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Old 10-29-2019, 05:23 PM
Reno Nevada is offline
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: TX
Posts: 958

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell (SPOILERS after the OP)

So, I am a fan of Neil Stephenson's work, and I just read his latest, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell. Or, well, started it, read to about page 400 of the 800 page book, got bored, and returned it to the library.

From the "Books You Couldn't Finish" thread it looked like my experience was not unique. A couple of other Dopers got part-way through before giving up.

So, anybody out there finished it yet? I did have some theories about where he was going with it at mid-point, and I would be interested in finding out (without having to read the thing myself). I did read the last page, and that had some pretty creepy or downright horrific implications, but there might well be something else going on in those last 400 pages.

If nobody made it to the end, I guess that I will never know. I can live with that.
Old 10-29-2019, 05:48 PM
Darren Garrison's Avatar
Darren Garrison is offline
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Earlier thread.
Old 10-30-2019, 10:27 AM
Small Clanger is offline
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Milton Keynes
Posts: 2,603
I didn't post in the previous thread since I was late to the party, but I have commented elsewhere.

I did finish it (do I get a medal? Commiserations?).

You probably got through the "best bits". I think the Moab fiasco and "Americistan" bits were the "high" points. IIRC the middle of the books covers (wallows though) a lot of legal/historical to-and-fro about who owns/controls the afterlife (or the servers & networks it lives in*). I also found the goings on in Egdod's realm tedious (Adam and Eve, the giant tree - all that crap), and the book ends with a Quest(!) though said realm, to free Egdod from "Hell". Which is obviously going to work out, even though long(ish) standing characters are killed/vaporised at random.

Something really (ahem) odd happens towards the end, something to do with the speed of light in the (cloud based?) afterlife. While I'm sure that was supposed to be deep (and might have lead to another 200 pages) I do not know how.

* by the end of the book it seems that most of the (real) Earth's resources are dedicated to keeping the afterlife servers running. Maybe I wasn't concentrating by then but was everyone in the world being uploaded by then?

Last edited by Small Clanger; 10-30-2019 at 10:32 AM.
Old 11-06-2019, 07:10 AM
Hari Seldon is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Trantor
Posts: 13,173
I just finished it. My wife also finished it. We are both glad we did. The first part was pretty good and the quest at the end got pretty exciting. But there was a vast middle that really dragged and should have been edited down. Of course, the end was predictable. Stephenson likes happy endings and so do I. Glad to see Sophia resurrected. But that leads to my comment. What does resurrection mean if you have lost your life's memories? Only El and maybe Verna seem to have come through with intact memories. Why? Clearly Sophia/Prim does not have Sophia's memories and then after Prim dies, Sophia is reincarnated without Prim's memories. And instead of the Tolkienesque ending of El being dragged like some magic ring into the chaos, I would have destroyed him by having him come over to see that Prim was truly dead only to find that she wasn't quite and have him unmade by her dying breath. Just retribution.

I will likely even reread it, skipping over large parts in the middle that do nothing to advance the story.
Old 11-06-2019, 11:11 AM
Knowed Out's Avatar
Knowed Out is offline
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Location: North Kakkalakee
Posts: 15,157
I had binge-read Neal Stephenson novels last year. He used many of the characters from Reamde, and Enoch Root makes a few appearances like he did from previous NS novels.

I think Stephenson's strength is his ability to come up with grandiose settings that are deeply layered and benefit from much research on his part. That makes his novels interesting to read from the beginning, but then he tends to muddle, speed up, muddle, speed up... There were so many time jumps, it disrupted my sense of continuity. The process of scanning one's brain to convert to data was established as a difficult and resource-heavy operation, but suddenly it was easy for anybody with enough money to enter the virtual afterlife. El blatantly murders Sophia, but somehow escapes justice and is already in position to take charge of the VA. There's no detail as to how he was able to get away with the crime, given that the law process could easily have held up his transformation process. The short answer is "he was rich as hell, and rich people get away with shit." Sophia's transition could be explained with having an iron-clad contract that dictates what happens to her body after she dies, but again, there's that lengthy due process thing that would have held the process up for years, possibly decades, with El's lawyers invoking every legal twist they could have mustered. Stephenson was so detail-oriented otherwise, and it just seemed like he chose to avoid doing the work of writing those chapters. Maybe the editors culled them out?
Old 11-06-2019, 05:06 PM
Saintly Loser is offline
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 3,341
Originally Posted by Knowed Out View Post
Maybe the editors culled them out?
I doubt it.

I am a Stephenson fan. I think he's a fantastic writer.

But there is no evidence whatsoever that he has an editor. Which is too bad, because he could really, really use one.

I think he's probably attained sufficient stature in his section of the literary world so that he can insist that his work not be edited. And it's clear that he does, in fact, insist.


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