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January 8, 2009

Mini Review: Anathem [Neal Stephenson] | Posted at 12:42 AM

Anathem Book Cover

If you need a synopsis, check it out on the wiki.

What a great book, in its own right. Personally, I don't think it was better than Snow Crash but it was still awesome. I have to be fair and say that Snow Crash is my favorite just because it's so geeky in a computer way which is why I liked it so much. Anathem is geeky in a more typically sci-fi way and it is fantastic by itself, independent of Stephenson's other novels.

I listened to the Audiobook, so the unfamiliar words were a bit easier to grasp. Plus, you can really infer the meaning from the context in which its used and the dictionary entries provide a larger definition. Still, even at the end I was not 100% sure what some words were, but that was because I didn't have the book's glossary to reference.

I make note of this because when I bought the book off Audible, a user had rated it one star. They said that they couldn't understand any of the words and it made no sense. I'm glad I ignored them, I found it really interesting how as you read the book the words exist on their own, like a real language. By the end, you know and understand exactly what Fraas and Suurs are (and similar things).

Like most of Stephenson's books this one contains a lot of theoretical dialog, but in typical Stephenson way he explains through the character's questions. I think that everything was sufficiently explained and even things that were confusing aren't central to understanding what happens. The ending was awesome, it really built up.

Definitely for the nerds... I would hesitate to recommend this to a casual reader, but if space, time, and aliens interest you... well, go for it. It's not a cut and dry approach to sci-fi, Stephenson uses actual (fake?) logic to explain everything and why it works. It's not like there's an "alien" and it looks a certain way just because. There's tons of explanation for everything. Sometimes I got lost, but it will still keep you interested in between the long, drawn out dialogues.

Overall, definitely a good read as long as you make it past the first hour and a half, which you should be used to if you've read Stephenson before. If you like Stephenson, it's a must. If you're new… it may be intimidating, but as long as you enjoy interesting ideas, read it.

Buy it off Amazon or Audible

August 18, 2008

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson [Extended Review] | Posted at 3:28 PM

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Like a lot of good authors, Stephenson has books that aren't as well known but may end up being better or as good as his best-known works. This is one of those.

It is a different breed than Snow Crash, but I want to talk about this book in its own right. Diamond Age is almost a children's story, with the main character being a child who grows into an adult by the end of the book.

Here's something you have to keep in mind: Neal's books take about an hour to 2 hours to understand the world they are taking place in. He usually talks a lot and goes into a lot of detail early on, using phrases and names of things that you have no idea what they refer to. However, by about 2 hours in, you understand where everything is taking place and the world makes sense.

Since this is naturally important for any book, I didn't take off a star because of it. I really enjoy his introductions to the world that he creates, because I find myself wondering and asking questions about it.

Here's another thing to keep in mind, this book isn't for everyone... people who like technology and computing might find it more enjoyable than someone who doesn't, but I think that it can appeal to many people since it is grounded in a story about a girl growing up.

With all that said, Diamond Age is a really, really good book. You get really drawn into the characters and a lot of that has to do with the narrator and how she reads the fairy tales from the Primer, as well as the different voices she uses for other characters. Unlike some other books in Neal's stash, Diamond Age doesn't go off on long tangents about ancient Gods or religions. Some of it is there, but it has a lot more to do with destiny and abuse of technology, or "Unforeseen Consequences."

If you really liked Snow Crash, just be prepared for something a little more light-hearted and less "kick-ass action" oriented, but still highly enjoyable.

Grade: A-

One Sentence Review: The Diamond Age [Audiobook] | Posted at 3:01 PM

Diamond Age

Title:The Diamond Age, or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer
Author: Neal Stephenson
Narrator: Jennifer Wiltsie
Blurb: A young girl is raised by a book that can adapt to its surroundings and generate fairy tales. Plus other sweet stuff.
Review: An excellent read/listen, possibly not as "cool" as Snow Crash, but I thought it was really enjoyable and the narrator was awesome.
Grade: A-

Buy it from Audible

July 29, 2008

How To: Get Free Audiobooks Legally | Posted at 8:47 PM

I’ve gushed before about how I love Audible. I also calculated how much I saved.

But then it occurred to me… have I really saved much? Consider that your public library, University, or city library may well have that audiobook available to you completely free!

I wanted to know how many of my Audible books I could have gotten for free, even if I had used credits to buy them.

In Minneapolis, by checking the Minneapolis Public Library website and NetLibrary.com which you have access to if you have a library card, I found that only the following books weren’t available in either place:

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Diamond Age (unless you like phonotapes) by Neal Stephenson
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • Wyrms by Orson Scott Card
  • Lamb by Christopher Moore

That’s 5 books out of 13 books. Definitely not bad! And then consider all the ones I could potentially get.

The Minneapolis Library has teamed with NetLibrary.com which lets you check out up to 10 audiobooks at a time, with the ability to play on a portable. They last for 21 days before you have to check them in or you can renew them once for another 21 days. That’s more than enough time to get through a book if you listen regularly.

Consider my girlfriend who works 8 hours a day at a computer with no interaction… she borrowed my audiobooks and we even rented some from the library (if you don’t want to rip the CDs, use that old CD player that’s been collecting dust sitting in the basement). She can get through Pillars of the Earth in a week and a couple days since it’s 44 hours. Imagine the amount of books you could “read? with access to all this free public material!

Does this mean Audible is useless? I don’t think so. I think that next time I will check if my library has the book before buying on Audible and I’ll only use credits from now on to buy books. $15/month is 1 book a month and you save: the book price - $15. It’s still not a bad deal… just be sure to check around before you decide to buy that audiobook.

July 8, 2008

One Sentence Review: Wyrms | Posted at 6:13 PM

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Title: Wyrms
Type: Audiobook
Author: Orson Scott Card
Blurb: A teenager saves the world from a giant writhing dong.
Review: I loved it, it’s not a rehash of Tolkien, a vapid love story, or a 3 book “epic? bore and it’s sci-fi meets fantasy which is, like, double-awesome!
Grade: A+

Buy it on Audible

June 23, 2008

One Sentence Review: Snow Crash | Posted at 9:58 PM

Title: Snow Crash
Type: Audiobook
Author: Neal Stephenson
Narrator: Jonathan Davis
Blurb: A cyberpunk meets awesomeness about a half-Asian hacker who kicks ass.
Review: The ending is true to its name because it doesn’t tie up all the loose ends but it’s still very satisfying.
Grade: A-

June 10, 2008

One Sentence Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | Posted at 10:22 AM

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Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Type: Audiobook
Narrator: Jonathan Davis
Review: An awesome book, it's dark humor and very enjoyable plus Jonathan is an amazing narrator (he also does Snow Crash).
Grade: A

Buy it from Audible