The Tao of Gaming

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Anathem

Although I did play Clans again. Apparently my past life was worse than I thought.

A few months ago I had an idea for a story. Clever, and a bit funny. Then I realized that the only way to explain my idea would be to have two characters discuss it in detail. That’s a roundabout way of saying that I just finished the new Neal Stephenson novel, Anathem. I’m not his harshest critic …

… but suffice it to say that it’s a Neal Stephenson novel and I doubt anyone who hated his prior work will like this. Without getting into spoilers, my thoughts:

  • The novel makes no effort to sugarcoat ideas. “Show, don’t tell” be damned. This isn’t new … everyone remembers the Deliverator, but who can forget 100 pages of Hiro discussing Sumerian language with the Librarian? The “Dialogs” are handled well, but are core dumps of interesting ideas. I wish I could do that. I’d have written my story idea.
  • The new vocabulary thing works well during the plot, but gets tedious during the dialogs. I have enough of a time keeping track philosophical schools without having to learn new names for all the major players.
  • As usual, it feels like not much happens during the opening. But this feeling only lasted for a bit, and then the plot moved along at a decent clip.
  • The ending …. isn’t bad. Better than most of his books.
  • The ideas (which are what you read N.S. for) are … novelly presented, I guess. I mean, they are new, but when I went and checked the acknowledgements (which could be considered spoilers) I recognized a few source books, and have skimmed some of them.

I liked it, I’ll re-read it.

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Written by taogaming

October 1, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Non-Gaming

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7 Responses

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  1. “The ending…isn’t bad” whew. That was my major concern. I’m about halfway through and was just starting to get that ‘Uh-oh…it’s Stevenson…this might not end with an ending” feeling.

    I find the new words to be amusing and easy to follow. Philosophy is probably my weakest major academic area, so I’m finding the discussions easy going becuase I’m not trying to translate the names/concepts into English. I’m more frustrated with the technologies, for which I am doing the translation, but those are easier. Really, the only thing that bothers me is that to this point in the book I see nothing that identifies the world as not-Earth other than the Author’s prologue. Not-earth should not equal Earth, and so far this seems to. Every single reference to before the Terrible Times seems to be 100% consistent with the real world.

    Otherwise I’m quite enjoying it, and it is moving faster than the Baroque cycle, which is quite pleasant.

    Lou

    October 1, 2008 at 11:41 pm

  2. I’ve got it on my bookshelf waiting for the right time. While I read English pretty fluently, tackling a brick like that takes the right circumstances and willingness to spend few weeks with one book (instead of reading a Finnish book every two days or so). But any Stephenson book should be worth it…

    Mikko

    October 2, 2008 at 12:43 am

  3. I’ve got it on my bookshelf waiting for the right time. While I read English pretty fluently, tackling a brick like that takes the right circumstances and willingness to spend few weeks with one book (instead of reading a Finnish book every two days or so). But any Stephenson book should be worth it…

    Mikko

    October 2, 2008 at 12:43 am

  4. I finished it this weekend. I immediately started reading it from the beginning again. The beginning is already making more sense.

    I’m a bit of a heretic as far as Stephenson’s endings. Yes they are abrupt and it feels like it breaks the flow, but anything after the main events is either going to be anticlimactic or less than intriguing. Stephenson’s books are about the ideas, and the end of Anathem isn’t about ideas but the tying up of loose ends that I could have guessed at without him writing it down. Most of his work builds up to a few big reveals or resolutions, anything after that is going to take a fairly predictable course if you’ve been paying attention. I’m not convinced it needs to be written out.

    frunk

    October 2, 2008 at 8:04 am

  5. The Diamond Age needed an ending, I don’t feel that was going to take a fairly predicable course. Snow Crash was similar. Cryptonomicon I agree with you on, I though the ending was acceptable. And the Baroque Cycle actually did have a real honest-to-God ending. So yeah, he’s gotten better. But I’m still not at all happy about The Diamond Age.

    Lou

    October 2, 2008 at 11:24 am

  6. **Diamond Age Spoilers**

    Digging into The Diamond Age, he did cheat towards the end by switching from third person limited to third person objective. That I could see being a valid complaint. He still resolved the two main plot lines. Nell has become a woman and the development of the Seed has been stopped.

    As for the main characters, most of them outlined what their hopes and aspirations were for the future. Nell has found her phyle and her surrogate mother and so will probably find or build a plot of land to settle, most likely with help from Hollywood. The plans for the Seed have been stopped, so the Han phyle will either collapse in the face of opposition into a similar state as before or find adaptations of the Feed that better suit them. Either case isn’t all that interesting compared to the potential revolution of the Seed. Hackworth is the only real mystery, but I think itinerant wanderer isn’t too far off the mark. All of the other major characters had resolutions before the end, some onscreen some offscreen.

    frunk

    October 2, 2008 at 4:28 pm

  7. I am going to have to get this. As it happens, I finally finished the Baroque Cycle right about the time this came out. I had been working on that series for an embarassingly long time (I don’t get nearly the reading time that I used to.), so I think I will wait a bit before I wade back into a dense Stephenson novel again. BTW the Baroque Cycle was brilliant.

    Clay

    October 15, 2008 at 12:34 am


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