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  1. #1
    King of the Lurkers. Moderator Keyoke's Avatar
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    Anathem/Cryptonomicron/Snow Crash

    Hello,

    Well, I've been looking at the above three books by Stephenson, and I've always been very hestitant on reading his stuff. Not sure why, but, every time I look into these books, they seems to focus on the sciences. Crytopgraphy, math, etc.

    I want to read them, but, I am wondering if their are giant explanations of math, sciences, etc, that will bog me down, or just confuse me..

    Any thoughts? I do enjoy scifi, Hyperion is one of my favorites..

    Keyoke..

  2. #2
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I'm trying very hard not to laugh, here, at the idea of Stephenson's work being like Gregory Benford's. If you liked Hyperion, you'll have no problem with Stephenson's work. Start with Snow Crash, which is a beautiful cyberpunk novel and the shortest. Then try Cryptonomicron, which is large dual timeline story set in World War II and the near future. It's mostly war and personal stuff. There are action sequences. There is some material about codes and encryptions, but you'll be able to follow it fine. It's a novel to be taken in chunks though.

    I have not yet read Anathem and my understanding is that Anathem is more trippy and philosophical. I don't know if it has anything technically difficult or not in it; my suspicion would be not, but those who read it can tell you more. But definitely give the other two a try.

  3. #3
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    I loved Anathem. I thought it was one of the best sci-fi books I've read. It is very nerdy (which I love).

    To be honest, I thought Snow Crash was kind of corny. It wasn't bad, but it seemed that Stephenson was being very tongue-in-cheek when he wrote it.

    I haven't read Cryptonomicon. The Diamond Age is very good.

  4. #4
    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    Snow Crash is the best cyberpunk i ever read, still. Nothing too technical about it, it's a great starting point for Stephenson, start there.

  5. #5
    I should be working metalprof's Avatar
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    I think you can take either Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon first. I read Cryptonomicon first, but that wasn't a strategy, it's just the way it happened. They are completely different reading experiences. Snow Crash is quick and sharp, and would be easy to get through quickly. Cryptonomicon is long and a slower read; you have to be more on your toes over the long haul to keep track of how the different timelines may or may no inter-relate.

    I think either or both should be prerequisites for Anathem, simply because Anathem is more ethereal and slow at times, and you need to have developed some faith in advance that yes, Stephenson is very likely to eventually take you some place interesting in the book even though it may be slow going at times.

    Of course, you can do what I did and read the Baroque Cycle before Anathem, in which case reading Anathem is like reading a postcard

    Ken

  6. #6
    The Baroque Cycle is only really kindasorta sci fi, though. I dunno. What the heck would you call that thing?

    (I would definitely not read Anathem first. It's NOT an easy book).

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer P View Post
    The Baroque Cycle is only really kindasorta sci fi, though. I dunno. What the heck would you call that thing?

    (I would definitely not read Anathem first. It's NOT an easy book).
    The Baroque Cycle is SF in the came way "Cryptonomicon" was.

    Agree with the people who recommend reading "Snow Crash" first. "Anathem" is his most difficult work to date (though the Baroque Cycle is longer) and has massive chunks of talking heads discussions of different schools of philosophy & also shows the process of using "the scientific method". It's uber-geeky & I felt that it got bogged down.

    But it also has one of the best lines I've read in a SF book in ages (spoiler protected):
    Spoiler:
    "Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said. "We have a protractor."

  8. #8
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soon Lee View Post
    But it also has one of the best lines I've read in a SF book in ages (spoiler protected):
    Spoiler:
    "Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said. "We have a protractor."
    Damn, I had forgotten that awesome line. Thank you.

  9. #9
    I should be working metalprof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soon Lee View Post
    But it also has one of the best lines I've read in a SF book in ages (spoiler protected):
    Spoiler:
    "Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said. "We have a protractor."
    Yes!

    My favorite line as well

    Ken

  10. #10
    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soon Lee View Post
    The Baroque Cycle is SF in the came way "Cryptonomicon" was.
    [/SPOILER]

    I avoided both because i never found any SF elements in the reviews or the descriptions of the books, what are the SF elements?

  11. #11
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    The SFnal elements, I'm not sure there are any. There is a character who appears in both "Cryptonomicon" and The Baroque Cycle, implying access to some sort of Elixir of Youth (which could be taken as Fantasy OR SF).

    Rather than being overtly SF, they both are written with SF sensibilities, e.g. The Baroque Cycle has the feel of historical fiction written by a SF writer. And "Cryptonomicon" feels like WW2 fiction and a contemporary tech-thriller from the PoV of a SF writer.

    I've read and greatly enjoyed both. Both have aspects of 'truth is stranger than fiction' and both contain much that seem implausible, until you realise that some of the weirder portrayals are actually historically factual. Also, with the first volume of the Baroque Cycle, "Quicksilver", Stephenson attempts to tell the story of the foundation of modern civilisation, in terms of the development of the scientific method, and economic systems that are the basis of the world as we know it.

    It might sound a bit dry, but Stephenson is an entertaining writer who manages to weave fact with fiction and makes it a fascinating read.

  12. #12
    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soon Lee View Post
    The SFnal elements, I'm not sure there are any. There is a character who appears in both "Cryptonomicon" and The Baroque Cycle, implying access to some sort of Elixir of Youth (which could be taken as Fantasy OR SF).

    Rather than being overtly SF, they both are written with SF sensibilities, e.g. The Baroque Cycle has the feel of historical fiction written by a SF writer. And "Cryptonomicon" feels like WW2 fiction and a contemporary tech-thriller from the PoV of a SF writer.

    I've read and greatly enjoyed both. Both have aspects of 'truth is stranger than fiction' and both contain much that seem implausible, until you realise that some of the weirder portrayals are actually historically factual. Also, with the first volume of the Baroque Cycle, "Quicksilver", Stephenson attempts to tell the story of the foundation of modern civilisation, in terms of the development of the scientific method, and economic systems that are the basis of the world as we know it.

    It might sound a bit dry, but Stephenson is an entertaining writer who manages to weave fact with fiction and makes it a fascinating read.
    Yeah ,that's what i figured, good and interesting authors can be found in any genre, but i found that i'm really not interested in fiction that isn't SF or Fantasy. I have the same problem with Shadow of The Wind, i can't bring myself to read it because it's not really fantasy.
    Last edited by FitzChivalry; September 7th, 2009 at 06:17 AM.

  13. #13
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FitzChivalry View Post
    Snow Crash is the best cyberpunk i ever read, still. Nothing too technical about it, it's a great starting point for Stephenson, start there.
    Nothing technical about it.

    This is better for cybernetics:

    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The.../9780671878481

    It's available for download here:

    http://www.baen.com/library/

    psik

  14. #14
    I remember some classic Stephenson force-feeding of facts in Snow Crash, but it is much less than other novels. I recall it fell into two categories - (1) online gaming, where his predictions are absolutely prophetic and show a deep understaning of computer game technical hurdles and computer graphics, and (2) linguistics and cognitive science.

    One thing Stephenson is guilty of in every book is having a character give a two page monologue on some technical topic to educate the reader on the subject. Its very interesting if you are intested in the topic, and if you aren't, you can skip over it (like I did for some of the longer passages on linguistics in Snow Crash).

    That said, Snow Crash is one of my favorite novels and I highly recommend Cryptonomion (I haven't read Anathem), but you will be skipping a lot of passages if you aren't interested in any of the scientific topics.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by FitzChivalry View Post
    I avoided both because i never found any SF elements in the reviews or the descriptions of the books, what are the SF elements?
    They aren't really SF(Cryptonomicon at least), at least as most people would define it. Stephenson just got labeled a SF writer because of Snow Crash.

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