This book was very painful to read. I hopped through the chapters to only read the topics of higher interest to me and dropped it after reading half oThis book was very painful to read. I hopped through the chapters to only read the topics of higher interest to me and dropped it after reading half of the chapters. I did not have an idyllic, dreamy image of the country before reading this, but all the harsh truths it contains were too much in one go. I am sadder and wiser after this book and I congratulate the author, for it must have been an incredibly hard job for him as a long-time resident and true lover of the country....more
This was awesome in the full sense of the word. I am in awe. I am a Stephenson fan, so I have a bias for the fruits of his imagination. He writes himseThis was awesome in the full sense of the word. I am in awe. I am a Stephenson fan, so I have a bias for the fruits of his imagination. He writes himself that some of the ideas developed in this work have been floating around sci-fi lit for a while: kudos to all those creative writers, creator of worlds and futures.
It's hard not to share the plot too much and spoil this book. It can be said that the first part of the book is an epic, gripping tale of the explosion of the Moon and the first years after it. All hell breaks loose and humanity is going to disappear in a very short time, pummelled by pieces of the former moon, now meteorites. The narration does indulge too much in the destruction parts: the descriptions of hectic preparations and the mad, but the only one, plan to save a small part of humanity are painful enough to imagine. The end of the world by "space stoning" is a sad thing to read: most soft social structures we built in centuries of expansion and development: economy, music, religion, all are completely useless in the situation. Only science can give a small chance of salvation: so here come pages and pages of the fantastic geekery Mr Stephenson is so good at. And those long, long action-packed sequences, so good to make you miss tram stops on the way to work. But he does not forget sciences other than aerospace engineering: in the last days of the Earth as we know it, the powers that be are aware that the society which is bound to form in the confined spaces of vessels orbiting the scorched planet will develop its dynamics, it will need steering, laws, checks and balances. We get some thoughts about that, too. We also learn what happens when you put Facebook in space. It doesn't go well.
So much for the first part. I wish I could say something about the second as well, but it's been bad enough to peek at some interviews with the author and exit the articles immediately as there were major spoilers (e.g. the interview with superstar write David Mitchell).
The heroes in this story are mostly women, fighting not to disappear with brain and, occasionally, brawn. They are beyond badass, maybe not representative of our average friend, but on the other hand they could not be average people, otherwise they wouldn't have been selected to be in the International Space Station in the first place. The average joe doesn't fare well in Stephenson's books: study your coding / biology / mechanics and you have a chance to make it. If space radiation doesn't kill you, that is. Or a micro meteorite. Some pages are disheartening, which is the point since the characters' odds are basically nil. I wonder what readers will say of the female characters in this book. In the past, I came across caustic opinions of other Stephenson characters, I'm sure someone will hate these ones as well.
I enjoyed this book immensely, possibly even more than Anathem, which was as high on the scale of imagination and scope. Maybe the action sequences in space featured in that book primed me for this one. Like in Anathem, the reader's imagination is also driven by craving for complete answers about some plot details which are perceived as fundamental. However, such "details" are merely devices to create a narrative: e.g. the Agent blows up the Moon in the first sentence of the book and the mind keeps nagging ("what was it? I want to know!"), it forgets when the action is at its peak, than in occasional lulls the question comes back; you want the book to show you something, like in cheesier movies, be it a monster, an alien artifact, a bomb, a demon, anything. But you don't get that, and you keep devouring page after page....more
For fans only. The first section (mostly convention speeches) has some beautiful insights on creation and fantasy, but does get repetitive after a whilFor fans only. The first section (mostly convention speeches) has some beautiful insights on creation and fantasy, but does get repetitive after a while, despite the trademark humour. I found the life section and the last part more interesting. The latter offers a selection of strong words about Alzheimer and assisted death, where you can feel Pratchett's rage at British society's inadequate treatment of those matters. It's a serious, focused, angry Pratchett, which was not what I'm used to. Rest in peace and thank you for your words both funny and serious, Sir Terry....more
Eli and Charlie are the Sisters brothers, infamous killers; we read the recollections of Eli: introspective, shy, polite and chubby, he writes the stoEli and Charlie are the Sisters brothers, infamous killers; we read the recollections of Eli: introspective, shy, polite and chubby, he writes the story of a complicated job that changed his and his brother's lives. I can't say more than this for obvious reasons. The short chapters take us from Oregon to California and back, in the middle of the gold rush. Characters are mostly rough and tough frontier blokes or prostitutes, very little in between. This wouldn't be particularly conducive to a good or original read, but I found that the narration moves on thanks to Eli's polished, almost moralistic style, which is in stark contrast with the coarse people and violent actions he describes. You have to wonder how he came to be a killer and so he does. Even his brash, outspoken brother Charlie is not as simple as his actions suggest. This is a melancholic, somewhat anticlimactic story with several unexpected hilarious scenes. It made an enjoyable read....more