Henrik Carlsson's Blog

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I’m currently relistening1 to Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves and just like the first time around I really like it. I have been falling behind on books lately but this past weekend I felt like listening to something and I was completely burnt out on podcasts so I decided to go back to this one. It’s so grand in scope and such a thrill-ride and then parts of it is, despite it’s dire subject matter, sort of a cozy book to me. Yes, the situations the characters are in are terrible and they have to make some tough choices but is competent people making the best out of their situation, solving problems as they come up. That is apparently something that really speaks to me.

I started listening on Saturday and today (Wednesday) I finished part two of the book. Oh, speaking of nothing in particular in the book, this post will be full of spoilers for the book. The intended reader is somebody who has read the book, or who doesn’t give a shit about being spoiled. Alright, moving on.

As I was saying, I finished part two of three today and I haven’t started on part three yet, so anything I write about ”5000 years later” will be based on my memory from my first time through the book. That being said, I think the first and the third part are the best ones. The second part drags from time to time.

Part One

The first part is just fantastic. The opening is great. I quoted and raved about the opening sentences on my first listen of it but it’s not just those lines. The first couple of chapters are amazing. It draws me in from the first sentence and then keeps it up, without it feeling ”cheap” like som page-turners can feel. The way the ending of one section can so nicely translate into the beginning of another, even thought the latter one is from the perspective of a different person and/or some time later gives it a really nice flow.

There’s also a clear way that things are heading. Maybe not as clear as a goal but at least I as the reader know that we are moving toward The White Sky and The Hard Rain and that everybody needs to to everything they can before those events.

Part Two

I’ve been thinking a lot about part two during this listen. I don’t really have a problem with long asides about orbital mechanics or other things. On the contrary actually, I love those asides in novels. So that’s not the problem with this part of the book.

Also in my mind, part one goes on up until Dinah telegraphs repeated ”QRT QRT QRT” to he father. To me, that’s where part one ends and part two begins.

I think the problem with part two is two-fold. It doesn’t have as clear of a narrative goal as part one. It feels like there’s a continuous struggle to get somewhere, but where that somewhere is isn’t quite clear. At times that makes it extra tense, which is good, but at other times it feels like it’s not really going anywhere.

The second problem is that it’s in part two that the main characters makes some really stupid decisions, decisions that feels out of character for them. For the first part of the novel people make the best they can out of a terrible situation, and they do it by making rational choices. Sometimes the choices are hard to make, but it’s still rational. In the second part, we have the situation with J B F.

When she shows up at the Cloud Ark, it’s in clear violation of the Crater Lake Accord. The clause about no world-leaders being allowed to be sent up seems like such an important one. Her role wasn’t to escape to orbit. Her role as president was to die with the people. Since she cowardly abandoned that, when she asked permission to come about Ivy should have declined. Yes, that’s grim, but so is nuking people the way J B F did, though given the circumstances, doing that was the right choice.

Failing to decline Julia, once she has been allowed to the Ark, once all hell has broken lose, and once Aïda is calling asking to get back to Endurance, the answer should once again have been no. She and the other’s chose to leave the Ark and to go on their own so F off and good luck.

Obviously I’m writing this with hind-sight but my memory is pretty clear on me feeling this on my first go through the book, when the situations first unfolded, as well.

And again failing that, once there on Cleft holding The Council of the Seven Eves, how, HOW can they allow Aïda and Julia to be part of the future of the human race. I get that killing them, a quarter of the human race at that point, would have been a really hard decision, but one that Tekla was ready to make. But they wouldn’t have had to do that. Let them live, but don’t assist them in having children. Particularly Aïda is so clear with her intentions, letting her build her own clan when the others could have just as easily refused her seems so illogical.

That being said, without these choices there wouldn’t have been a part three. And I love part three. Well, I loved it the first time around. Let’s find out tomorrow if I still do.

  1. I have a really hard time deciding whether I should call it listening or reading, when I’m not the one doing the actual reading of a book. 
posted this read on and tagged it with Neal Stephenson Reading Seveneves
Read Seveneves

Last week I finished Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. In short I loved it. Best book in quite a while. I’ll write a more in-depth review soon, hopefully.

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I’m 236 pages (just started Part 2) in to ”Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson and I’m absolutely loving it. This is the kind of nerdy topics, full of even nerdier digressions that I love.

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The Moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason. It was waxing, only one day short of full. The time was 05:03:12 UTC. Later it would be designated +0.0.0, or simply Zero.

Neal Stephenson, Seveneves

That’s a great opening to a book.

(The lawn needed mowing today, so I bit the bullet and started listening to this one.)

Fall; or Dodge in Hell

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Read Fall; or Dodge in Hell

Today I finished listening to Fall; or Dodge in Hell. It was quite a thrill ride but I wouldn’t mind if it had been just half or 2/3 as long. Longwinded digressions and extreme detail seems to be a hallmark of Stephenson and a lot of times it does help build the world but at times it gets tedious.

Before I make it sound like I didn’t like it, let me make it clear that I did. I liked it very much. Parts of it was great.

In Stephenson’s own words it’s two books in one. One is a near future techno-thriller and the other one a high fantasy novel. The techno-thriller is about the unexpected death of Richard ”Dodge” Forthrast whose brain gets scanned and ”rebooted” in a digital afterlife called ”Bitworld” and the goings on in the physical world around that afterlife. The high fantasy part is what takes place in ”Bitworld”.

With that out of the way I’m going to dive into specifics about the plot so stop reading this blog post and start reading the book if you want to avoid spoilers.

The techno-thriller part is simply amazing. Here the details and wordiness is nothing but positive and results in a believable and interesting near-future. I especially like the parts with the alleged nuking of Moab and the adventure into ”Ameristan”, rural parts of America where the idea of truth and science has more or less disappeared completely in the wake of what we today call fake news. That seemed like the premise of one truly great 350 pages book. Honestly, I think everybody should read the book at least for this first part. If it doesn’t work for you, stop once Dodge’s brain is ”rebooted”.

That’s the next part, the part where Dodge is ”reborn” as Egdod and creates ”Bitworld”. It’s a grand creation myth that is at times entertaining and at parts indulgent. The first stream-of-conscience part where Edgod emerges from the noise of the simulation though is great writing.

Later comes the part that I didn’t care for at all, the part about Adam and Eve. That is where I stopped the book for quite some time and felt a lot of resistance to taking it back up again. I imagine that’s where @jack got stuck, 500 pages in. The good news is that if one pushes on, it get’s better. Once the Lord of the Rings-esque tale of Prim begins I was hooked again.

I was wondering how a book like this could conclude. How does one end this kind of story? In the End Stephenson managed to wrap it up in a suitable way, without it feeling too contrived.

So that’s it. Again, you should all read this book. It’s not the greatest book, but it’s very interesting, quite topical in the world today, and entertaining.

Side note: If you, like me, read the parts about Moab and the road trip through rural America, and watch Folding Ideas’s ”In Search of a Flat Earth” video more or less simultaneously, you will see the dystopian fantasy of Ameristan doesn’t seem at all like a fantasy.

posted this note on and tagged it with Fall; or Dodge in Hell Neal Stephenson Reading

The reading continues. After finishing Life 3.0 I resumed my listening of Neal Stephenson’s Fall; or Dodge in Hell. This one is a wild ride. Such an interesting premise and great start, then kind of slow for while and now (Prim’s journey) it’s great again.

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