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Wednesday reading

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson.
I figured out why Stephenson's books are so long. It's because they feature sentences like this:

And also so they could give the peoples of the world some agency. ... "Agency," in the lingo of the sorts of people who had set up this announcement, meant giving people options, giving them some things that they could do to have an effect - imaginary or not.

I've read similarly 3rd-grade-level explanations of, for example, Soyuz spacecraft. At the time I assumed he just wanted to be clear for any non-scientific audience, but now I don't know what audience he's going for. And even supposing your audience is familiar with neither agency nor the Soyuz spacecraft, there are more elegant and less patronizing ways to convey that information. Was he this bad back in the day, like in Cryptonomicon? Maybe he was and I just didn't notice.

In any case, I'm maybe ~60 pages into a 860-page book. This'll be a while.

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho.
I found this pleasant but not entirely satisfactory. The jacket cover suggests comparisons to Heyer and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but it has too much serious subject matter for the former and none of the ambitiousness of backstory, worldbuilding, and footnotes of the latter. Someone suggested that perhaps I'd like it better on a second read, now that I know what to expect, and I think that might be true. Even then, the ending seemed weak, and I suspect I will still want more worldbuilding.

In any case, it is a Regency fantasy romp with familiars and magicians and also lots of women, people of color, and examination of various forms of oppression. If that is your sort of thing, then I suspect you would enjoy it.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
I finished this a bit ago. It was suitably psychologically twisted, as I'd hoped, although it lacked the building menace of Haunting of Hill House. I couldn't decide if the reveal towards the end of the book was actually intended to be a reveal, since I'd assumed it to be true since about page two. Anyway, a very Jackson book. I want to read more of her novels.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comment here or there. (comment count unavailable DW replies)


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2015 12:14 am (UTC)
Pleasant but not entirely satisfactory was my verdict on Sorcerer to the Crown too, though for me it wasn't a world-building issue but a shallowness-in-characters-and-relationships issue? Different priorities! That said, it's hard to get too critical when the representation was so good.
Nov. 5th, 2015 12:24 am (UTC)
I had trouble with shallowness-of-characters, too, but I second-guessed myself about adding it to my review, because at least I could describe some characteristics for each of the main characters. But yeah. :\
Nov. 8th, 2015 01:03 pm (UTC)
I bought it on Kindle and so didn't read the back; my one-sentence review would have been 'Strange and Norrell for people who like social justice and P. G. Wodehouse', the latter perhaps capturing the romp and shallowness aspects of the book (and the aunts). That said, I enjoyed it; I think I got over the backstory thing by reading it as if it were Strange and Norrell fanfic at some level and importing some from there.
Nov. 8th, 2015 02:35 pm (UTC)
I think my problem is that ultimately I find "'Strange and Norrell for people who like social justice and P. G. Wodehouse" a bit awkward as a combination of story elements, and this did not persuade me otherwise. :\
Nov. 5th, 2015 01:51 am (UTC)
You're a brave gal to persevere through that. I don't think I could deal with Seveneves and those sentences. I don't mind long books or complex sentences - as long as the book is long and the sentences are complex for a reason. That sounds like a book simply in dire need of editing down.

But We Have Always Lived in the Castle sounds interesting - I'll have to check it out!
Nov. 5th, 2015 01:54 am (UTC)
Well, I did enjoy Cryptonomicon! I've always classed him as "enjoyably self-indulgent" in my head. But at this point the self-indulgence seems to be manifesting as, like you say, a desperate need for an editor.
Nov. 5th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
I hadn't heard of Neal Stephenson before, but looked him up after you mentioned him here, and he has quite a following. That seemingly over-indulgent narrative style must be working on a lot of other levels. I might just have to check out Cryptonomicon, too!
Nov. 5th, 2015 03:42 am (UTC)
Be warned he's not great at female characters. Or endings. But the beginnings and middles, hoo boy. :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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