River of Blue Fire (Otherland #2)
By Tad Williams; Narrated by George Newbern
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 30 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 24 hours, 24 minutes
Themes: / cyberpunk / virtual reality / science fiction /
Otherland. In many ways it is humankind’s most stunning achievement: a private, multidimensional universe built over two generations by the greatest minds of the 21st century. But this most exclusive of places is also one of the world’s best kept secrets, created and controlled by an organization made up of the world’s most powerful and ruthless individuals, a private cartel known – to those who know of their existence at all – as The Grail Brotherhood. Though their purpose in creating Otherland is still a mystery, it may not remain so for long. For they have exacted a terrible price from humanity in the process, and even their highly organized global conspiracy cannot hide the nature of their crimes forever. And now a small band of adventurers has penetrated the veil of secrecy that prevents the uninitiated from entering Otherland.
But having broken into the amazing worlds within worlds that make up this universe, they are trapped, unable to escape back to their own flesh-and-blood bodies in the real world. And as dangers and circumstances split their party into small, widely scattered groups, their only hope of reuniting lies in returning again and again to the River that flows – in one form or another – through all the worlds. But the odds seem to be completely against them as they – and the one outsider with whom they might join forces – become hopelessly lost in realms where an Ice Age tribe’s fears can only be quenched in blood – where insects are as large and deadly as dinosaurs – where they are caught in the war between a man made of straw and one made of tin – where cartoon ads take on a life of their own – where humans strive to survive in the aftermath of an alien invasion – and where one among their party is actually The Grail Brotherhood’s most terrifying weapon – a sociopathic killer who has never failed and whose current mission is to make certain that not even one member of this little invasion force lives long enough to reveal the truth about Otherland to the people of Earth.
The sequel to City of Golden Shadow and the 2nd book (of 4) in the Otherland series, River of Blue Fire is a solid “middle book” in the series.
Picking up where City of Golden Shadow left off, this book moved the pieces of all the players in the story without seeming to progress the plot too much. This is a common feature of “middle books” so was expected, though made the reading (listening) slow sometimes. At the point that City of Golden Shadow left off, the “hero” group was somewhat divided, with Renie and Xabbu in one simulation, Orlando and Fredericks in another, and the rest of the “hero” group in yet another sim. Paul Jonas’ sim, too, went through a few worlds, separated from the rest of the crew. Much of this book was spent with them still spilt, each learning more about the rules of the simulation world through their experiences in the world. Martine’s character, and her disability, were explored in detail in this book, bringing her to the forefront of the third hero group as a main character (to go along with Renie and Orlando). The bad guys also moved, and some of their motives were identified…and the mysterious Sellers, while staying in one (hidden) location, seemed to be doing more to try to help bring down the Otherland.
All in all, there isn’t much to say about this book that I didn’t say about City of Golden Shadow. I enjoyed this book, though didn’t think it was as strong as the first book in the series. In this book, author Tad Williams had some fun with the simulation worlds, making alternate worlds of popular stories such as The War of the Worlds and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was fun to go through the book and try to see what book was referenced (if any) for each sim world. The book was fun and the cyberpunk ideas were interesting, but there was nothing new introduced in this book. The rules were better defined through the course of the plot, but there wasn’t a lot of actual progression towards the heroes saving the day (or not).
The audiobook was great to listen to, if the narration was slightly slow. I listened to it slightly sped up (using the 1.5x feature for spoken word playback on my iPhone) and it seemed perfect. The only downside to listening to these books in audio is that now I want the 3rd book in the series, Mountain of Black Glass to come out in audio…I’m not sure when or if it will be done, but I hope that it does come soon so that I can continue listening instead of having to switch to some printed media. Audiobooks are a great way to experience this series (so far).
Posted by terpkristin.
Themes: / cyberpunk / virtual reality / science fiction /
Surrounded by secrecy, it is home to the wildest dreams and darkest nightmares. Incredible amounts of money have been lavished on it. The best minds of two generations have labored to build it. And somehow, bit by bit, it is claiming the Earth’s most valuable resource – its children.
I hate to admit this, but I judged this book by the cover at first. I knew nothing about the book when I started listening, I hadn’t even read the blurb in the description. I saw a fantastical-looking image on the cover and, knowing that Tad Williams typically writes fantasy novels/series, I just assumed it was a fantasy novel. I was wrong. This is actually a cyberpunk book, a quite good one at that. There was only one downside to the book, which I may as well get out of the way now: it’s not a complete story. The book ends with no plot lines resolved and more questions than answers…so, if you read this book, be prepared to read at least the next book in the series (River of Blue Fire. I say “at least” because I have only just started that book (and it’s 24.3 hours long!), and I have no idea if it resolves any of the story. There are 4 books in the Otherland series in total (City of Golden Shadow, River of Blue Fire, Mountain of Black Glass, and Sea of Silver Light, the first two of which are available in audio so far).
The plot is intriguing. In a future-world setting (the book was written in 1996), virtual reality (VR) in the form of using an avatar to explore the “net,” is fairly commonplace. Many people, instead of congregating/living in cities with malls and town centers and such, live good parts of their lives in the virtual world. At least, the younger people seem to do this. Main character Reny (a nickname for Irene) is a teacher of computer science/VR manipulation at a university. One day she comes home to find her little brother, Steven, comatose after spending some time in the VR world. Setting out to try to figure out what left him in the coma, she comes across a hint of a world called “Otherland,” a world within the VR world. In parallel, a kid named Orlando is exposed to “Otherland” in a part of his online video game. They find themselves searching for answers on Otherland, enlisting the help of some others who have also found out about the mysterious world, all seeking answers for what it is and why it’s harming kids. There is another story in the book, of a man named Paul. He may or may not have been a soldier in World War II, but somehow has found himself stuck in the world of Otherland without the ability to escape. There is also the story of those running Otherland, some with more nefarious reasons than others…
The entire plot is engaging, if sometimes a little confusing to keep track of who is where (especially at first, as the world and characters are introduced). That said, the book drew me in more or less from the get-go, and I found excuses to listen more as I went about my days. Williams, unlike many authors I’ve read recently, is able to describe the world and the technology organically through the telling of the story. Where some people would spend time info-dumping, Williams is able to make the world comprehensible by explaining things to characters, or having the reader go along with the process of discovery with the characters. For a book written in 1996, Williams was somewhat a visionary of technology and how people use it. In the book, there are VR systems (think: Oculus Rift taken to the extreme), normal day-to-day use of the internet, tablets, videophony…things that are in the early years of widespread adoption now.
The characters in this book are very interesting. I’ve read a lot of complaints, recently, from people who wish that there were more women and/or minorities in the books that they read, especially genre fiction. This book doesn’t have that problem. Reny is a South African black woman, and one of her closest friends through the story is a native African. One of the main villains is Australian and there seem to be people from across the globe involved in either the world or trying to study the world. When Reny needs help, she turns to another woman (another professor in computer science-type fields) for aid, and though men are involved, they are on an equal footing with the women. While I normally don’t fault a book for having weak female characters, it was refreshing to have such diversity in the book.
George Newbern’s narration was fantastic, if a little slow. I found that I had to bump up the playback speed slightly, otherwise it felt like the pauses were a little too long, the speech a little too slow. This made some of the characters or world aspects a little hard to understand at times (pronunciation-wise), but that didn’t detract from the story. It was always easy to keep track of who was talking and what was going on, thanks to Newbern’s voices for the characters and for the main narration.
All in all, I really liked this book. I wish it had come to some form of closure, or at least given some more hints on the motives of the villains, but that’s a minor complaint. I’ve already started the second book and can’t wait to see where the story goes.
Posted by terpkristin.
The SFFaudio Podcast #285 – Jesse, Scott, Luke, and Jenny talk about The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Triptree, Jr.
Talked about on today’s show:
Alice Sheldon, why no audiobook?, how James Triptree, Jr. died, the award, the Virginia Kidd agency, the PDF version, who owns it?, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips, Her Smoke Rode Up Forever, she was a spy, Racoona Sheldon, a murder/suicide or a suicide pact?, nearly blind, what would Seth think of that?, Huntington D. Sheldon, OSS -> CIA, Cordwainer Smith, Jesse is glad “new wave” is dead, re-reading, you must pay close attention, grammar, a potential audio version, caps and italics, Scott’s proto-cyberpunk, story summary, holographic TV, a “waldo” system, product placement advertizing, the 1998 TV adaptation for Welcome To Paradox (was very faithful), emotional, internal, the weird framing style device, is it NEW WAVE?, J.G. Ballard, an ancient version of the singularity, the reader needs to do a lot more work, Day Million by Frederik Pohl, who is the narrator talking to?, “Listen zombie, believe me…”, the truth is in question, Scott is falling down the Jesse Well, Evel Knievel, media and money, someone goes time traveling, the sharp faced lad, Luke goes biblical, why do we need firm ground?, P. Burke, a media controlled dystopia, post-modern stream of consciousness, its set in the 1970s, “Nixon Unveils Phase 2″, a loopy temporal anomalyizer project, bringing the horrible future into being, investment opportunities, what do people do in this future?, the Wikipedia entry on product placement, “gods”, media consumers, Kyle Marquis @Moochava tweet: “Yearly reminder: unless you’re over 60, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.”, dystopic is this?, reserving the word dystopia, “a bad place”, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a world community, “the world is a dystopia for poor people”, buying into it, required consumption, a softer opt-in dystopia, Wool by Hugh Howey, the lack of truth, the six people in the GTX tower, Rupert Murdoch, government control vs. corporate control, biography of Anonymous, Wikileaks, Amazon.com, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, Russia, Jony Ive, Jeff Bezos, Google, this one person, this relationship, the emotional part of the story, a suicide attempt, “her eyes leak a little”, the godlings, media stars, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the family and the fourth wall, a tax-dodge marriage, the narrator is full of contempt for everything, a soap opera and the show around that, Jean Harlow‘s story, the actress in that movie vs. the person in that life, her Prada bag, her Jimmy Choo, her iPhone 6, the meta-story, the movies remind us why they’re famous, South America, they’re just shows that happen to love soap (not soap operas), another allusion, Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson, Rima the Bird Girl, Audrey Hepburn, tragic end, “your brain is a dystopia for you”, tragedy, what of the empty body?, the best expression of the system, a plastic brain, a red herring?, was she trying to kill her biological body?, plugged in emotionally, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, old man becomes young woman, grandfatherly lust, P. Burke thinks she is Delphi, The Matrix, if this is the start of the technology, The Beautiful People by Charles Beaumont, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, vat-grown avatars, Wii miis, World Of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, unique trumps beauty, the second smartest man in the world, scars are cool, trans-humanism, did anyone enjoy this book (story)?, Jenny loves this story, Scott liked it, the value of short fiction, James Triptree, Jr. writing is not like other people’s, it feels like an artifact, hey you daddy-o, Luke is the dissenting voice, Luke doesn’t like short fiction very much, Rudy Rucker’s Software and Wetware, Cory Doctorow, the futuristic patois, Luke doesn’t like the punk in cyberpunk, “it kind of just flops there”, KCRW’s Bookworm, Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, using people, “the real hairy thing…love?”, the narrator’s cynicism, Isaac Asimov’s thoughts on New Wave, New Wave as the literary version of SF, style over content, what Rudy Rucker was doing, what is the first cyberpunk book?, Anne McCaffrey’s short story The Ship Who Sang, what it’s not, who wants straightforward?, addressing the reader directly, Peter Watts, infodumping, “As you know Jim…”,
On this day I want to tell you about, which will be about a thousand years from now, there were a boy, a girl and a love story. Now although I haven’t said much so far, none of it is true. The boy was not what you and I would normally think of as a boy, because he was a hundred and eighty-seven years old. Nor was the girl a girl, for other reasons; and the love story did not entail that sublimation of the urge to rape and concurrent postponement of the instinct to submit which we at present understand in such matters. You won’t care much for this story if you don’t grasp these facts at once. If, however, you will make the effort, you’ll likely enough find it jam-packed, chockfull and tiptop-crammed with laughter, tears and poignant sentiment which may, or may not, be worth while. The reason the girl was not a girl was that she was a boy.
“There’s a great future there”, All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein, it’s not a time travel story?, newspapers, typewriters, telegrams, has writing gotten worse or is it just evolving?, brid -> bird, Luke thinks it’s all cyclical, this is just another princess, this is Princess Diana’s story, we are complicit, the message, everyone should have to read the news in a second language, being two steps removed from current events, the value of the short story (it’s short), speed dating books, good luck.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #221 – Jesse and Jenny talk about audiobook NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.
Talked about on today’s podcast:
“Spaaaaaaaaace and Military Sci-Fi and Aliens”, Humans by Matt Haig, Mark Meadows, Simon & Schuster Audio, Publisher’s Weekly, Jenny is a librarian, Douglas Adams, The Radleys, Boo Radley’s family?, The Simpsons Futurama Crossover Crisis, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Red Dwarf, Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, a whole pile of stereotypes, Space Magic by David D. Levine, Tk’tk’tk, Escape Pod, aliens, Ancient China, Rewind, The Tale Of The Golden Eagle, are author collections more rare these days?, Charley The Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely, Twitter authority, Jenny’s stereotypical powers, “Classic/Epic/Traditional Fantasy (swords! magic! etc!)”, unclothed unicorns, A Discourse In Steel by Paul S. Kemp, Nick Podehl, Angry Robot, Brilliance Audio, Bryce L., Jenny’s fault!, Elisha Barber by E.C. Ambrose, James Clamp, terpkristin, historical epic fantasy, a biblical name, the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons = Doctor -> to Mr., Ms., or Mrs., The Coming Of The Ice by G. Peyton Wertenbaker, urban fantasy, Cast In Shadow by Michelle Sagara, Khristine Hvam, “something is stirring again”, “vaunted”, Gameboard Of The Gods by Richelle Mead, Emily Shaffer, Penguin Audio, Dawn V., Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, ONAN, The United States of North America, H20 (TV miniseries), a crime novel set in the future, steampunk, Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., Luke Daniels, Springheeld Jack, fun names, do we have aliens in steampunk?, high-octane steampunk?, Rose Davis, cyberpunk, post-humans, robots, iD (Machine Dynasty #2) by Madeline Ashby, Luke Daniels, self-replicating human robots must have rights too!, The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction 5 edited by Allan Kaster, Tom Dheere, Nancy Linari, Dara Rosenberg, Infinivox, Invisible Men by Christopher Barzak, Close Encounters by Andy Duncan, Bricks, Sticks, Straw by Gwyneth Jones, Arbeitskraft by Nick Mamatas, The Man by Paul McAuley, Nahiku West by Linda Nagata, Tyche And The Ants by Hannu Rajaniemi, Katabasis by Robert Reed, The Contrary Gardener by Christopher Rowe, Scout by Bud Sparhawk, katabasis as a trip to the underworld, Carniepunk by Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Meding, Candace Thaxton, Kirby Heyborne, Simon & Schuster, Sweeney Todd, carnival themed, Joyland by Stephen King, Like Water For Elephants, The Night Circus, The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans And Their Epic Quest For Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, Edward Herrman (the grandpa on Gilmore Girls), At The Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Charlie Chan At The Olympics, Mary Lou Retton, Doctor Jekyll And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Wayne June, Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, Jesse thinks Wayne June is awesome, not scary but chilling, Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Jenny hates censorship!, a horrifying book, Mike Bennett’s narration of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, this horrible wonderful book, necessary but not shown, From Hell, Johnny Depp, Jack The Ripper, Watchmen, what would that do to our world?, The Fall (TV miniseries), Gillian Anderson, Dexter, Breaking the Fourth Panel: Neonomicon and the Comic Book Frame, don’t look under the bed, angry reviews, Alan Moore is working on a new comic book series set in Providence and with H.P. Lovecraft as the main character, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft (edited by S.T. Joshi), A Good Story Is Hard To Find, The Dunwich Horror, ragged end paper?, Classic Tales Of Vampires And Shapeshifters, Mileskelly.net, The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Ghosted, Image Comics, WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer, Luke Burrage’s Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, inaudible audioboks from Audible!, podcasts have had this problem, the cost of not proof listening an audiobook or podcast is multiplied by its number of listeners, how many new audiobooks have been published through Audible Frontiers, unnecessary info-dumping, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, self-identity, Among Others by Jo Walton, statue wedding, performing as a living statue, Viking Boy, Mike Vendetti, new short audiobooks, Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction by David Seed, Brian Holsopple, “Lit Crit Punk”, how we got Rabkin, The Great Courses are now on Audible.com, TheGreatCourses.com, the popularity of MOOCs, Eric loves fairy tales, no homework!, Heartburn by Nora Ephron, Meryl Streep, thanks Eric!
Posted by Jesse Willis
Recently, Brilliance Audio sent us a stack of science fiction standards, some released on CD for the first time after being previously available on Audible, and some that are the first-time to CD. See below for descriptions, and links to previous SFF Audio readalong discussions when appropriate.
Mona Lisa Overdrive (Sprawl #3)
By William Gibson; Performed by Jonathan Davis
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2009
9 discs; 10 hours, 57 minutes
Enter Gibson’s unique world – lyric and mechanical, erotic and violent, sobering and exciting – where multinational corporations and high-tech outlaws vie for power, traveling into the computer-generated universe known as cyberspace. Into this world comes Mona, a young girl with a murky past and an uncertain future whose life is on a collision course with internationally famous Sense/Net star Angie Mitchell. Since childhood, Angie has been able to tap into cyberspace without a computer. Now from inside cyberspace, a kidnapping plot is masterminded by a phantom entity who has plans for Mona, Angie, and all humanity, plans that cannot be controlled…or even known. And behind the intrigue lurks the shadowy Yakuza, the powerful Japanese underworld, whose leaders ruthlessly manipulate people and events to suit their own purposes…or so they think.
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Mel Foster
5 discs; 5 hours, 48 minutes
After the twentieth century’s devastating series of wars, the world’s governments banded together into one globe-spanning entity, committed to peace at all costs. Ensuring that peace is the Vulcan supercomputer, responsible for all major decisions. But some people don’t like being taken out of the equation. And others resent the idea that the Vulcan is taking the place of God. As the world grows ever closer to all-out war, one functionary frantically tries to prevent it. But the Vulcan computer has its own plans, plans that might not include humanity at all.
The Game-Players of Titan
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Christopher Lane
7 discs; 7 hours, 48 minutes
Years ago, Earth and Titan fought a war and Earth lost. The planet was irradiated and most of the surviving population is sterile. The few survivors play an intricate and unending game called Bluff at the behest of the sluglike aliens who rule the planet. At stake in the game are two very important commodities: land and spouses. Pete Garden just lost his wife and Berkeley, California, but he has a plan to win them back. That is, if he isn’t derailed by aliens, psychic traitors, or his new wife. The Game-Players of Titan is both satire and adventure, examining the ties that bind people together and the maddening peccadilloes of bureaucracy, whether the bureaucrats are humans or aliens.
Time Out of Joint
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Jeff Cummings
7 discs; 8 hours
Ragle Gumm has a unique job: every day he wins a newspaper contest. And when he isn’t consulting his charts and tables, he enjoys his life in a small town in 1959. At least, that’s what he thinks. But then strange things start happening. He finds a phone book where all the numbers have been disconnected, and a magazine article about a famous starlet named Marilyn Monroe, whom he’s never heard of. Plus, everyday objects are beginning to disappear and are replaced by strips of paper with words written on them, like “bowl of flowers” and “soft-drink stand.” When Ragle skips town to try to find the cause of these bizarre occurrences, his discovery could make him question everything he has ever known.
The Mote in God’s Eye
By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; Performed by L.J. Ganser|
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2009
17 discs; 20 hours, 40 minutes
An epic novel in mankind’s first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre.
Don’t forget our readalong discussion!
Beyond This Horizon
By Robert A. Heinlein; Performed by Peter Ganim
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2009
7 discs; 7 hours, 47 minutes
Utopia has been achieved. Disease, hunger, poverty and war are found only in the history tapes, and applied genetics has brought a lifespan of over a century. But Hamilton Felix is bored. And he is the culmination of a star line; each of his last thirty ancestors chosen for superior genes. He is, as far as genetics can produce one, the ultimate man, yet sees no meaning in life.
However, his life is about to become less boring. A secret cabal of revolutionaries plan to revolt and seize control. Knowing of Hamilton’s disenchantment with the modern world, they want him to join their Glorious Revolution. Big mistake! The revolutionaries are about to find out that recruiting a superman was definitely not a good idea. . .
Don’t forget our readalong discussion!
Hybrids: Volume Three of The Neanderthal Parallax
By Robert J. Sawyer; Performed by Jonathan Davis
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2008
10 discs; 11 hours, 50 minutes
Ponter Boddit and his Homo sapiens lover, geneticist Mary Vaughan, are torn between two worlds, struggling to find a way to make their star-crossed relationship work. Aided by banned Neanderthal technology, they plan to conceive the first hybrid child, a symbol of hope for the joining of their two versions of reality.
Meanwhile, as Mary’s Earth is dealing with a collapse of its planetary magnetic field, her boss, the enigmatic Jock Krieger, has turned envious eyes on the unspoiled Eden that is the Neanderthal world . . .
Filled to bursting with his signature speculations about alternative ways of being human, exploding our preconceptions of morality and gender, of faith and love, Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy is a classic in the making, and here he brings it to a stunning, thought-provoking conclusion.
The conclusion to the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.
Posted by Jenny Colvin
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer
By Neal Stephenson; read by Jennifer Wiltsie
16 compact discs; Approx. 19 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Nanotechnology / Computer Programming / Victorian Culture / Cyberpunk /
Editor’s Note: This edition is the same recording that was released in 2001, but it has been repackaged and re-released. Back in 2003, Scott reviewed The Diamond Age after listening to it on cassette tape.
Publisher Summary: Set in twenty-first-century Shanghai, The Diamond Age is the story of what happens when a state-of-the-art interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin named Nell. Her life — and the entire future of humanity — is about to be decoded and reprogrammed.…
Review: This was my second listen of the audio version narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie, which I enjoyed more thoroughly than the first time. Perhaps the main reason for this was that I happened to listen to Oliver Twist in between and discovered that Neal Stephenson had written a wonderful homage to Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, unbeknownst to me. That is not to say that reading Oliver Twist is a requirement for liking this book, but that it is a great way to fully appreciate the author’s style in this story, which was somewhat foreign to me at first. The Diamond Age is the sort of book that has the amusing ability to make me feel both more and less intelligent than I really am. Stephenson has a style of genre bending all his own that I like to think of as Neal-punk. At times he’ll mix it with some Dickensian dialogue that makes perfect sense to me. Other times his writing flies right over my head and convinces me that I’d need a significant amount of time and effort doing research in order to get his meaning, which is okay with me. It all lends itself to the sort of layered writing that bears up well to multiple readings, getting more and more understanding and appreciation each time. That is not so say that it requires a re-read in order to enjoy, it just helped me out quite a bit. I also happen to be an avid re-reader.
The characters in this book are diverse, interesting, often funny, and easy to sympathize with, especially Nell. I would mostly recommend this to people who enjoy an esoteric story that gives you a lot of food for thought. Neal Stephenson has a bit of a reputation for writing not-so-great endings. I don’t think The Diamond Age has a cut and dried conclusion, leaving room for the listener’s own imagination to wonder about and fill in some details. I can see how this may be dissatisfying to some, but I rather like a story that leaves me thinking about it afterwards. Jennifer Wiltsie did an excellent job with the narration, smoothly going from one character’s voice to another and delivering some lovely Victorian dialogue flawlessly to my American ears. All in all, I found it to be unique, imaginative, and quite fun.
Posted by Philip