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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fall, or Dodge in HellFall, or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very hard book to review, but one thing is absolutely true:

I'm absolutely blown away by this book.

Ameristan! Lol MOAB! lol

This is definitely one of Neal Stephenson's better books. Just for the ideas and the great twisting of several tales in one, I'm already looking forward to a glorious re-read. He does lead us down a few winding paths that eventually turn out to be VERY important to the whole, and I admit to laughing out loud several times when the important bits bit me on the butt. :)

All told, it's the hundreds of wonderful details, ideas, technological problems, and the nature of our world of Lies and Truth in the Miasma (Stephenson's term for the future of the Internet) that make this an extremely memorable book, but it's the depth of the themes that go well beyond the obvious Milton's Paradise Lost that make me grin like an idiot.

My favorite is the whole perception-as-reality by way of Philip K Dick, hitting all the big points AND even throwing the scholars a bone by setting up a fantastic Manichean Heresy (Real God and the Flawed God and the temperance of Sophia.) (And for you PKD fans, look no further than Divine Invasion.

The other obvious theme connecting it to Paradise Lost is actually a subversive red herring. There's a big twist to this that makes it a lot more like PKD, including the paranoia, the corruption, and the faulty memories.

I came into this kinda expecting a single viewpoint adventure like many old SFs that take on uploaded consciousnesses and/or Hell, but you know what? This is so much better. We have many viewpoints, great adventures, and very little actual Hell except in a (you brought this with you sense). Kinda awesome when you think about it. No cheap theatrics, only an in-depth issue revolving People doing what People always do. Character-driven, with a lot of added juice.

Like several ages of mythology run by high-speed processors in the ultimate game of Life (as an afterlife), skirting the edges of a technological singularity, and wrapping it all up with a reality-based hackathon by way of a Gamer's Ultimate Quest.

I think I see the point, here. For all of us future afterlifers, let's MAKE SURE THE GAME DESIGNERS retain control over it. Please? No one wants to live an (after)life CONTROLLED BY THE BEAN COUNTERS. :)

The book has some great mirroring going on, rooting itself in near-future meatspace with tons of corporate intrigue, funny/nasty worldbuilding that put the quality of Truth on trial. The whole SF of tackling perception-as-reality is taken to new heights and multiple threads that keep twining and intertwining in really great ways. And then it takes on HUGE significance in the digital realm. Nasty significance. :)

Lordy! The Moab disaster (in more ways than one) is the very thing that sparks the Heaven 2.0 disaster! I loved that! The whole mad-god theme is great! And perfectly in-line with regular corporate madness, too. :) Why shouldn't we bring all our usual messes into the afterlife? We are, after all, only human, even when some of us become gods, angels, or incarnations of DEATH. :) lol

I had such a fun time with this, I can't even begin... or rather, I have begun, but I could keep going on forever.

Like I said, it's a really hard one to review. :) It has a lot of great depth to it that is rather MORE surprising than I ever gave it credit for, and this is coming from an avowed fanboy of Stephenson. I definitely like it more than Seveneves and Reamde. I'd have to re-read Snow Crash and Diamond Age again to see where it ranks by those. :)

I will always have Anathem as my primary love, tho. :)

BUT I think I will have to nom this one for next year's Hugo. Just for its sheer audacity and richness. :)

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