story is tighter, the characters make sense, and I actually felt motivated to keep reading. I'm even going against the herd and saying that the third act was better, even though it has the same character-shear problems that README has. If you consider the third act to be a book in its own right, completely seperate, then it's pretty good. You can't say the same of the second half of REAMDE.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by julian on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:51PM

    by julian (6003) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @06:51PM (#389248)

    I really wanted to enjoy Reamde, and at times I did. The characters and plot were interesting if needlessly "exotic". I'd agree that it's the worst Stephenson novel yet published. My personal rankings are a bit unconventional; I'd put Anathem as his best work, Cryptonomicon, Diamond Age, and Snow Crash following in that order.

    It's important to add that even the worst Stephenson novel is still worth reading.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:05PM (#389252)

      Not sure about that. Stephenson himself said that his first novel, Big U, is not worth reading and that he only allowed it to be republished after seeing the aftermarket prices it was going for.

    • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:47PM

      by hemocyanin (186) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @07:47PM (#389266)

      Anathem has for some reason, really grown on me over the years. I listen to audiobooks, and it is the one I've listened to the most even though I'm not particularly satisfied with the reader. There is something calming about that story and I tend to listen to it during times of high stress.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by ilPapa on Wednesday August 17 2016, @09:49PM

        by ilPapa (2366) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @09:49PM (#389316) Journal

        Anathem is a brilliant novel. I thought REAMDE was pretty good, too. I guess a generation brought up on superhero movies and video games doesn't have the patience for "big" books any more.

        Maybe they'd be better off with some YA fare. Perhaps Harry Potter or the Twilight series.

        --
        You are still welcome on my lawn.
        • (Score: 2) by julian on Thursday August 18 2016, @05:01PM

          by julian (6003) on Thursday August 18 2016, @05:01PM (#389652)

          Harry Potter is over 3400 pages. That's "big" IMO

      • (Score: 2) by julian on Thursday August 18 2016, @03:55AM

        by julian (6003) on Thursday August 18 2016, @03:55AM (#389475)

        The same reader did Cryptonomicon, IIRC. He's alright. I first "read" Anathem as an audiobook during a low point in my life right when I was starting university. It was strangely comforting.

    • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Thursday August 18 2016, @06:05AM

      by jelizondo (653) on Thursday August 18 2016, @06:05AM (#389501)

      I think that Snow Crash should come before Diamond Age, but just my opinion...

      I see that you don't mention the Baroque Cycle [wikipedia.org] which I think is his best work ever, barring Snow Crash.

      YMMV

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by dingus on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:13AM

    by dingus (5224) on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:13AM (#389390)

    I was relieved when I finished this book, put it down, and read some reviews, and everyone else hated it.

    The first half seems like it can be the setup of a pretty good book. You have all these different characters, and they're all sort of interesting when you put them together. You've got the family clan in Iowa, you've got the two crazy writers, you've got your eastern european hacker, you've got your american hacker, you've got your war dog, you've got your rich girl. Most of the enjoyment I got out of that book was watching all these different people interact, not with the actual story or the individual characters themselves. The situation that everyone's in is actually compelling.

    After the shootout in China, though, it lost the fun. I actually put the book down at that point, then picked it up later out of boredom. The cast was all split up, there were new characters that didn't really make sense, the old bad guys withered to nothing instantly and the new bad guys weren't as convincing. And as usual with a Stephenson book, the ending felt tacked on. I don't hold him to that, I've come to expect it, but when you tack an ending onto such a clusterfuck, it becomes a bigger clusterfuck.

    I rate this book 2/5. Read Anathem or Cryptonomicon if you want the best Stephenson has to offer.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:22AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:22AM (#389393)

    The presence of spoilers means it is not a review but a "discussion" for those who have already read it. A review should help you decide if a book or movie is worth your time and obviously "spoilers" spoil the experience. The reviewer who MUST give spoilers has prioritized his need to discuss the work above providing a useful review for the readers.

  • (Score: 2) by pgc on Thursday August 18 2016, @10:41AM

    by pgc (1600) on Thursday August 18 2016, @10:41AM (#389550)

    Of whether or not it is a good book, I really liked the fact that it was centered around ransomware, right before ransomware became mainstream.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:37PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18 2016, @12:37PM (#389561)

    All his characters are needlessly something, though - exotic, quirky, whatever.

    What it all amounts to is that he loads his books with fluff because, unlike William Gibson (to whom he was compared in the 90s), he doesn't raise complex questions about social problems, technology, trends and human nature. He comes up with cool concepts that almost touch on those things, and then instead of tying them together in a way that problematizes or subverts interpretation of them, he tosses them into an unfinished (despite being, usually, absurdly long) novel full of plot twists and wacky characters.

    It's a shame, because he's not a Neil Gaiman-like hack. His ideas could make for some great stories if they were more fully developed.

  • (Score: 1) by guizzy on Thursday August 18 2016, @03:02PM

    by guizzy (5021) on Thursday August 18 2016, @03:02PM (#389606)

    Bought that novel as soon as it came out, and it made me realize that maybe I didn't like Neal Stephenson's writing as much as I thought I did. Snow Crash had some good ideas, mixed with annoyingly juvenile writing (which in retrospect I can't help but compare in my mind with Ready Player One). I concur with everything mentioned in this review of REAMDE. I'll add that the "MMO" trappings seem like they exist just to get some nerd-bait on the back blurb. A cheap way to get his sci-fi audience interested in reading his second rate James Bond knockoff. The gold in Cryptonomicon might be cliché, but at least it made thematic sense.

    I couldn't manage to put myself through Seveneves. Stopped about a quarter of the way in. I think Neal might be unable to write characters (especially female protagonists) he doesn't fall in love with. I do still like Cryptonomicon and the Diamond Age, although both suffer from Neal's inability to write without creating Mary/Marty Sues.