?

Log in

Recent Entries Friends Archive Profile Tags Jeamland
 
 
 
 
 
 
Following on from a mutually surprising discussion last weekend:

What is Neal Stephenson's best book?

The Big U
0(0.0%)
Zodiac
6(8.6%)
Snow Crash
20(28.6%)
Interface
0(0.0%)
The Diamond Age
13(18.6%)
Cobweb
0(0.0%)
Cryptonomicon
21(30.0%)
Quicksilver
5(7.1%)
The Confusion
0(0.0%)
The System of the World
3(4.3%)
In the Beginning was the Command Line
2(2.9%)
Anathem
0(0.0%)

What is Neal Stephenson's worst book?

The Big U
15(25.9%)
Zodiac
7(12.1%)
Snow Crash
1(1.7%)
Interface
4(6.9%)
The Diamond Age
7(12.1%)
Cobweb
3(5.2%)
Cryptonomicon
8(13.8%)
Quicksilver
5(8.6%)
The Confusion
2(3.4%)
The System of the World
6(10.3%)
In the Beginning was the Command Line
0(0.0%)
Anathem
0(0.0%)


Justification in the comments welcomed.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Everything published after snow crash is the answer to part two.
Which is close to my answer although I did rather like Diamond Age.
Yes, I demand ticky boxes for part 2.
It can't all be equally bad. :p
Why not?
Because they are different sequences of words.
and yet have all past the worst threshold line! well done stephenson.
Not fair... wont let me vote for Cryptonomicon and everything that comes after it (and I'll include Anathem even though it sounds great due to its size).
I've just finished Anathem, and think it's something of a return to form. (Admittedly I haven't read The Confusion and The System of the World yet, but I'm assuming they'll be much the same as Quicksilver.). That said, I count Cryptonomicon as on form, so ...
I do so want to like it but.... 935 pages?

(and I have to confess I never got beyond half way with Cryptonomicon)
935 pages divided into 13 digestible chunks! That's not even a hundred pages a chunk. It's also one, first-person narrative, and I found it to be pretty well paced. The middle third lags a bit, but the first 300 pages and the last 200 are great.

That said ...
I'll just hope you're right, given I'll have to read it once (please no don't let them make me have to read it twice).
Loved Snow Crash, couldn't finish Cryptonomicon, haven't read any Stephenson since. And it's got to be pretty bad to put me off him completely.
I wonder whether Stephenson fans divide into early and late? For me, Cryptonomicon is a substantial step up from everything that came before.
I am half-tempted to give it another go sometime, as I seem to be reading so much faster these days; I think half the problem was that I got completely bogged down and spent about three months reading the first 200-odd pages, and then I simply couldn't face spending the next six months slogging through the rest.
It is, but the Diamond Age is so much cooler.
Cryptonomicon-hating wrongheads are everywhere!

(I haven't read Cobweb or The Big U, but I thought Interface was not so great.)
Loved cobweb. Pure mystery / spy thriller.
I bounced off both The Big U and Zodiac.

Snow Crash was ok, Diamond Age was great - and then it kept getting better!
The Big U gets points for a) featuring a lesbian relationship as normal, loving, and in some ways the most positive relationship in the book, b) containing a scene of attempted sexual assault in which the potential victim is rescued by another woman, and c) not going over the top with either of these. Given that in later books Stephenson goes for the women-as-hot-superheroes approach, this was a refreshing find. Other than that, though, it's clearly a journeyman novel, and Stephenson hadn't tapped into his grade A material yet while writing it.
I can't easily place a "worst" Stephenson, because I've not actually read one I haven't enjoyed immensely.
Best: In the Beginning was the Command Line

It's a smart, sharp essay full of insight without the extra weight of trying to tell a story.

Worst: Cryptonomicon

It's a series of interlaced smart, sharp essays dragged down by the extra weight of trying to tell a story without really putting in the time to do it right. The later books may be better or worse, I didn't read 'em.

If I still had my copy, I could give you the page number where he lost me.

SPOILER WARNING

When the Enigma/captured by Nazis/everyone trying to sink the U-boat story jumped to Shaftoe in bed with a crazy Swede and all the rest of that stupid plotty stuff was dismissed in summary flashback, I figured Stephenson thought I was stupid and unsophisticated for having invested emotionally in his characters. So I stopped.

It was my personal genesis for the phrase "ha ha, made you care."
My loathing of the one Stephenson book I read is so epic that I am not qualified to partake of this poll! Or anyway, not as designed.

Except to say that Doorstop-itis is obviously not a syndrome restricted to fantasy, and at least in fantasy it doesn't result in cockamamie infodumps about a Theory of Everything.
Coming to this slightly late:
* The Diamond Age would have won over Snow Crash, for me, if it had only had a proper ending.
* I am one of the people who likes Cryptonomicon. And indeed have read it more than once, although I have an excuse.
* I felt he could get away with something the length of Cryptonomicon once.
* As well as the deadening length, for me the Baroque Cycle never lived up to its potential, and I thus find many people's utter captivation by the whole thing to be baffling.
* In particular, (a) The Confusion seemed to suffer from many traditional middle-book-of-trilogy problems (b) extra pirates don't mean extra value, for me; indeed, they were a contributory factor to me finding this book a slog.
* Nonetheless I shall be reading Anathem pretty much as soon as I can.
Snow Crash is great fun -- it's more or less exactly what I imagined Neuromancer would be like after hearing for years and years about how awesome Neuromancer is. Good thing too, as I didn't like Neuromancer all that much.

The Diamond Age starts incredibly well, has a great setting and tons of potential, and throws it all away. People say it has a "bad ending" but to call the entire second half of the book the "ending" is a little rich. Blech.

Everything of his I've read after that is like the second half of The Diamond Age.
Re Snow Crash vs Neuromancer: what huskyscotsman said.
What do other people think about the opening line of Neuromancer dating? IO9 clearly think it's good: http://io9.com/5027128/great-opening-sentences-from-science-fiction

However, I think it suffers from the fact that it will mean something very different in the future. All the TVs I've seen that have been produced in the last 15 years show a pure blue sky when detuned. Before that it was spekledy grey. Which one does he mean? I grew up thinking it was the fuzzy grey, but did he really mean the pure blue?
(chiming in late...)

I seem to fall outside of your categories! I'm a middle-period Stephenson fan? Perhaps? I put Zodiac as my favourite; it's the one I read most often, and the only one of his novels that has an ending I find properly satisfying. After that, though, I'd have Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash as close rivals. The Baroque Cycle really disappointed me - I think because of a) the lack of period "feel" despite the drowning in period facts, and b) I'm just plain not as interested in the pre-computer setting as I am in his handling of modern technology. My "worst" is The Big U, which just failed to work for me on so many levels; I didn't like the Baroque Cycle, but I felt it was doing something, at least. Interface was quite fun, although not really what I think of when you say "Stephenson", and I've not read Cobweb though I'd like to.

ETA: I'm another "Snow Crash is what I thought Neuromancer would be", too. I wonder if it's partly generational?

Edited at 2008-07-29 10:50 am (UTC)