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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2003-12-08 19:34
  Subject:   Stephenson's _Quicksilver_: Mostly a waste of time
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Lately it seems that Neal Stephenson, my favorite author for about the last five years due to his early works like Zodiac and Snow Crash, has contracted a severe case of Stephen King disease. In short, his books are just too damn long and have too much pointless exposition. Which brings us nicely a case in point and the subject of this review: Quicksilver.

I don't want to bash the book, or call it a bad book. It's not lacking in intelligence or wit, and certainly not in historical research. What it is lacking, just like King's later books, is an editor who isn't afraid to cut out all the filler. Stuff that doesn't particularly contribute to the story. This stuff, no matter how well written, is filler. And this book is (pardon the phrasing) stuffed with it. I take no points away from Stepenson here. To judge by his characters, the man must have a genius level IQ. And, as I said, there is no shortage of historical research or authenticity. But if I wanted to know about the court customs of mid-17th century France, I would pick up a history book. For my pleasure reading, I mostly want to be entertained. For that you certainly may call me unsophisticated, or even unintelligent if you like. Never the less, measured with the ruler of being interesting and entertaining to read, this book doesn't come anywhere near justifying its 916 page length.

I think I saw a comment in JWZ's LJ, when he asked about this book, that authors basically cannot make a living writing short books any more. So if they want to be able to write and also pay their bills, they have to churn out these unbelievably tiresome, boring, thousand page opuses - and several sequels to boot. I don't know if that's true or not, but if it is I can't blame Stephenson for doing what he has to do. After all, if he writes too many pages and his editors are afraid to cut them, who is really harmed? (Expect perhaps a few additional trees...)

In any event, I don't recommend this book. And based on the strength (or lack thereof) of Cryptonomicon and also this cinder block, I don't think I'm going to bother to even flip through the two coming novels in this series. (Whose covers are shown inside the back of the dust jacket.) If you want to read good Stephenson, get yourself a copies of Snow Crash and Zodiac. Read Diamond Age if you must, and Big U if you don't mind incoherency. Interface is also a fun book he wrote under a psuedonym. But stick with his early works. His latest stuff is far too much filler, far too little plot.

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  User: nickhalfasleep
  Date: 2003-12-09 17:25 (UTC)
  Subject:   Isn't secure.
Dang. Should've gotten some beer instead.

-Nick
Opposite of the book, first things clicking, then the buzz.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2003-12-09 17:41 (UTC)
  Subject:   Don't mean to be ungreatful...
I really do appreciate you going to the trouble of not only getting me a copy, but getting Stephenson to sign it too. I don't think anyone knew how badly thing book was going to flop.


-Ben
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Nikkou: mouse
  User: jumblies
  Date: 2003-12-09 17:56 (UTC)
  Subject:   I get to ask a question BECAUSE..
Keyword:mouse

I'm going on a plane in a few hours and may die (probably to the greater good of mankind, but..)

sooo.. what esle do you regret?
(Answer must have nothing to do with me, okay?)

Right, don't take too long, answer this before I maybe die!
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2003-12-09 18:32 (UTC)
  Subject:   I don't have many regrets...
Generally I think about what I'm do carefully enough to be aware of the possible consequences.

The only really big one I can think of is not finding some way to keep Pa-Chan in the US. I mean yeah, there are other little things. I regret pushing that girl over in the playground in 6th grade. (Even if she did start it.) I regret being stupid that one time when I was 22 and not looking carefully enough at what the car ahead of me was doing and thus crinkling the right front quarter-panel of my Civic.

Those few aside, I generally have either done exactly what I wanted, or done what was necessary to survive. And I have no regrets about either of those.

Good luck on your trip!


-Ben
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Nikkou
  User: jumblies
  Date: 2003-12-10 08:57 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: I don't have many regrets...

Yes, one doesn't hear much of that from you (and toooo much of everything esle, and thus probably why no Qs for you..)

Wait till I come back (just before Christmas!) and then start your "Tell me or say anything about me" thread. No ip addresses of cos... ;)

Or drats! perhaps I've already missed that... :D
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2003-12-10 16:35 (UTC)
  Subject:   Yup, you did.
http://www.livejournal.com/users/mackys/74389.html

-Ben
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Nikkou
  User: jumblies
  Date: 2003-12-10 17:46 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: Yup, you did.
I didn't miss that one, twerp. Tho I didn't have much time to spend on it, it's true... scarf.. shoes..

Not ask you, tell you what they think of you.

-still packing.
yes, faster if I go offline, haha! byee!

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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2003-12-10 23:27 (UTC)
  Subject:   Oh, that.
Not ask you, tell you what they think of you.

Sounds fun! I'll do that one sometime post-Xmas...


-Ben
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