My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson collects some of his noteworthy interviews, magazine article, and a couple of short fiction pieces. There isn’t much of an overall theme or idea tying them all together. Each item is stand-alone.
The longest item in the collection is “In The Kingdom of Mao Bell,” in which Stephenson tells the story of the construction of the world longest telephone cable. Stephenson really gets into both the grit and and science of such a large undertaking. You get both an insight into the type of guy it takes to lay underwater cable and the geo-politics of deciding where it’s going to go and who’s going to fund it. The story telling style of the piece is much like his novels. It’s all about the details and the facts and not so much about making a big point at the end.
There are a couple of short fiction pieces that are already showing how well Stephenson’s writing can stand the test of time. One if a short story called “Spew,” which is largely about surveillance culture told from the perspective of an insider, the guys doing the surveillance. The other one I liked quite a bit is “The Great Simoleon Caper,” which is about the forces shaping the emergence of electronic currencies. This short story is thought-provoking in the context of Bitcoin and the forces at play behind it.
“Blind Secularism” also impressed me. It covers the FBI’s failure to understand the Branch Davidians view of the world and the media’s inability to portray either the government point of view of the Branch Davidian point of view effectively.
Of the interviews published in the book, I thought the Salon interview was the best. The interviewer did a good job getting Stephenson to talk about the core ideas in his Baroque Cycle series.
I guess I have to say I enjoyed every item included in the book and I’m glad I had the chance to read it. His style of storytelling, whether it be in fiction or non-fiction is very appealing and that makes the book worthwhile. You get more insight into Stephenson as a person by reading these which I am sure will make reading his novels even more entertaining. This is definitely supplemental material to his main body of work, but still very enjoyable.