Geo's Reviews > Interface

Interface by Neal Stephenson
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's review
Jul 18, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed
Read from October 30 to November 08, 2011

The summary on the back page says "A modern day Manchurian Candidate". I do think there are elements that are similar. I'm also *usually* not a fan of books that are written by more than one author. That approach, while interesting, sometimes leaves me feeling like I'm just been through some kind of discordant processed experience. It either falls more "flat" than normal with both authors attempting to normalize their style to what they think the other is/does, or the two are so disparate in style that each chapter or section is markedly different, making for a somewhat "jolting" read.

I wouldn't say that is true in this case. I do think I've read enough of Stephenson to know at least *some* of the sections where it was him, but the flow, pace and styles were similar enough that I never had to step out of the story flow. So good on them. They make a good team.

The plot was not just "Manchurian Candidate" redone with new players and elements. The politics were current and perhaps even a little bit disturbingly accurate. Given my own current state of ... well, lets just call it dissatisfaction with our current systems, it didn't surprise me that the book did not have to suspend disbelief to upset me. That having been said, I read fiction because I want to escape things, not relive them or be pissed off more. If this book were executed even slightly less well, I probably wouldn't have finished it for that reason alone. So while the topical elements were current, the remainder of the plot elements were dynamic and fresh enough to carry me through that.

The pace was great, measured and deliberate. I never felt that I wanted things to "get on with it". I could definitely recognize Stephenson's style in some of the action chapters, characterized by a certain intelligent chaos that I actually have a hard time describing. The science side of things, that can really turn me off when poorly executed, was pretty spot on. There is obviously some speculative stuff in there, but not so far outside the path reality may eventually take that I felt distracted by it.

Characters were rich and well defined. There were maybe a few smaller players that I felt could have been developed more. I actually chalk that up to having more than one author. I think that can create assumptions between both players that leave some things unresolved. Not a completely unsolvable problem, but I think the propensity for threads left dangling is much higher than for a single person. Despite that critique, those opinions are retrospective, and I wouldn't actually say it detracted from the story. Its more like... a week later, thinking to myself "huh, I wonder what ever happened to Joe Jimbob Billybuck back from Chapter 2". There was also one particular character that I think got too much attention, but I won't mention who, I'll leave you to make your own assessment. I really did love the inter-relationships between the various characters, though. The weave through the various stages in the plot seamlessly and in a well thought out way. Omnipresent is the sort of chaos I appreciate from Stephenson, but the threads tying it all together are strong and resilient.

Well done, sirs, well done. I only drop this rating to a four because I've read so much of Stephenson, and I don't consider this his best work. I don't really think it suffered (much) for being a collaboration, but I also know how high he has raised the bar on what I expect from him.

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