I loved Neal Stephenson‘s Cryptonomicon. I thought he had really fulfilled the promise of Snow Crash–which had some great ideas, some romping and rollicking storytelling, but way too much lecturing. Diamond Age and Zodiac were fun, but just didn’t quite satisfy deeply enough. But in Cryptonomicon, by abandoning (pretty much) SF, Stephenson gave me a massive novel, consistently interesting and engaging, with characters who seemed real, some laughs and thrills, but maybe not quite enough emotional investment.
So when I got to Quicksilver, I was expecting it to be an improvement on Cryptonomicon, and I was terribly excited to read it. Finally, though (and it took me around 800 pages to admit it), I was disappointed. There were long stretches which were (like Snow Crash) too lecture-y, and just plain dull. And the emotional component was, again, missing.
I delayed, for that reason, for a long time before finally plunging into The Confusion. Boy, did I make a mistake! The Confusion is terrific. It seems that Quicksilver was a necessary first step, because with that foundation, Stephenson managed to make The Confusion a total blast. This time he weaves in the lecturing info-dumps much more neatly, and the parallel stories work together perfectly, and I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner. It’s great fun, exciting, and there’s some true emotion, with some cutting irony, and you can begin to care about the characters, and there are some truly grimace-worthy anachronistic puns (“These Vagabond boots are longing to Stray”), and all in all I have to say that I’d gladly read it again, and I’m eagerly looking forward to volume 3, The System of the World, next week.