The hell? Two new pseudo-Stephenson books?!?!?

I was at Borders tonight picking up some new books, and I saw

and .

At first, I thought they were old Stephenson novels that he co-wrote years ago, and that they were republished to cash in on his popularity. But I’ve never heard of them before.

Then I thought it’s kind of like those Tom Clancy Op Center novels, where Clancy only puts his name on the cover and cashes in the check while some poor schmuck has to write a craptacular and contrived technothriller. But this doesn’t feel like that. Just reading over some passages and it feels very Stephenson-like, with crazy names and funny turns of phrases.

So now I’m thoroughly confused. Anyone know anything about these? For the record, I picked up Inteface on a whim, and I’ll report in once I get into it further.

IIRC, they were actually originally released with the author name ‘Stephen Bury’- Stephenson’s name was nowhere on them, and were released about ten years ago. It just seems that with his newfound mainstream (New York Times bestseller list, etc.) success since Cryptonomicon, they’re re-releasing htme with his name. I have a friend that says interface is very good, but then again, he likes Snow Crash, too, so take that how you will. :/

Yeah, he wrote them with his father-in-law under a pseudonym. They have a twinge of standard Stephenson style, and an attempt to do a bit of Tom Clancy techno-thriller. Interface is decent, but it’s no Snow Crash :).

I don’t think I ever finished Cobweb, don’t remember specifics.

If you are a Stephenson fan and haven’t read Zodiac yet, I highly recommend it. It’s got lots of flaws and its still pretty raw (its his second novel) but the damn thing rocks IMO. If they ever do a movie version of Zodiac, Jack Black is all over the Sangamon Taylor roll.


Stephenson fans exist that don’t like Snow Crash?

Interface: Presidential candidate has a stroke, has an experimental biochip implanted to help with his recovery. His political handlers use a variety of social engineering tricks to turn him into the perfect candidate.

Cobweb: Takes place in the runup to Desert Storm. Main character is an Illinois Sheriff whose wife is a National Guard medic. He discovers there’s a suspicious number of Iraqi nationals attending the local Ag college, hilarity ensues.

And no, neither of the books has a very satisfying ending.

Snow Crash was awful. Perhaps this attitude is just backlash, but I’d heard sooo much about how it was a ‘new look at cyberspace’ and how he had some ‘really cool new ideas about language theory’. What I got was watered-down W.S. Burroughs and Julian Jaynes jammed together in a mis-mash, in a completely ludicrous setting, with a absolutely wretched ending. Yeah, I know it was satire and that he was making a point but it was still lame.

Diamond Age was, on the other hand, brilliant. By the time I read it and Cryptonomicon, I’d come to realize that he isn’t so much of a brilliant thinker, he’s just really good at doing lots of reasearch, digesting it, and writing it into fiction, for those of you that aren’t able to sit through The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, for example.

As for whether his endings suck (always a topic of conversation when NS comes up), Diamond Age was the only one I was satisfied with. That said, I haven’t picke up any of the new trillogy yet- I’ve got a friend that’s reading them, however, and says that he really likes them. This is, of course the same friend that likes Snow Crash, so again with the grain of salt. :)

Snowcrash’s ending didn’t really bother me. Now Cryptonomicon I thought had a terrible ending.

Snowcrash ending Spoilers/question
[color=white]So do any people think that it’s Uncle Enzo speeding off at the end to deliver the pizza on time and the docs are looking for Raven to make sure the Nuke doesnt go off?[/color]

I didn’t care for Snow Crash much at all and I absolutely adored Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Trilogy. Snow Crash never clicked for me and I struggled to finish it. It was about eight years ago though when I read it so maybe I would enjoy it more now.

Not to sound like a broken record, but I doubt you’d like it now, but not for the reasons I posted earlier- apparently the book hasn’t aged at all well. My girlfriend is reading it right now, for the first time, and she’s being driven insane by things like the length of time he takes to describe just what an Avatar is in this cool online world he created. For people even more tech-savvy then her (she’s no slouch, but I’d imagine most members of this forum count), it’d probably be mind-numbing.

To be fair, Snow Crash itself was very likely responsible for a large part of popularizing the modern notion of the word avatar. The part of Snow Crash I enjoy is the insane burbclave vision of america. I agree the online stuff feels a bit dated.

I remember thinking how ‘cyberspace’ seemed to cliche and dated in Neuromancer, too.

And that was the book that popularized the concept…

Oh, so the problem is you’re all johny-come-latelies. :)

When I read Snow Crash it wasn’t the semiotics or the Mesopotamian stuff or the Internet I liked, it was the pizza delivery and the Samurai swords. I always thought that was the prevailing opinion.


And that was the book that popularized the concept…[/quote]

That’s why I chose the example. I somehow never read neuromancer, even though I had probably read every other cyberpunk story in the 80s. Love the Crystal Express series by Sterling, with the Shaper/Mechanist stuff for example. So when I finally read Neuromancer, well, it’s like reading Tolkein and finding that it’s full of fantasy cliches… haha

Interesting they’re now breaking out the Authors’ names.

What Stephenson said originally was that George was writing mostly textbooks, and his publishers didn’t wan’t his name on fiction.

Interface is old, I read that years ago. It was so-so, as I recall, similar to Zodiac. I hadn’t seen Cobweb though, I’ll have to look out for that.

I think Snow Crash and The Diamond Age (love 'em or hate 'em) are the works that really defined Neal Stephenson’s reputation. They’re the reason any new Stephenson is on my must-buy list. I loved both of them … the first half, anyway. His depiction of the future society - little independent city-states like Mr. Lee’s Hong Kong Republic, and the pizza Deliverator for example - are both funny and thought provoking.

The idea that a virus could be transmitted directly to the human brain by a pattern of static displayed on screen isn’t actually unthinkable - consider that Disney had to include warnings in front of Fantasia that it could trigger seizures in epileptics. Theoretically I don’t see why it might not be possible to find a pattern of static that could trigger some kind of seizure or other mental affect when viewed. Stephenson could definitely have gone in some interesting directions with this instead of going into weird nam-shub mystic babbling.

Both books had me saying “wow! I have to give this book to everybody for Christmas!” through the first half, and then “hey … what happened?” through the second half. Both books start with intriguing descriptions and ideas, then seem to degenerate into illogical mysticism towards the end. I still find them both thought provoking books to read, but I’m nonetheless deeply disappointed that neither of them turned out to be as good as I think they could have been.

Diamond Age grows on me every time I read it but it still suffers from Stephenson’s love of parallel storylines and my insistence on being hooked by one story and left totally cold by the other.

I still enjoy Snow Crash, it hasn’t aged that well, but I still remember the first time I read it and was just totally blown away by both the story and the environment he created around it. It still surprises me that no-one ever tried to make it into a film.

I’m not sure what I made of the first of the Baroque novels and as yet haven’t picked up the 2nd or 3rd parts, I think I definitely need to re-read it again. At times there are so many people being introduced and doing things that I think I just totally lost track of who was doing what to who and why.

Snow Crash was a great, great book. A little hippy-dippy about the language thing, and the librarian program was a clunky excuse to spout theories that Stephenson held dear, but the overall story was great, IF TAKEN IN CHRONO-CONTEXT.

Let’s remember that this story predated damn near everything, and managed to predict a massive chunk of what we take for granted. Of course it didn’t age well, but it’s better than pure fiction like Neuromancer.

Also, I would argue it has one of the best opening chapters ever. Granted, it’s vicarious fluff, no some Umberto Eco history lesson, but damn satisfying.


FWIW I thought Interface and Cobweb were good reads. Nothing special, but still a step above the average trashy bestseller list fiction. I love Snowcrash to bits, its a great book because he manages to weave all his little theories and pet ideas into a genuinely entertaining story. Its so rare to get the two together. Books are usually either entertaining or interesting, not both.

Another thing I like about Stepehenson is that he is pretty good at writing female characters. Most sci-fi females are fairly one-dimensional, but I found YT, Nell and Eliza to be likeable, smart, strong and sexy. That’s so rare - yes I’m looking at you Peter F Hamilton!

I’m reading part 2 of the Baroque Cycle right now, and enjoying it much more than part 1. I still find the huge list of characters confusing, but all the stories are interesting to me, so I don’t begrudge the jumping around as much. Eliza is an interestign character, I can’t quite make my mind up what to think of her, but that’s for another thread I guess.