February 22nd, 2009

how big?

Anathem

I just finished reading it.  It was big, and I'm very glad that I read it on the ebook rather than carting round 900 pages of hardback (except that it meant I didn't use the glossary at all).

There are spoilers below, but more for theme and shape of plot than any details.

I...liked it.  I didn't love it, but it was definitely "pretty good" by Stephenson's standards, which is altogether more rewarding than most writers.

If The Baroque Cycle Was the Stephenson Guide to The Restoration, science and money, then Anathem is The Stephenson Guide to Philosophy.  Large tracts of the book are essentially recreations of the thoughts of dead Greeks.  Which is fascinating if you like that kind of thing (and I do), but will undoubtedly have left a lot of people cold.

I'm completely baffled by people that said that Anathem was a return to decent plotting, as I found the plot to be almost entirely pointless - it seems to be there largely to give characters opportunities to explain things to each other, and not only does the main character doesn't actually deal with the overall "threat" himself, but you're left baffled by what was actually going on at the point when things _were_ sorted out.

Overall, I definitely preferred the pure explanation of the first two-thirds of the book to the unsatisfying plot of the last third - I found the plots of both Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle made more sense and mixed better with the infodumping.

What it most reminded me of was The Glass Bead Game (which had no pretense of excitement or plot in it) rewritten by someone whose publisher had told them that SF doesn't sell without huge explosions in it.

All of which makes me sound grumpier than I really am - I don't regret reading it at all, and I loved the worldbuilding/playing with language.  I'd just rather that the plot had actually hinged on the actions of a character we'd understood, and had some kind of emotional resonance.  Or that we'd done without one at all - I would more happily have read "Fraa Erasmus' introduction to Philosophy."
Illuminati

Delicious LiveJournal Links for 2-22-2009

HP Spoilers

Le Weekend

Friday Julie and I had lizzieandari over for dinner.  I made mexican food, which was somewhat exciting as I'd never even made salsa by hand before.  It turned out to be easy, except that I was trying to get 10 different dishes onto the table before any of them got cold, which got me slightly stressed.  Lots of lovely conversation though.

Saturday we both headed into town to the Museum of Scotland, where erindubitably took photos of us (and Hal), ably assisted by her glamorous assistant marrog.  They've turned out wonderfully, and will hopefully go online in the near future.

Today has been spent catching up to date with BSG with Julie, marrog and erindubitably.  Finally we cannot be spoiled by the internet.  I still have unanswered questions, but hopefully they'll get around to answering the important ones before the end of the season.  I'm very happy to be caught up before the final episode airs, as I kept being spoiled for upcoming events!

And this evening I'm chatting to Mike about genetic algorithms for producing minimal sorting networks, downloading Age of Empires 3, and chatting to Julie about fake eyelashes while she does stats.

Life could be a lot worse :->