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Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 7, 2012
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From the Back Cover
One of the most talented and creative authors working today, Neal Stephenson is renowned for his exceptional novels—works colossal in vision and mind-boggling in complexity. Exploring and blending a diversity of topics, including technology, economics, history, science, pop culture, and philosophy, his books are the products of a keen and adventurous intellect. Not surprisingly, Stephenson is regularly asked to contribute articles, lectures, and essays to numerous outlets, from major newspapers and cutting-edge magazines to college symposia. This remarkable collection brings together previously published short writings, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as a new essay (and an extremely short story) created specifically for this volume.
Stephenson ponders a wealth of subjects, from movies and politics to David Foster Wallace and the Midwestern American College Town; video games to classics-based sci-fi; how geekdom has become cool and how science fiction has become mainstream (whether people admit it or not); the future of publishing and the origins of his novels. Playful and provocative, Some Remarks displays Stephenson's opinions and ideas on:
- The Internet, our dwindling national attention span, and the cultural importance of books and bookishness
- Waco, religion, and the cluelessness of secular society
- Metaphysics and the battle between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
- The laying of the longest wire on Earth—and why it matters to you
- Technology, freedom, commerce, and the Chinese
- How Star Wars and 300 mirror who we are today and what that spells for our future
- Modern Jedi knights, a.k.a. scientists and technologists, and why they are admired and feared by both the left and the right
By turns amusing and profound, critical and celebratory, yet always entertaining, Some Remarks offers a fascinating look into the prismatic mind of this extraordinary writer.
About the Author
Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Top Customer Reviews
If you doubt this, read this book. Here Stephenson includes some great and some less than great essays, which can be sorted by their publication dates. The clarity of expression and complexity of thought of the 21st century Stephenson plainly exceed that of his younger self. Comparing 2010's "Metaphysics in the Royal Society" or 2008's "Gresham College Lecture" to 1994's "Spew" or "In the Kingdom of Mao Bell" is like comparing the full moon to fireworks: the latter are flashy but not very illuminating; the former is what it is.
The fulcrum, the turning point when it all changed, is Stephenson's indispensable "Mother Earth, Mother Board." The first full flowering of Stephenson's mature style, it appeared in "Wired" one year after "The Diamond Age" and three years before "Cryptonomicon." I always felt that it deserved to have been published as its own book. Now it forms the heart of this one, supplemented by pieces that teach as much about writing as about the technologies and subcultures they explore.
By the way, the subject matter of the essays is always important and fascinating, and Stephenson's take is invariably invaluable. He is not just a techno-geek: his social engagement and historical perspective make his work not just commentary but prescription. To read this book is to be educated, entertained, and chastened, reminding one of the Puritans Stephenson both admires and in many ways resembles.
The heart of this collection, though, is the essays, which range from a couple of pages long to over a hundred pages, novella-length in its own right. Stephenson covers many subjects here, from introducing other writer's works to metaphysics at the Royal Society, to describing the laying of trans-oceanic telecommunications cable to discussing the state of science fiction today. As one would expect from Stephenson, he writes intelligently and with humor about all these subjects and many more. I never would have thought that an essay on laying telecom cable would be interesting, but I was sucked into this article and read it in a single sitting, over a hundred pages of it.
I really liked the fact that these pieces covered such a broad range of subjects and were of such varied lengths. I didn't know Stephenson could write anything under 300 pages long, so the shorter pieces were a pleasant surprise. Sometimes I wished he would expound more on the shorter bits, such as his discussion of "Anathem", and the interviews with Slashdot and Salon were also pretty interesting and easily could have been longer.
Overall, this is a thoughtful collection that should please and reward you with chuckles and the occasional, "Huh, I didn't know that." I was particularly interested in Stephenson's take on the state of science fiction today, which he brings up in several of these pieces. I wanted to hear him talk more about his own books, though, which doesn't much occur herein, and I could have used a couple more short stories. This book is a strong work that doesn't disappoint, and it should give you a dozen hours of reading enjoyment.
Mr. Stephenson is the rare writer who combines deep technical domain knowledge with a literary style that is both erudite and refreshing. Understanding and enjoying his level of communication takes a bit of work, but it is well worth it - like savoring a delicious steak that requires some savory chewing. In this far-ranging collection, the author tackles The Internet, Metaphysics and the battle between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, scientists as modern Jedi knights, a deconstruction of the movies Star Wars and 300 - and a whole lot more.
I always get to the last page of a Stephenson book, and then jump on Amazon to order something else by him to read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stephenson is a kind of polymath, and this collection shows it. All is interesting, and you can see some stuff that wound up in his novels. Read morePublished 10 months ago by MG CT
Intelligent. Interesting. Fun. It's Neal Stehenson - what else is there to say!Published 12 months ago by C. Greene
Since these are essays, it has no plot. Interesting to hear personal viewpoints of Stephenson that are not assumptions drawn from his novels. Read morePublished 14 months ago by skip little
Stephenson, as most who have read his novels would agree, is a person who can take a boring subject, research it to death, then write about it in a snappy, funny and informative... Read morePublished 16 months ago by arcarc_reviews
Stephenson is at his best wrestling with interesting ideas.Published 21 months ago by Karl Gallagher
This is a great read, especially for Neal Stephenson fans who are interested in the research behind books like Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycles. Read morePublished on August 23, 2014 by willsmartin44
Since the author has a double trajectory. the book should be better without the.insistence in addressing only compulsive SciFi readers. Read morePublished on August 13, 2014 by Jose Sanchez Alarcos
You have to be a fanboy to purchase and like this book, l am, and did, but may not have wider appeal.Published on January 3, 2014 by Amazon Customer