(~233k words) Unsong is a Kabbalah-punk adventure serial in ~72 chapters by Scott Alexander, generally better known for his nonfiction essays/blog-posts on politics, psychiatry, medicine, & statistics on SlateStarCodex.com/Tumblr.
Movie trailer summary:
[Shot of choirs of angels, suddenly ripped apart by explosions] The War in Heaven was lost. Satan won. [A blond man with ringlet curls in a sharp suit who looks suspiciously like Leonardo DiCaprio gazes impassively down.] But in the last
Very interesting idea, intriguing characters, excellent world-building, good writing, and the puns, oh the puns.
"The Norse speak of Jormungand, the World Serpent, who circles the earth to grasp its own tail. The Babylonians say that the heavens and earth were built from the corpse of the primordial sea dragon Tiamat. Even the atheists represent the cosmos as part of a great whale, saying that the whole world is ...more
Would I recommend it? I don't know. Depends if you like shameless puns and wordplay or are annoyed by them. Even though it deals with fairly complicated things like meaning of good and is in general set in a dystopian version of present, the tone is humorous almost all the time. However this often results in blunting the effects of so many deaths and other bad things ...more
Unsong is ...more
I'm torn about my star rating because some of the chapters are downright incredible on their own terms: "When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears" is frankly a masterpiece, and many of the chapters explicating the history of the Untied States are fun and incredible.
So, Scott Alexander is a ...more
Author Scott Alexander takes us on a wild ride in this alternate-history-esque story, filled with puns galore and references to all the kinds of things that people in the effective altruism and/or rationality space care about. While the story is not an example of rationalist fiction, people who like rational fiction will probably ...more
The world building is excellent, the humor is decidedly groan worthy (unless it involves an angel and an 8 year old girl - in which case it becomes oh so cute), and there's a lot of nerd treats sprinkled around.
The characters are pretty shallow though, and there's so ...more
But our main character was dumber than a box of rocks. If you don't think that the main character in a book matters or if you think that story structure isnt important to a story then you will love this book.
For everyone else, ...more
I have lots to say about this book. There are bits I absolutely love, and an equal number I really did not. First let me say I was incredibly skeptical of this book, mostly due to Scott Alexander's following (if you're on Goodreads on a computer just click on Scott Alexander and find his "fans" tab. Look at their profile pictures and you'll see what I mean) He's a very smart guy, but I'm pretty apprehensive to his whole anti-feminist libertarian thing, so I was dreading the ...more
I read Scott's blog, SSC, every so often. He's a bit of a celebrity in "rationalist" circles (though not as extreme as Eliezer, author of HPMOR). I had heard Unsong was good and was going to read it _eventually_, but I didn't really seriously consider the prospect (ugh, another long piece) further until I was recently shown an excerpt in which Alexander writes about the hidden meaning of the lyrics of the popular song "American Pie". Hm, interesting. And definitely ...more
Scott Alexanders Unsong is a deep dive into a world turned on its head. Jewish Kabbalah and its esoteric teachings are not just real, but copyrighted and commoditized. The adventures that arise are ultimately set pieces on a stage that answers the ultimate question: Why does God allow suffering? Or rather,
Hey God, what the fuck?
This is ...more
I especially liked how it brought together the concepts of magic, modern corporate society, and ...more
I've never read a serialized novel before, so in some ways--I kind of felt a bit a kin to how Dickens readers must have felt. Ultimately this book is a lot of fun. It's got some witty work play and mad humor, yet it's clearly not a done by a practiced writer. So, its a bit of a toss-up. It's interesting to see a book in this format--but ...more
This was endlessly creative, but not particularly well-plotted.
Most of the chapters are present for reasons of "let me show you this awesome world I built, and let me make some terrible puns along the way".
Very few of the chapters advance the plot.
-- Er, not to spoiler too hard, but from a Conventional Story perspective the plot is actually pretty disappointing. Aaron and ...more
Something about Unsong also reminded me of Douglas Adams. Perhaps a similar taste for surreal metaphysics? ...more
tl;dr, read http://unsongbook.com/interlude-%D7%9... and if you're not intrigued at the premise and the style of humor, pass it up.
It reads like a Stephenson novel with more (and somewhat sillier) humor but with Kabbalah and biblical themes substituted for technology - Snow Crash meets Foucault's Pendulum (tbh that comparison feels lazy, but it should give you an idea)?
I was pretty amazed at how well written ...more
The book is split into four arcs ("books"), with around 20 chapters to each arc. The narration often switches between first person perspective of (Aaron) and third person observations. There are a number of different timelines (a main storyline in the present, one in the ...more
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“I AM BUSY. I AM TRYING TO FIX CONTINENTAL DRIFT.”
“I…didn’t know it was broken.”
Uriel’s face became more animated, his speech faster.
“IT HAS BEEN BROKEN FOR FIVE WEEKS AND FIVE DAYS. I THINK IT BROKE WHEN I RELOADED NEW ZEALAND FROM A BACKUP COPY, BUT I DO NOT KNOW WHY. MY SYNCHRONIZATION WAS IMPECCABLE AND THE CHANGE PROPAGATED SIMULTANEOUSLY ACROSS ALL SEPHIROT. I THINK SOMEBODY BOILED A GOAT IN ITS MOTHER’S MILK. IT IS ALWAYS THAT. I KEEP TELLING PEOPLE NOT TO DO IT, BUT NOBODY LISTENS.”