Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Neal Stephenson

John Derbyshire at the National Review has been commissioned to read and review Cryptonomicon and the entire Baroque Cycle, a mere 3,800 pages. He has an update of his foray into the first books. I remain leery of commiting to such a time eating body of work, despite the strong words of praise I have heard. Derbyshire's piece doesn't really make me change my ambivalent mind on the subject, but it makes for entertaining reading. For example,

The math gets out of hand, too. Naturally I swooned to see the Riemann Zeta Function on page 11; but I got bored with the modular-arithmetic stuff about the bicycle chain in p. 204 ff, and just skipped to the next chapter. Modular arithmetic **is** boring, until you get to quadratic reciprocity (which Stephenson doesn't), after which it gets terrifically fascinating—any math geek knows that.

No doubt you are aware that Derbyshire is the author of a book on Riemann and other mathematical tomes.


lisa_emily said...

I've had Cryptonomicon on my shelf for years. Years! Although I have read his earlier novels, I can't quite bring myself to undertake this behemouth. Just carrying it feels heavy.

I saw Stephenson give a reading back for the 1st BC book. Well, he didn't actully read anything; he stood and said some smart-ass things, then people asked alot of questions. He was quite intelligent and entertaining. If one never reads any of his books, one should at least go see him "read".

Tripp said...

I really liked Snow Crash and the Diamond Age, but I too have Cryptonomicon and the 1st BC book on my shelf for a very long time. These just seem so big and daunting, which doesn't bother me with other authors but did with him.

I starte C once, but as a commute read, which was a bad call.

Tripp said...

In reply to "If one never reads any of his books, one should at least go see him "read"."

I think there are a fair number of authors who fall into this group. I am thinking of folks like Chuck Pahlaniuk (sp?).

On the other side are people you should NOT see read as they will put you off their books. Here I am thinking of Norman Davies, a historian of Poland. His books are good, but man is he a bad speaker.

Steve said...

Funny. I also have both Crypto and the first Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver?) on the shelf. My wife gave me Quicksilver and I can't bring myself to get rid of it - it was such a thoughtful gift and under almost any other circumstances would have been a hit - although I can't see myself ever dedicating the month or more it would take to read all three.

Another to hear "read" is David Sedaris. We saw him recently and he is very funny and quite charming in his off the cuff remarks.

lisa_emily said...

Yes, I agree, Palahniuk does a good reading- he actually reads from the book too. At least at the one I saw him do. Also Neil Gaiman-but I haven't gone to see him for years after he became very popular and one had to purchase tickets to see him.

I saw a boring reading once, but I don't remember who it was.....

Tripp said...

Purchase tickets!? Well I really like Gaiman, but I am not sure I am going to throw down cash for a short talk.

I've been on a graphic novel kick so maybe I will finally get around to reading Sandman.