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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Neal Stephenson fans: what are your top three picks and why?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38937points) February 15th, 2010

I haven’t gotten to the Baroque Cycle yet but I’ve read the rest of his work and I obsess over every one of his books for months after…many of his books I’ve read more than once…I know that the Baroque Cycle will be a great read because it links up all the books and is a candy treat to the fans, so to speak…so far my absolutely favorite has been Anathem followed by Snow Crash and then The Diamond Age…but I love Cryptonomicon and all the others too…this is so hard…

I love Anathem because, of all his books, this world speaks to me – it speaks to me of divisions, of philosophy, of linkages to others…

I love Snow Crash because of the hackery and the viral way information can be spread…and who doesn’t love martial arts?!

I love The Diamond Age because of its focus on a young female protagonist (the horror!) that kicks so much ass and because of the focus on educating young girls…

So tell me what’s your favorite Stephenson novel or three and why?

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25 Answers

Qingu's avatar

I don’t know how I’d rank the rest of his stuff but my favorite is easily Anathem. Possibly my favorite SF book period. The last arc of that book was unbelievably cool.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Qingu yah! man, don’t get me started, lol…did you hear about Iolet the CD that comes with the book – I’ve been playing a bunch of it today

Qingu's avatar

Another reason I liked it more than his other books is because the narrator isn’t as… obnoxious.

His narration seems to get more subdued and “humble” with each book he writes. I remember it was pretty annoying in Snow Crash.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Qingu heh, especially in Zodiac – but I love that though, I love his obnoxious narrators.

jerv's avatar

I liked The Baroque Cycle, but I have to say Snow Crash is still my favorite with Cryptonomicon a close second and Diamond Age and Zodiac tying for third. I thought Anathem was well-executed for the most part, but not up to the same level as his other works. It almost didn’t seem like Neal.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jerv I know but because it felt so other-wordly, it was great

tragiclikebowie's avatar

I thought that name looked familiar. I own Quicksilver but sadly, I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tragiclikebowie yeah, Quicksilver is Part 1 of the Baroque Cycle…it’s in my kindle waiting to be read but I’m re-reading Anathem

jerv's avatar

The great thing about the dead-tree edition of The Baroque Cycle is that you can stack all three volumes and use them as a nightstand. Try that with your Kindle :D

Seriously though, you won’t be disappointed, but I think it’s best if you get all three before you get too deep into Quicksilver.

gasman's avatar

I enjoyed Snow Crash, thought Diamond Age was fantastic, and laughed out loud at satirical parts of Cryptonomicon. Haven’t tackled the Baroque Cycle yet.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jerv oh, for Stephenson’s books, I buy paper copies too

Factotum's avatar

I’m gonna go with Snow Crash, Anatham and Cryptonomicon in that order. I also have yet to read the Baroque Cycle.

jerv's avatar

Many people are intimidated by the sheer page count. Figure, many are intimidated by Cryptonomicon for that reason, and The Baroque Cycle is three times as long/thick.

FYI – the unabridged audio-book version of Cryptonomicon runs 42 hours and 53 minutes!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jerv the longer the better!

jerv's avatar

Now if I could only find unabridged audio versions of QuickSilver or any audio version of the other two….

gasman's avatar

The farther I got into Cryptonomicon the better it seemed to get. Once I’m immersed in the world of a novel (it doesn’t happen with every piece of fiction I read) then I don’t want it to end, as @Simone_De_Beauvoir already said.

PopeJaimie's avatar

Anathem, Cryptonomicon, and the Diamond Age.

I’ve read the Baroque Cycle, and it’s actually my least favorite book(s) of NS. With that said, it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of most other writers, but still. It’s not that it’s not good, it’s actually technically better than Cryptonomicon (which is set in the same storyline, sort of), but it just didn’t resonate with me much for some reason.

bridgman's avatar

SNOW CRASH: I was raised fundamentalist, so it was very fun and instructive to follow the whole Sumerian Babel infocalypse story. And I loved Fisheye and Vic, the reticent sniper. And because Fido (Semi-Autonomous Guard Unit B-782) made me go hug my dog.
CRYPTONOMICON: First NS book I read. The book “empowered” me to dig deeper in science and math, subjects that were too intimidating to me when I was a student. I appreciate how NS could take geek protagonists and make them heroes without having to shed or betray their own geekiness. I also loved re-reading it after finishing the Baroque Cycle and finding oddly tantalizing connections (like the pair of old katana swords in the trunk of Robin Shaftoe’s hot rod).
THE CONFUSION (specifically BONANZA): As that was the biggest, baddest, bestest caper/heist story I’ve ever read. It is also the last published work in which we see Enoch Root first-hand (stepping off the Minerva to catch a ride to the Solomon Islands).

Lightlyseared's avatar

Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon

evandad's avatar

Never read him, but your enthusiasm has piqued my interest.

jerv's avatar

@evandad You’re missing out.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Snow Crash, maybe simply because it’s what got me started on his books, and because it’s so geeky it hurts… then Zodiac due to my interest in the environment, this book is basically a literary orgasm for me… and then Cryptonomicon, which is just assembled so well… It looks like Anathem will have to replace one of those… but I dunno how that’ll work.

Jeruba's avatar

I’d put Snow Crash first. It was brilliantly original and did marvelous things with language, and it had a plot that was equal parts suspense thriller and nerdy magnificence.

Second place would be a tossup between Cryptonomicon and Anathem. Both were superlatively inventive, and both managed a great deal of complexity, ultimately (it seemed to me) just for the sake of complexity. Anathem created a luminous world, but I did guess the ending far too early, and I thought it was emotionally hollow. Cryptonomicon was fascinating in its parallel narratives, but it seemed just too burdened to sustain its own weight. Both made some promises that they didn’t deliver on. So I see them as flawed, and yet still brilliant, amazing, and rewarding of the investment they demanded. I don’t regret reading them.

I wouldn’t put The Diamond Age in the same league with the others. In my mind it was a grotesque best forgotten, something he did just because he could but that had no other reason for being done.

I liked In the Beginning Was the Command Line for its geeky charm; but then, I do have a long-past half career in computer programming.

jerv's avatar

@Jeruba How can you not love those meetings at the House of the Inscrutable Colonel? And I found the interplay between Judge Fang and Dr. X to be priceless.

gasman's avatar

Of the ones I have read, I’d rank them for enjoyability…
1. The Diamond Age
2. Snow Crash
3. Cryptonomicon

oops – I already answered this 6 months ago—and didn’t even remember

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