Kenton Crowther's Reviews > The Mongoliad: Book One

The Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson
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Mar 07, 14

Read in May, 2012


Cnan is hardy and crafty, a trail scout and a 'Binder' (what this means not explained in the text). She is on the side of the knights of Christendom.

Another protagonist, and on the Mongols' side, is Gansukh, a young horseman of the steppes who is sent to tell the Khagan, one of the sons of Genghis Khan, to curb his drinking. He is too naive to realize what a dangerous task this could be.

Soon you are well into a stewpot of strange names and outlandish customs, guttural umlauts and other accents.
Bows, blades, spears--this is a great milieu.

Yay, it's the knights of Christendom agin the Mongols.

There is a density to it all, a sense of things worked out. It's consistent with itself, even if you are hardly told enough to make you understand. In this way it borrows some of the authority of deep works of learning.

The trouble is, it took a half-dozen scribes to write the book, and it seems meandering, without a real shape. There are marvellous things in it--hair-raising, detailed fight scenes, for example. If only one author had been credited, would I have
thought the book had been created by a committee?

Also, there are too many characters, too many names. Not enough clues (e.g. red hair) to distinguish one
from the other.

You have to let the tale rush you along, no matter if you are confused with the large cast of characters.
You get the picture? Epic, man--this unspools in your head like the longest TV miniseries.

Twenty screens in on the Kindle and I knew I would be clinging tight until the finish.

It must be epic: after all, it took all those scribes to write it. I bought the book because the price was
right and the size was generous, but I am too confused to go on and read any of the other parts.

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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Heather As a "girl" I'm quite pleased it's the fashion today. I'm sick to death of older SF in which girls are relegated to the love interest role. And all I read is SF/Fantasy/Speculative Fition- about time.


Kenton Crowther I should have specified the 'fashion' for having girls and women as female he-men, tough gladiators etc but still feminine. I find it unconvincing. To be fair, Cnan in the Mongoliad is not like that, I just thought she would be when I started.


Heather I don't think Stephenson often falls into that trap does he? In my experience with his work, he has strong female roles - which appeals to me as a female reader - but doesn't try to make them unconvincingly he-men.


Kenton Crowther I hadn't read any of his work before, so didn't know what to expect. Strong and convincing women characters are great--going back before Rider Haggard's She and Shakespeare's Cleopatra. The Mongoliad rolls out a convincing picture of men and women, and didn't present the modern cliche that I thought was going to appear. Cnan has a role which I found convincing and interesting.


Heather Agreed. My issue lies more with SF and the problem authors are largely from the 60s and 70s - though some do still exist today. Authors like Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, or Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land are held up as exemplary works of science fiction but the manner in which they depict women is frustrating.


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