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Outside of a dog, the [books] thread is man's best friend

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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Reamde was irritating enough that I'm basically off stephenson henceforth. Which is annoying, because I like so much of his older work.

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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    Seveneves is the most imaginative book he's written in years, but it gets pretty fucking bleak in the middle.

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    TossrockTossrock too weird to live too rare to dieRegistered User regular
    edited May 2017
    My Stephenson ranking:
    1. Anathem. Asks a lot of the reader and still manages to make it all pay off, in spades. Brilliant concept, and a fun adventure. Also manages to be really tightly plotted and satisfyingly concluded, unlike most of his work.
    2. Seveneves. A lot of people don't like either the last third, or the first two thirds, but I really liked both! This may be down to being a sucker for hard sci-fi space-based world building though.
    3. Cryptonomicon. Both an informative techno-thriller AND an informative historical-thriller! Though I may be biased on this one because the subject matter was aimed almost directly at me.
    5. Snow Crash. Fun and irreverent without trying too hard, not to mention seminal cyberpunk that ended up influencing real life (hello, Google Earth). I like all the late-capitalism, privatization gone too far stuff too.
    6. Diamond Age. The nanotech/primer stuff is interesting, but also dry at times, and gets kind of lost in the weeds. The interlude with the drummers stands out to me as the place where it went kind of off the rails.
    7/8. The Confusion/Quicksilver. The Jack Shaftoe stuff is fun, and the Newton/Leibniz stuff is interesting, but good gravy there is way too much description of buildings, costumes, French court intrigue, and geography in here. I get it, you did your research. If I wanted to know exactly how the Danube curves around Vienna, I could look at a map.
    9. REAMDE. Like transcribing an mediocre action-thriller movie and losing the good parts.

    Unread thus far are The System of the World and Zodiac, and I guess The Big U, and all his collaborations with other authors.

    Tossrock on
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    Grey GhostGrey Ghost Registered User regular
    I think the Baroque Cycle actually ends pretty strongly but boy is there just A LOT of stuff in there that I started zoning out on

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    TossrockTossrock too weird to live too rare to dieRegistered User regular
    Grey Ghost wrote: »
    I think the Baroque Cycle actually ends pretty strongly but boy is there just A LOT of stuff in there that I started zoning out on

    Yeah, the number of minor French nobles I'm supposed to keep track of is absurd

    Like, I need a spreadsheet or something

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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    edited May 2017
    Oh, man, I kind of hope the rest of this thread is just various Stephenson rankings.
    1. Anathem. A thousand-page book about monks who worship the scientific method could easily get bogged down, but I think this is the one time that Stephenson's editor being bound and gagged in a closet somewhere really paid off. I honestly believe that if people are still reading him when we're all dead, this is the book they'll be reading.

    2. Cryptonomicon. This is the only audiobook that is permanently on my phone, because I know that if I run out of podcasts on a road trip, I am always in the mood for cryptography and long discourses on Cap'n Crunch. If it had aged better, it would certainly be number one.

    3. Zodiac. Possibly the perfect balance between the madcap action scenes and snarky humor of Snow Crash and the more intellectual themes of his later work.

    4. Snow Crash. Someone returned this book at the beginning of a six-hour shift at the circ desk of an academic library, and I had finished the entire thing by the time the library closed. I neglected so many duties because of how gripping this book was.

    5. The Confusion/Quicksilver/The System of the World. While this is one time I wish Stephenson's editor had escaped from the closet, this series contains some of my very favorite passages from all fiction everywhere.

    6. Seveneves. I loved many bits of this book, but I will almost certainly never read it again in its entirety. Probably just the first few chapters, say aloud "And then some terrible shit happened at great length," and then skip to Book Two.

    7. The Big U. Although this is the one book Stephenson would probably travel back in time to prevent himself from writing, it has many very enjoyable quotes. I'm glad he cannibalized most of it for the linguistic programming plot in Snow Crash.

    8. REAMDE. I dunno, man. I like this book way better than any of the Lee Child/Clive Cussler technothrillers it seems to be aping, but the MMO aspects meant it was already half-rotted the moment it hit the shelf and it doesn't manage to pull very many redeeming qualities out of its hat.

    9. The Diamond Age. I remember nothing about this book other than graphene zeppelins, neo-Victorianism for no reason, and an army of naked pubescent ninja girls conquering the world because an iPad told them to. I may have some of that wrong, but I'm not going back to check.

    Jedoc on
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    TossrockTossrock too weird to live too rare to dieRegistered User regular
    Jedoc wrote: »
    Probably just the first few chapters, say aloud "And then some terrible shit happened at great length," and then skip to Book Two.

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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    hmm yeah ok
    1. Zodiac: no Stephenson book could be described as 'tight' but this comes close. Plus it's pleasantly packed with bio-nerdery. As a literary work it's perhaps not his best, but overall I enjoy it the most.
    2. Cryptonomicon: I genuinely love this book, and while you can see the germ of what will eventually grow into eye-rolling self-satisfaction and survivalist wank, it's mostly background radiation. The WWII and Bletchley stuff is superb. Fighting it out with Zodiac for number one, but the book hipster in me always wants to put the before-he-was-cool bit at the top.
    3. Snow Crash: I've got a soft spot for classic cyberpunk, and this one is more classic than most. Plus, psycholinguistics.
    4. Confusion/Quicksilver/System of the World: this is very close to beating out Snowcrash for me - long, digressive, detailed rambles through history are exactly my jam. But then I realised I couldn't remember exactly what happened in the last third of System of the World, so it had to be demoted.
    5. Diamond Age: it's ok, it's trying to be a bit too clever, and it replaces plot with setting. Higher than a bunch of his others because I do think it's interesting, but it's not compelling.
    6. Anathem: liked the premise, liked the first chapters, gradually began loathing its self-satisfied protagonist and its "am I sexist? no I thought about women as almost-real-people for at least two minutes just now, I'm cool" pseudo-introspection. This is probably the book where the stuff I dislike about him as a writer starts to outweigh the stuff I find fun. As always, the nerd and maths minutiae is good, though.
    7. REAMDE: again, interesting premise, but totally squandered. A genuine exploration of an online economy could have been fascinating, but that part was never fleshed out to more than Bitcoin-lite, and then the islamist vs midwestern gunnut stuff was just painful. Which was a shame because it could have been hilarious, but came off as masturbatory.
    8.. The Big U: I'm putting this last chiefly because I barely remember it, though I expect if I went back I'd like it better than REAMDE. Some funny lines, but in the end wasn't even interesting enough to make me angry.


    Haven't read Seveneves, don't know if I ever will.

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    Lost SalientLost Salient blink twice if you'd like me to mercy kill youRegistered User regular
    Tossrock wrote: »
    Grey Ghost wrote: »
    I think the Baroque Cycle actually ends pretty strongly but boy is there just A LOT of stuff in there that I started zoning out on

    Yeah, the number of minor French nobles I'm supposed to keep track of is absurd

    Like, I need a spreadsheet or something

    *Eyeballs Bring Up the Bodies*

    How many of them are named Thomas or Richard or Mary?

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    "Sandra has a good solid anti-murderer vibe. My skin felt very secure and sufficiently attached to my body when I met her. Also my organs." HAIL SATAN
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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    edited May 2017
    I really, really wanted to like Wolf Hall but was unable to care about anyone because their motives were uniformly alien.

    Jedoc on
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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Wolf Hall was great, but Bring up the Bodies is sitting on my shelf looking at me and for some reason I just never managed to dive back in. I think it's partly that the period is so saturated by media ... that said, I really enjoyed A Place of Greater Safety.

    I should tackle it again I guess.

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    TossrockTossrock too weird to live too rare to dieRegistered User regular
    edited May 2017
    Tossrock wrote: »
    Grey Ghost wrote: »
    I think the Baroque Cycle actually ends pretty strongly but boy is there just A LOT of stuff in there that I started zoning out on

    Yeah, the number of minor French nobles I'm supposed to keep track of is absurd

    Like, I need a spreadsheet or something

    *Eyeballs Bring Up the Bodies*

    How many of them are named Thomas or Richard or Mary?

    well, there's Thomas Anglesey, Thomas Ham, Richard Apthorp, Richard Comstock, Mary II of England, Mary of Modena, and arguably Anne Marie de Crepey, so at least 6. In the first book of the trilogy.

    Tossrock on
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    Grey GhostGrey Ghost Registered User regular
    Some good good shit goes down towards the end of Bring Up the Bodies

    Also as far as Reamde, I liked the MMO stuff way more than the action thrillers and wish I could have read more of that

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    @Poorochondriac I just finished reading Mongrels.

    I've previously enjoyed most of the Stephen Graham Jones books I've read. He writes really good pulp/genre fiction, and I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. But, at the end of the day, that's most of what I was getting out of his books. They were well written, interesting pulp.

    Mongrels is on a whole different level. This one had teeth. This one hurt.

    I loved this book.

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    PoorochondriacPoorochondriac Ah, man Ah, jeezRegistered User regular
    Straightzi wrote: »
    @Poorochondriac I just finished reading Mongrels.

    I've previously enjoyed most of the Stephen Graham Jones books I've read. He writes really good pulp/genre fiction, and I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. But, at the end of the day, that's most of what I was getting out of his books. They were well written, interesting pulp.

    Mongrels is on a whole different level. This one had teeth. This one hurt.

    I loved this book.

    Yeah, I love that one. The rare book where I started over at page one as soon as I finished. It's fucking dying to be a TV show, imo.

    Did you ever read his Growing Up Dead in Texas? I can't remember. That one fuuuuucked me up.

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    I haven't read that one yet, I'll definitely add it to the list.

    I was super impressed by the subtle Native American stuff in Mongrels. Like, I know Stephen Graham Jones, I was pretty primed for it to be there, but it was never explicit that they were, well, anything other than werewolves. But there are tons of little clues to it, and of course if you read anything from the author about the book he'll mention it. It's just not explicitly a metaphor book, or anything like that, it's just a detail that you might pick up on if you're keyed into such things.

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    PoorochondriacPoorochondriac Ah, man Ah, jeezRegistered User regular
    Straightzi wrote: »
    I haven't read that one yet, I'll definitely add it to the list.

    I was super impressed by the subtle Native American stuff in Mongrels. Like, I know Stephen Graham Jones, I was pretty primed for it to be there, but it was never explicit that they were, well, anything other than werewolves. But there are tons of little clues to it, and of course if you read anything from the author about the book he'll mention it. It's just not explicitly a metaphor book, or anything like that, it's just a detail that you might pick up on if you're keyed into such things.

    Yeah, I think the most explicit he gets is a dude at a gas station asking the lead, "Are you Mexican or something?"

    And even in that moment, the narrator's thinking, "No, dude, I'm a fucking werewolf."

    I really dig that.

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Yeah, it's really eloquently done.

    Like the only thing I am unhappy about is that I finished the book in less than a week. I want to be able to keep reading it.

    Seriously everyone, if you want to read a heart-wrenching coming of age story that also happens to be about werewolves, like serious werewolves that slaughter livestock and scare the villagers, that will absolutely rip out someone's throat if they have to, check out Mongrels. It's really good.

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    ShortyShorty touching the meat Intergalactic Cool CourtRegistered User regular
    tynic wrote: »
    hmm yeah ok
    1. Zodiac: no Stephenson book could be described as 'tight' but this comes close. Plus it's pleasantly packed with bio-nerdery. As a literary work it's perhaps not his best, but overall I enjoy it the most.
    2. Cryptonomicon: I genuinely love this book, and while you can see the germ of what will eventually grow into eye-rolling self-satisfaction and survivalist wank, it's mostly background radiation. The WWII and Bletchley stuff is superb. Fighting it out with Zodiac for number one, but the book hipster in me always wants to put the before-he-was-cool bit at the top.
    3. Snow Crash: I've got a soft spot for classic cyberpunk, and this one is more classic than most. Plus, psycholinguistics.
    4. Confusion/Quicksilver/System of the World: this is very close to beating out Snowcrash for me - long, digressive, detailed rambles through history are exactly my jam. But then I realised I couldn't remember exactly what happened in the last third of System of the World, so it had to be demoted.
    5. Diamond Age: it's ok, it's trying to be a bit too clever, and it replaces plot with setting. Higher than a bunch of his others because I do think it's interesting, but it's not compelling.
    6. Anathem: liked the premise, liked the first chapters, gradually began loathing its self-satisfied protagonist and its "am I sexist? no I thought about women as almost-real-people for at least two minutes just now, I'm cool" pseudo-introspection. This is probably the book where the stuff I dislike about him as a writer starts to outweigh the stuff I find fun. As always, the nerd and maths minutiae is good, though.
    7. REAMDE: again, interesting premise, but totally squandered. A genuine exploration of an online economy could have been fascinating, but that part was never fleshed out to more than Bitcoin-lite, and then the islamist vs midwestern gunnut stuff was just painful. Which was a shame because it could have been hilarious, but came off as masturbatory.
    8.. The Big U: I'm putting this last chiefly because I barely remember it, though I expect if I went back I'd like it better than REAMDE. Some funny lines, but in the end wasn't even interesting enough to make me angry.


    Haven't read Seveneves, don't know if I ever will.

    I've read (and re-read) a lot of Stephenson over the last year and one thing that really jumped out at me was that part in Snow Crash where Hiro correctly observes that being smart doesn't mean you can't be sexist, even if you're aware of what sexism is

    and weirdly, that phenomenon seems to be present in a bunch of his protagonists, despite his awareness of it

    it's like he's going for an accurate depiction, which, great, but he forgot that if you have that stuff and then don't put anything in there to discredit the idea (like he did in Snow Crash!) then it's an implicit endorsement

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    I'm about 80 or so pages into 'Shardik' by Richard Adams (of Watership Down fame). I still can't tell if I like it or not. It seems like it's ready to break out into super preachy at any moment but it hasn't yet.

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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    time to unlock secrets

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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    edited May 2017
    Tyn, this is Jedoc from the future! Don't read that book or your robots will end up
    confirming everything was fine. It's fine. Enjoy your book.
    

    Jedoc on
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    HobnailHobnail Registered User regular
    The last two William Gibson novels I read had the highest possible quantity of "regarding fashion" and "holding my interest" coexisting in media

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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    there's a new one coming out next january
    I'm keen to see where he goes from here

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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    "It will serve as both a sequel and a prequel to his last novel, The Peripheral." I like how much sense that makes for this book.

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    Brovid HasselsmofBrovid Hasselsmof [Growling historic on the fury road] Registered User regular
    tynic wrote: »
    time to unlock secrets

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    That's a cool cover

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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    Speaking of cool book covers, does anyone else check the AIGA 50 Books, 50 Covers award every year? I generally use it to find books to always shelve face-out in my library, but it's also very soothing to just scroll through galleries of dope-ass covers, and interesting to see the trends change over the past few years.

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    Mr. GMr. G Registered User regular
    Now that I've finally removed the albatross that was The Dark Tower from my neck, I can finally start reading stuff that isn't The Dark Tower

    so I started John Darnielle's new book Universal Harvester, which seems very good

    the main character is named Jeremy and his dad is identified as Steve Heldt

    Which I first read as

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rREGbLdOzfg

    and now it's all I can think about

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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    I'll probably read Universal Harvester, but it'll have to be when I'm feeling unusually cheerful. I tried to read Wolf in White Van during a dismal February when I was also trying to watch Jessica Jones, and I pretty much had to abandon them both and read light satires until spring came.

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    Mr. GMr. G Registered User regular
    The big hurdle to cross with Universal Harvester, besides Steve Holt!, is that its central premise is such an internet cliche at this point, most famous for being done incredibly poorly 99% of the time

    Someone or something has been splicing creepy footage into VHS tapes at the video store he works at, in the book

    and I cannot sever my association with that premise and edgy 16 year-olds writing about how they bought a cursed copy of Sonic the Hedgehog where Sonic kills Tails and then jumps off the screen

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    JedocJedoc In the scuppers with the staggers and jagsRegistered User regular
    I have to admit, I'm not entirely turned off by the prospect of decently-written literary creepypasta.

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    TofystedethTofystedeth Registered User regular
    Xaquin wrote: »
    I'm about 80 or so pages into 'Shardik' by Richard Adams (of Watership Down fame). I still can't tell if I like it or not. It seems like it's ready to break out into super preachy at any moment but it hasn't yet.

    Shardik was definitely kind of weird. I read it in college and liked it, but probably will never go back and read it again.

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    At first I was shocked how quickly they went from finding the literal avatar of god to weaponizing him

    Reflecting on it, it's probably the most accurate part of the story thus far

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    Mr. GMr. G Registered User regular
    Mr. G wrote: »
    The big hurdle to cross with Universal Harvester, besides Steve Holt!, is that its central premise is such an internet cliche at this point, most famous for being done incredibly poorly 99% of the time

    Someone or something has been splicing creepy footage into VHS tapes at the video store he works at, in the book

    and I cannot sever my association with that premise and edgy 16 year-olds writing about how they bought a cursed copy of Sonic the Hedgehog where Sonic kills Tails and then jumps off the screen

    So the book gets around this by not actually being about this after the first like 30 pages

    It's been classified as a horror book but I don't think that actually applies, it's more existential than scary

    i guess that's a kind of horror too

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    DoodmannDoodmann Registered User regular
    Grey Ghost wrote: »
    this reminds me I gotta read Seveneves
    Reamde was... well parts of it were more entertaining than others

    I enjoyed the concept and the tension was gripping but over all it fell flat. I actually didn't even finish it because I didn't care by the end.

    Whippy wrote: »
    nope nope nope nope abort abort talk about anime
    I like to ART
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    Mr. GMr. G Registered User regular
    If I wanna grab something by Joe Hill, should I go for Horns or Locke & Key?

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    A Dabble Of TheloniusA Dabble Of Thelonius It has been a doozy of a dayRegistered User regular
    Horns, I would say.

    Well, actually I would say 20th Century Ghosts but that wasn't an option!

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    Steam - Talon Valdez :Blizz - Talonious#1860 : Xbox Live & LoL - Talonious Monk @TaloniousMonk Hail Satan
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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Overall I think Horns is slightly better than Locke & Key

    But it's very hard to compare them, as one of them is a comic I read over several years, and the other a novel I read in about a week

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    Mr. GMr. G Registered User regular
    So I launched a book club-type thing with friends of mine to incentivize all of us to read more and to actually get through stuff in a timely manner

    and now it has been turned against me because the first person up's selection is Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk, to which I had to stifle an audible groan

    How bad am I in for with that one

    Chuck Palahniuk writing about women's issues with a female sounds like it could be...very not good

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    StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Invisible Monsters is hit or miss, but I'd definitely put it on the good side of the Palahniuk spectrum. It's certainly not my favorite of his, but it's not one of shitty exploitative ones either.

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