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  1. #1
    King of the Lurkers. Moderator Keyoke's Avatar
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    Nov 1999
    Canada, AB

    Anathem/Cryptonomicron/Snow Crash


    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..


  2. #2
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    In a Cloud
    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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    Jun 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI, USA
    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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    Sep 2000
    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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    Mar 2009
    Valparaiso, IN
    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


  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
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    Sol III
    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:

    It's available for download here:


  8. #8
    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.

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