I met Neal Stephenson once at a book signing in Austin, TX for his novel Quicksilver. If I knew then what I know now after reading the massive book I would not have shaken his hand-I would have given him 5 fingers across the face.
The book was to put it mildly; long winded, overly detailed, and desperately in need of a better editor (it took me a good 5 months to read the 916 pages).
“If it was so bad why did I keep reading it?” Because the only 2 people who I know who tried to read it gave up after about 300 pages. I wasn’t going down like that. So I marched on. On through several English Kings, multiple wars, and characters that I really didn’t care that much about.
The book had it moments but they were split up between massive amounts of longwinded nothingness that rarely moved the story forward. If Stephenson would have cut these parts down and written a 500 book it might have been much better.
Quicksilver is the first of three books in the Baroque Cycle. The next two, The Confusion and System of the World, came out within a year of Quicksilver (they came out in 6 month intervals). He also wrote them all long hand.
I got respect for Stephenson though. He does his homework and knows his stuff. I can’t count how many times things he has written about are now coming true. Smart paper anybody? But he needs to learn to let go, to cut some of it out.
In the end I cannot recommend this book. I will eventually tackle the other two books in the series…eventually and after a heavy night of drinking at The Pub. In the meantime I hope Stephenson gets back to writing some Sci-Fi that doesn’t take place in the late 1600’s.