Neal Stephenson


It strikes me as utterly and fantastically incomprehensible that no one has bothered to comment on Stephensian literature. Each installment of his slowly growing collection of works is stunningly complex and shockingly inspiring. Cryptonomicon, for instance, was my inspiration to explore the world of Cryptology and ultimately led to the installation of FreeBSD (Unix) on my home computer. The plot of this particular novel is complicated and enormously entertaining, my only real criticism relates to the limited presence of strong female characters. But of course Cryptomonicon is representative of current demographics; the majority of mathematicians, engineers &tc are male, and the armies of WWII were also predominantly male. This critique is rather temporal, I don't doubt that Stephenson will manage to inspire more women into these fields (science for preference over the armed forces) and then, in the interests of litterary accuracy, his work will display greater gender parity.

>>By Alina   (Tuesday, 25 Mar 2003 17:21)

I just finished the Diamond Age.
I would really like to read other authors like N. Stephanson. I have already read everything by W. Gibson, B. Sterling, P. K. Dick. Where do I go from here? There must be more. Help me. I am a mental health therapist specializing in juvenile delinquents and criminals. I need the distraction of this type of writing.

>>By Tom Welter   (Sunday, 4 May 2003 06:39)

I read Cryptonomicon not too long ago, and am currently reading Quicksilver. N. Stephanson has a very interesting style.

>>By pocus   (Monday, 19 Jan 2004 16:06)

Cryptonomicon was an excellent read, full of detail and lots of plotlines converging on the end. Plenty to keep you occupied in thought as well.

>>By flamencoprof   (Saturday, 7 Feb 2004 10:18)

Yes, great book, Cryptomojonicommoaa. Big and fat, like the title, but a very quick read. I couldnt get enough of the relationship between Bobby Shaftoe and Root. Pretty brilliant stuff actually, some day Ill get around to his other stuff. But isn't his name spelled wrong here?

>>By Distrust   (Sunday, 8 Feb 2004 01:45)

Yes, it was spelled "Neal Stephanson". Corrected it now.

>>By mg   (Sunday, 8 Feb 2004 09:49)

Just a note to all who have read or have yet to read Neals' stuff. It is good to LISTEN to as well. Some of the audio books done for him have used FANTASTIC readers which bring life to the characters. I have read it all but really enjoyed HEARING Diamond Age and Snow Crash.

To the woman Alina who was worried about a lack of female characters...NELL and her mentor in Diamond Age both lay that critque low. And even if they weren't around you can't have everything all the time.

>>By erlybird   (Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 18:45)

I enjoyed both Cryptonomican and Quicksilver and can hardly wait for the next installment, due in April. If you're waiting also, or otherwise have time, take a short non-fiction break and read his "In the Beginning ... Was the Command Line": this is an excellent description of the differences in personal computer operating systems and sets out the pros and cons of Microsoft in a nonhysterical, unbiased fashion. For me, Neal Stephenson's techie characters, like Doug Coupland's, have real "street cred". The background scenery (of Seattle and Silicon Valley) in Cryptonomicon felt comfortable to me (having existed in both). Quicksilver also appealed to me for it's background scenery (having lived near London) as well as it's 17th century equivalent of "techie" characters (Royal Society members, dilletantes, alchemists) and wannabees (courtiers, fops, mountebacks). For some reason, the constant tension between Jack and Eliza, while traveling across the backroads of Europe, had the feel of Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in one of those "On the Road" movies - I even found myself wondering if Jack's brother was meant to be the Bing Crosby character. Not sure if this was intentional ...

So. You've got to ask yourself: How does Neal Stephenson get all this writing done (these are NOT small books) while working during the daytime at what would seem to be one of the most exciting companies around: Blue Origin? (Jeff Bezo's company working on designing and building a spacecraft to win the X-Prize)

Google this: Stephenson Blue Origin

>>By mutant   (Friday, 20 Feb 2004 05:53)

P.S. Reading Cryptonomicon inspired me to read several books on cryptology as well as Ian Pear's "Instance of a Fingerpost" and two other books by Simon Singh (The Code Book and Fermat's Enigma) and several books on Alan Turing (whom I had been meaning to read about since college). (One of my professors had taken out an advertisement for a "Turing Machine Repair Shop" when he was a grad student at Berkeley)

Reading Quicksilver inspired me to read a biography of Newton (by Gleick) and Candide (by Voltaire) - a parody of Leibniz. I would also like to read biographies of Wren and Hooke. John Wilkins also made an appearance in Pear's Instance of a Fingerpost; he was the reputed author of the Cryptonomicon from which Stephenson's book takes it's name.

The Confusion, the next book after Quicksilver, is due out in April and can be preordered through Amazon.

I have Snow Crash and Diamond Age but have not gotten into them as much as the historical novels.

>>By mutant   (Friday, 20 Feb 2004 06:14)

A bit of writing by Neal S that shows his interest in technical matters is here (Remove space ) : - /archive/4.12/ffglass_pr.html Thanx to Musky :-)

>>By flamencoprof   (Friday, 23 Apr 2004 20:15)

Just finished Quicksilver, it is not a fully realised story, cannot wait for the rest, WRT to Candide as mentioned by Mutant, there is a lot of style from that in Quicksilver, but that is OK, considering he is covering similar ground. Liked the reference to the differential engine which ties up with Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition', they are both trying to give some credit to the early pioneers of computing. I will criticise that his female character Eliza is just too good to be true, would that I could meet that wonderful combination of sensuality and science. I look forward to her adventures tho'!

>>By flamencoprof   (Thursday, 20 May 2004 16:50)

I can't wait for THE SYSTEM OF THE WORLD to come out next month - Has anyone else started to think that the "alchemic gold" in THE CONFUSION is going to end up being the same gold that was in the submarine in CRYPTOMONICON? (Neal has already stated it's the same Enoch charcter in all the books, so why not?)

>>By conl   (Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 17:54)

I love Cryptonomicon and am halfway through Quicksilver at this point. I wonder what you all think of Enoch Root. He seems the only fantastic element in the novels, and I wonder what he is supposed to represent. Even in Quicksilver it is commented that he can't possibly be old enough to have seen the things he has seen, and yet the same character lives on to interact with later generations of Waterhouses and Shaftoes? Just what is he supposed to be?

On another topic, I've seen comments comparing Stephenson compared to other "tech" writers such as William Gibson, but I think a stronger comparison would be to Umberto Eco, particularly something like Foucault's Pendulum. The detailed sense of history tied to a strong dramatic narrative is the main appeal they have for me.

>>By ShimokitaJer   (Monday, 25 Oct 2004 17:36)

I have come back to find we are not yet on Flork's page 2, I reckon he rates more. I have just finished "The Confusion", and want more. If only my History teachers had been able to put things so clearly! I have just heard a radio review of the next, which I believe is already out, by someone who had not read the earlier stuff; he claimed it stood on its own, but said it was a story of the Mint. I would say that, as we are dealing with a Novel, it has been & probably still will be the story of Jack & Eliza, two improbable but possible participants of the times written of.
I agree with ShimokitaJer re Foucault's Pendulum, but I think if you have read that you must be prepared for cynical, or just opportunistic, or just fun use of those old buttons to push.
Hi Conl,
I think you are right onto it, Gold, Phillipines, it has to be!
I would appreciate any elaboration/explanation re Enoch Root, he seems to be the eternal sidekick, I haven't noticed what some appear to have.
Though I could never expect it, yet since some here appear to understand more than I, and care as much, I remain humbly in expectation of enlightenment, as your imitatory correspondent,

>>By flamencoprof   (Tuesday, 2 Nov 2004 12:28)

it's a little late to reply, but further reading i would recommend would include haruki murakami (more for tone and mood than subject matter) and kim stanley robinson's mars trilogy. anything by philip kerr, too.
i'm reading quicksilver now after having devoured crytonomicon several times in the last few years. snow crash is funny with flashes of what's to come (love the meme-virus stuff), diamond age is i think the pinnacle of "cyberpunk" aside from a few gibson stories. but crypto... is beautiful. jack shaftoe, macarthur, alan turing... ahhhh.
has anyone read godel escher bach by douglas hofstadter? and if so did you grasp any of it?

>>By finnegan   (Saturday, 27 Nov 2004 06:39)

Enoch seems to have realized the true aim of alchemy, namely, immortality. He's almost like the hand of the divine pushing the thinkers - Waterhouses - and doers - Shaftoes - into action.
After finishing the trilogy I went back and read all of his earlier works, and I don't see how anyone could miss the number of strong female characters in his books. They're in almost every one: Y.T., Nell, America, Eliza, and all of the "historically" powerful women in the last 3 books as well.
"Cyberpunk" is kind of a cliched term to be throwing around anymore, and I don't see why anyone would think that the nerdy guys working in that genre - Gibson being a prime example - would be able to recognize what all The Cool Kids were into nowadays, let alone what the hipsters of the future would be into.
(I dismissed Neal's work for years because of that tag, and didn't really come to appreciate him until the trilogy, and the fact that SNOW CRASH was originally written as a video game still bears that reaction out in my mind.)
Stephenson's definitely got more of an Umberto Eco thing going on, and the Thomas Pynchon influence - especially in CRYPTOMONICON - is undeniable, be it in his phrasing, plot structures, or even the names of his characters, but he's a lot more readable than Pynchon, and way more fun than Eco, and with this last set of books he's really come into his own.
DIAMOND AGE is an absolutely amazing book too, especially in that, for all of its sci-fi, it follows all of the rules of a victorian novel, and, really, Neal seems to pretty much just follow a different genre's principles for every book he's written: college romp, detective story, cyberpunk, WWII thriller, historical-romance-adventure novel.
I can't wait to see where he goes next.

>>By conl   (Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 19:43)

For finneagan: - ( remove space /douglas+hofstadter.html

>>By flamencoprof   (Monday, 10 Jan 2005 06:03)

I read and adored Snow Crash, and am going to start on the trilogy very soon. I'm looking for advice: should I read them in the order they were written, or chronologically (by storyline) ?
It is likely that I'm just "not entirely getting it", but I really wasn't wild about the ending of "The Diamond Age". Or perhaps I was just grumpy because a good read was coming to an end? Anyone else feel the same way?

>>By junglebetti   (Friday, 21 Jan 2005 20:33)

Quote from a WIRED interview on the publication of QUICKSIVER:

Q: A decade after Snow Crash, how do you feel when people still refer to you as cyberpunk?

A: Oh, it's a great label. You get to wear black leather jackets and mirrored shades and be hip and cool as long as cyberpunk is hip and cool. But I think I've been recategorized as post-cyberpunk, so that's over.

>>By conl   (Monday, 14 Feb 2005 19:36)

I am nearing the end of The System of the World, it appears Jack & Eliza may finally get together, excuse me for introducing Emotionalism to the discussion. Nevertheless, as I navigate from a page, introduced as the first, to a page that contains meticulously described events, I await with regretful anticipation The End.

>>By flamencoprof   (Thursday, 2 Jun 2005 23:46)

The discussion board is currently closed.