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October Group Read: Neal Stephenson

2018 Category Challenge

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1mathgirl40
Edited: Sep 14, 11:30pm Top



Welcome to the Neal Stephenson group read!

Neal Stephenson is a writer of speculative fiction whose works explore areas such as mathematics, philosophy, linguistics and the history of science. He has written novels in a variety of subgenres, including alternate history, cyberpunk and hard science fiction.

Stephenson's books can be challenging to read, because of the lengths of some of them and his many digressions, often filled with scholarly or technical detail, from the main plotlines. If you're new to Stephenson and are not sure where to start, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age are very popular, and they are shorter in length and more accessible than some of his other works.

Note that the October SFFKIT theme is Historical and Alt-Historical SFF. Several of Stephenson's works, including Quicksilver (the first in his Baroque Cycle) and Cryptonomicon, would fit this theme.

Let us know which Stephenson book you plan to read in October, and feel free to share your recommendations!

2majkia
Sep 15, 7:37am Top

Planning on The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Read many others by him already and always enjoy them.

3Kristelh
Sep 15, 8:31am Top

I might read Anathem which I own, or I might look into #2 of the Baroque Cycle King of the Vagabonds

4lkernagh
Sep 15, 8:19pm Top

Nice to see Cryptonomicon will also fit the October SFFKIT! That just might motivate me to get this one off my TBR pile.

5mathgirl40
Sep 16, 9:19pm Top

>2 majkia: I'll be interested in hearing what you think of this one. I've not read it yet, but a friend whose tastes I trust recently recommended it to me.

>3 Kristelh: I was puzzled by your comment at first because I thought The Confusion, the book that I will be reading, was book #2 of the Baroque Cycle, until I realized that it's actually books #4 and #5. :)

>4 lkernagh: I really want to read this one, but I decided that I'll try to finish the Baroque Cycle first. Last year, I was undecided about which to read first. The Baroque Cycle gives the backstory of some of the characters, so it was a toss-up between chronological or publication order. In the end, my library hold on Quicksilver came in first, so that settled it.

6whitewavedarling
Sep 17, 12:13pm Top

I'm leaning toward Diamond Age--I've already got it on my shelf, and it also fits the RandomCat :)

7mathgirl40
Sep 17, 10:42pm Top

>6 whitewavedarling: Great choice! I hadn't thought of the RandomCAT connection. :)

8pinetastic
Sep 21, 12:09pm Top

Hi All, this will be my first Group Read! I'm not exactly sure how all this works, but I've ordered Snow Crash from the library!

9mathgirl40
Sep 21, 9:43pm Top

>8 pinetastic: Welcome! I hope you'll enjoy your first group read. They are very addictive. I always end up joining more than I can handle. :)

We are a very informal group. There are no rules or schedules for this group. Just pick any Neal Stephenson work to read during the month and share your thoughts here.

10avatiakh
Sep 22, 7:42pm Top

I heard Neal Stephenson speak earlier this year at our local Writers Festival and planned to follow up by reading another of his books.
I'll probably go for one of his more recent ones, need to get something ordered from the library, probably Reamde.

11Kristelh
Edited: Sep 23, 6:52am Top

12pinetastic
Sep 24, 2:43pm Top

9mathgirl40: Thanks! I would never have picked a Neal Stephenson work on my own. So it will be interesting to see if I've found a new favorite.

13mathgirl40
Sep 24, 8:25pm Top

>12 pinetastic: Glad to hear it. Group reads are great opportunities to try something new! Whether you end up liking the book or not, we'd love to hear your opinion on it.

14virginiahomeschooler
Sep 30, 12:57pm Top

I've had Anathem on my shelf for a few years now, so I'm planning to read that.

15pinetastic
Oct 8, 6:27pm Top

So I've read about 100 pages of Snow Crash. It's definitely the most bizarre introduction to a book I've ever read. There have never been higher stakes for pizza delivery. Great critique of modern America, where we put more resources into fast food delivery than say--- improving health care.

It's a hard book to get into because there is so much "world building" where a new technology has to be described. Or you have to figure out by context what a "jeek" is. I'm guessing this is common in science fiction works. But it kind of makes my brain hurt. Rereading to understand and visualize what kind of machine/creature/tool the author is imagining.

But there's been enough plot and character development to keep me interested.

16virginiahomeschooler
Oct 11, 5:40pm Top

I am struggling to get into Anathem. I'm committed, but it's making me feel monumentally stupid. Has anyone read it? Does it eventually make sense?

17mathgirl40
Oct 11, 7:06pm Top

>15 pinetastic: I'm not sure if what you describe is common in SF works. A lot of authors do describe invented terms in detail, but Stephenson tends to make the reader work a bit. "My brain hurts" is not an uncommon reaction to Stephenson's writing, but for me, the rewards are worthwhile. I sometimes feel this way about William Gibson's writing too.

>16 virginiahomeschooler: Well, many of Stephenson's books have made me feel monumentally stupid. Actually, I heard him at a talk many years ago at a "Physics Festival" organized by a local institution here in town, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and he made me feel pretty stupid then too. :)

As mentioned, Stephenson's works are indeed challenging to read, but that's one of the reasons he has such ardent fans. I recall that Anathem did start off rather opaque and became clearer as the story proceeded. I started really enjoying the book once I got to know the characters better. However, Stephenson does tend to go off on highly technical or philosophical asides, and it's probably best not to worry about them too much and just plow ahead.

18virginiahomeschooler
Oct 12, 8:33am Top

>17 mathgirl40: I'm going to continue with it. I read Seveneves, and while it was fat and "thinky," it didn't have the level of "HUH?!?" that this one does. But based on what you said and a few reviews I looked up, it seems like maybe it's just the world building I have to get through, and then I should understand more of it.

19mathgirl40
Oct 12, 9:52am Top

>18 virginiahomeschooler: I found the Wikipedia page for Anathem helpful. You should avoid reading the Plot Summary and Characters sections to avoid spoilers, but the sections describing the world and Stephenson's influences might be useful.

20virginiahomeschooler
Oct 12, 12:19pm Top

>19 mathgirl40: thanks I'll look it up.

21pinetastic
Yesterday, 2:14pm Top

Thanks mathgirl40! This helps me plug along!

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