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Early Neal Stephenson re-released -- and its good

By Andrew Pollack on 07/31/2005 at 09:56 PM EDT

While I don't read at the rate of Duffbert (few do), I do read quite a bit of both fiction and I've finished the second of two books I picked up just before the trip to Las Vegas. The books, titled "Interface" and "The Cobweb" are re-released under the authors Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George. Originally, these were released under the pseudonym Stephen Bury. Interface was the first, published in 1994 and the other in 1996.

I hold re-releases like this --- a sort of "before they were famous" kind of thing -- with suspicion. I'm glad I asked the owner of the bookstore here I bought these. Its nice being in a small town, as the independent dealer really knows her stock. The story from her is that at this point Stephenson was acting as the pros talent for George's ideas, but she assured me the writing was clearly Stephenson. After reading the books, I'd have to agree -- at least about the writing part.

Of the two, I really liked 'Interface' better than 'The Cobweb' though both are pretty good. They both do what we liked so much about Cryptonomicon. That is, they make us part of the inside story. At the core of the powers that be in Stephenson's books is a deeply cynical structure that needs to be busted open. The middle part of Interface takes us deep into the most cynical part of an election process. The description (accurate or not, it doesn't really matter) is so wonderfuly inside, so darkly cynical, that the actual plot of the book was entirely beside the point for me for quite a while. Of course, like the other Stephenson books, the ending wasn't easy to buy into. They always go just a step or two too far. By that point though, you've enjoyed the ride so much you really don't care.

For perspective, by the way, if you want to compare my read of Stevenson with your own -- I like Cryptonomicon, loved snow crash, and haven't read the "Baroque Cycle" at all.


There are  - loading -  comments....

Read these?By Bruce Perry on 08/01/2005 at 08:47 AM EDT
The Diamond Age and The Big U? The first is post-Snow Crash the second is
another of his early ones. Both are good in my opinion.

The Baroque Cycle was good, but it's heavy with historical detail. He's done a
good job integrating it, but if you looking for an easy read, this isn't it.
He also doesn't get in as many of his little "rants". These brief interludes
(e.g. Randy's wisdom tooth extraction in Cryptonomicon) are very often my
favorite part of Stephenson's writing.
I didn't realize those were reprintsBy Julian Robichaux on 08/02/2005 at 09:05 PM EDT
I saw both those books on Amazon a few months ago (pre-release) and added them
to my wish list, but haven't actually bought and read them yet. I read the back
covers in Borders the other day, and I remember one looked pretty interesting,
and one not so much so. But I'll probably read them both, just because.

I had no idea they were reprints though.

Another good quick read is "In The Beginning Was The Command Line". It's a long
essay more than a book, and it's Neal Stephenson going on about Windows versus
Linux (for the most part). You can either buy it or download the full text
version from:

http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html

There are some really great analogies in there, if nothing else.

- Julian


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