Mar 31, 2011

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash

It was the best of dystopias, it was the worst of dystopias. Snow Crash mixes some of my favorite common elements of this sort of cyberpunk romp - sprawling, corporate rule, youth fads, a magic internet, random violence, hero girls - with my least favorites - programmer babble, religious pseudotheory. And it's hard not to just see it as Stephenson's take on William Gibson. I mean, Y.T. might as well be a younger, less modified Molly Millions. The franchise properties, where someone could cross the country by going from parking lot to parking lot, stand in pretty handily for The Sprawl. And so on.

But Neal's got his own ideas, his own take on the whole thing. Granted, he was writing in the 90s and had Gibson to springboard from, but he's enough of an author that I'm not trying to take anything away from him.

So, taking Snow Crash out of that context and on its own, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Except for the hacker blah blah. It's just not my cup of tea. I've never been a gamer, never been a programmer, and could care less about hearing someone talk about fucking around with computers on that level. It just leaves me flat and bored. So, actually, the fact that I dug a novel with so much of that as the main thread does say something positive.

The characters were a good time, even the side guys. The whole thing with the mafia ("You've got a Friend in the Business" - love it) as a legitimate corporation tickled me. It makes sense, of course, that in a situation where money talks and the government has little to no influence, the mob would have the structure and cash flow to be a major power player. In fact, I would love to read more about Uncle Enzo and his crew. Does Stephenson revisit them? And, of course, the Raft. I'd love to read an entire novel set there. Or maybe I have - take out some of the tech elements and you've got The Scar by China Miéville. I wonder how much of an influence this book was on that one.

Now, the religious/cultural parts. Well, hmmm. Sure, it makes sense as written. I'll buy that. It's as good a paperback theory as any I've seen. It didn't exactly knock windows in my skull, but I bet it would have given me plenty to chew on if I'd read it as a younger man.

Mar 30, 2011

Feed by M.T. Anderson


I either have to stop reading young adult dystopian novels or else somehow stop judging them by the same standards I use for adult books. Really, only a few rise to meet the challenge - A Wrinkle in Time comes to mind - but quite a few of the rest have their own strengths.

Feed is one of those. Better than most of the rest of the youth fare (if only because there's no perfect hero or last minute win), but not exactly up to the level of some of the more grown up works. I tend to enjoy this sort of corporate rule/your mind is not your own plot. I guess it falls into line with my own fears and suspicions. I have a weird love/hate with commercials and advertising. I like to unpack it, try to work out how an ad is supposed to make us do what the company wants. It's all just propaganda, and I'm fascinated by it. On the other hand, it's easy for me to look at it on a technical level, because I don't make enough money to actually buy anything.

That being said, the idea of all this bullshit - ads, chat, plans, pop culture - running through my mind constantly is, of course, hellish. That's some Harrison Bergeron shit right there. And I'm not just saying that kids should read that story and not bother with Feed (although, if they are going to pick up just one, I bet you can guess the one I would suggest). Anderson does some interesting stuff, both stylistically and storywise. Speech tattoos, for instance, that require you to include one particular word in every sentence - that's the kind of detail I think about afterward.

Okay, I read this at least six months ago, so I'm probably forgetting some of what I wanted to discuss about it. That being said, that I remember so much from this book shows that at least some of it was worth holding onto.

Mar 27, 2011

Dayworld by Philip José Farmer


Well, Farmer tried with this one. I mean, the concept was good. How to divide up the world evenly when you have too many people? When there is not enough land, can we do it by time? And how much would we miss the length of spring or summer if we got the full span of life over time?

Unfortunately, the whole is less than its parts. This whole book came across as very 70s despite having been published in 1985. It had a few pleasant quirks - the idea of fads being different by day and having to navigate that as you crossed from one into the other was fun. But I didn't care much about the mystery or the characters or the final, far too long chase.

I have both the sequels. I'll give the first a try. There was enough that I enjoyed that it deserves a second look, but not enough that I'm holding out much hope.

a year off is probably enough

Things are going to shit here in Florida and all around the US due to stupid people managing to get more power than they should be trusted with. Things are going to shit across the globe due to forces both natural and calculated. And Big Brother is definitely watching us!

I find myself drawn back into the dystopian world. Sort of like where I live now, except with the possibly of hope usually shining through somehow in the end.