This book descends into some hoary scifi/horror cliches (or at least they are cliches nowadays), but it's still filled with those weird lovely offputt...moreThis book descends into some hoary scifi/horror cliches (or at least they are cliches nowadays), but it's still filled with those weird lovely offputting details that Dick is so good at, like the gelatinous tench, the elusive Building, and the overly literal theology of the Mentufacturer, Intercessor and Walker-on-Earth. When these mysteries are "solved" there's a sort of deflation and disappointment, but it's still wonderful that Dick is able to make these absurdities seem real up until that point.(less)
Fantastic, in every sense of the word! Many of the stories reminded me of Calvino or Borges, but less... cuddly. A vaguely nightmarish quality lines C...moreFantastic, in every sense of the word! Many of the stories reminded me of Calvino or Borges, but less... cuddly. A vaguely nightmarish quality lines Chateaureynaud's dreamscapes, though they never veer into outright horror. He draws on some familiar myths and fairy tales, but the most satisfying stories seem to have no precedent.
My only complaint about this book is the awful cover, featuring an unflattering photo of the scowling author looking like Vonnegut's evil twin.(less)
Read this in about 3 hours on a plane. I forgot what a quick read Vonnegut is.
This was excellent. Vonnegut takes what is an almost inevitably weighty...moreRead this in about 3 hours on a plane. I forgot what a quick read Vonnegut is.
This was excellent. Vonnegut takes what is an almost inevitably weighty premise -- the story of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American citizen turned Nazi propagandist during World War II -- and turns it into an incredible farce.
Fortunately Vonnegut's stylistic tics are at a minimum here (e.g., I counted only one "hi ho"), which allowed me to be more immersed in the story and the narrator's voice than usual. Vonnegut literally announces that Campbell is an unreliable narrator in the foreword, so we're on our guard from the start, and the way Campbell/Vonnegut reduces our reticence to shreds by the end is masterful.(less)
This book is notable as the first book I read on a phone. The experience was more pleasant than I expected -- I liked how my ebook reader automaticall...moreThis book is notable as the first book I read on a phone. The experience was more pleasant than I expected -- I liked how my ebook reader automatically split up the text into pages that fit on the screen so that no scrolling was involved. It made me realize how much I dislike the experience of scrolling, of having some ill-defined invisible area outside of your field of vision that you have to manually move around (as opposed to just turning your head). So it was preferable to reading on my computer, actually. On the other hand, the whole reading experience felt strangely intangible, so even though I read this book, I don't feel like I really _read_ this book, you know, man?
Okay, enough about the UI experience. This was a pretty decent scifi book, though not as polished as later Peter Watts stuff that I've read (like Blindsight and Home). The concept of broken people being the best-qualified to do stuff at the bottom of the ocean was handled well for the most part, though the climax was strangely emotionally disconnected from the rest of the book. "Oh, you thought it was about these characters you've become invested in? No, it's about actually this big idea I just introduced 3/4 into the book, and the characters are basically incidental. Learn more about this big idea in the SEQUEL." So that was a little disappointing, though not entirely surprising since it's all too common in science fiction.(less)
Great premise, pretty good execution. The concept lends itself to twisty endings, and the rhythm of this gets a bit predictable after a while. A few o...moreGreat premise, pretty good execution. The concept lends itself to twisty endings, and the rhythm of this gets a bit predictable after a while. A few of the stories are slight or amateurish, but they're over quickly. I have to single out David Malki's two stories ("Cancer" and "Cocaine and Painkillers") for being really engrossing character studies.(less)
The title of this review could be something like "Neal Stephenson grows up a bit" -- Anathem is not as unbearably smug as some of his other stuff, and...moreThe title of this review could be something like "Neal Stephenson grows up a bit" -- Anathem is not as unbearably smug as some of his other stuff, and his tendency to lecture the reader is dialed back for the most part (at least until the last third of the book). The protagonist is not some badass ubergeek avatar of wish-fulfillment, but a young and observant guy trying to understand the world with some measure of humility. There's even a romance subplot that is handled with intelligence and humor, which I think is a first for Stephenson.
The idea of a monastery culture of science nerds is cool, and it's explored in an interesting and nuanced way, with the introduction of some clever vocabulary along the way. (In my head I can't help but think of smartphones as "jeejahs" now.) But as the book goes on this takes a backseat to longwinded ruminations on how our brains make decisions by existing in multiple universes simultaneously. It's not without payoff in the end, but Stephenson spends a LONG time setting it up, which gives it a doth-protest-too-much kind of quality. He really wants us to take this idea seriously, but the more in-depth it's described, the more it sounds like hooey, despite the intellectual pedigree he insists it's descended from.
Then again maybe these are matters of taste, since I'm more of an allegory nerd than a science nerd. Or in the language of Anathem, I'm more of a Procian than a Halikaarnian. Since the Procians are barely explored in the book (except for one straw man character introduced as a foil for the protagonist), maybe I'm not exactly the target demographic?(less)