Archive: June 2, 2015

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SciPunk nostalgia

Tuesday,  06/02/15  06:50 PM

books by Neal Stephenson ... one is not like the othersTwo of my favorite authors are Neal Stephenson and William Gibson.  They've each written one of my very favorite books (Stephenson: Cryptonomicon, and Gibson: Pattern Recognition), and a lot of their other old stuff are classics (Stephenson: Snow Crash, and Gibson: Neuromancer).  But sadly each has recently released a crummy new book, and I just can't get into either one (Stephenson: Seveneves, and Gibson: Peripheral).  Blech.

As I look through my Kindle archives I find I'm experiencing a kind of SciPunk nostalgia; it seems all those older books are so much better than all these newer books.  Is it really true that they were better, in some sense?  Or have my sensibilities changed, so that no new book would seem good?  Or maybe it takes some soak time before a book really feels good?

Today I was having lunch by myself, and I just could not bring myself to keep reading Seveneves.  It is inventive but ... boring!  There is no excitement, no mystery, no good and evil, and perhaps worst of all, no truly interesting ideas.  You would think a book about the Moon blowing up and the end of the Earth would be chock full of cool new ideas, but [sadly] you would be wrong.  I'm about a third of the way in, and it's a slog.

So I decided to switch back to reading Peripheral, which I had previously stopped reading because it, too, was ... boring!  Gibson likes to keep you guessing, but in order to enjoy that you have to have a stake in figuring it out.  With this story - or should I say these stories, because there are two - I can't seem to care; the effort to track it all just isn't paying off.  Once again there are no truly interesting ideas.  I'm about a third of the way in, and I don't care.

Sometimes you have to hang in there for a while before a book gets good.  But the great books grab you from the first page and don't let you go; you can't wait to steal a few minutes to revisit their worlds.  I've kind of struck out here.  So I decided to re-read an old favorite in a different ilk, The Most Human Human, by Brian Christian.  Plenty of great ideas in there, and many of them well worth revisiting.  And thought provoking too.  So be it.

Perhaps I just needed a dose of humanity :)



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