Quicksilver suck level?

I'm 50 pages in to the latest Stephenson cinderblock (877 pages to go, or 2,730 if you count the two forthcoming sequels) and it's boring me to tears. Does it get any better soon, or should I give up now?
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43 Responses:

  1. mackys says:

    I used to like Stephenson. Back before he sold out. Back when he still wrote books like Zodiac...


    • volkris says:

      Which books do you consider sellouts?

      • mackys says:

        I feel like Stephenson has fallen to "Stephen King disease" - editor's way too afraid to cut. Hence the books become huge and filled with stuff that, no matter how well written, feels like filler. I only got my copy of Quicksilver two days ago as a present, so I can't say yet, but it sure looks and feels like another one of the "editor's afraid to cut" series. Speaking of series, I'm not too big on this whole "I can't come up with any original ideas, so we'll just make sequels and prequels to my last book" idea. One thing I loved about Stephenson from Big U through Diamond Age was that each time you had an at least moderately unique and novel setting and group of characters. I worry that such will not be the case any more.

        Zodiac remains my favorite Stephenson, with Snow Crash a close second. Then Cryptonomicon, then Big U, then Diamond Age. (Yes, I irrationally dislike Diamond Age - I don't even know why I do, but I do.) I only got my copy of Quicksilver as a gift a couple of days ago, so I can't say for sure, but I have a feeling it might find its way to near the bottom of that list.

        Call me a jaded 1980's music video short attention span kid if you want. I just find that almost nobody on the planet can make 1000 pages worth reading.

        • volkris says:

          Snow Crash was the only book of his that I've ever read. And it was a tough read for me. I honestly didn't like his writing style much at all, and the plot was kind of weak IMO. I found the ideas in the book (maybe that should be ideas in a
          But yeah, considering the stylistic issues I'm not itching to read more of his, and was just wondering if I had hit on a bad one.

          From the "you probably had to be there" department, there was a great scene on Family Guy where Steven King meets with his publisher.

          Publisher: So, Steven, what do you have for me next?
          Steven lazily looks around
          Steven: It's a book about a scary.... desk lamp that cooomes alive. Oooooh.
          Publisher: You're just not trying anymore are you........ Ok, I'll take it.

          • omnifarious says:

            IMHO, Neal Stephenson has a distinctly different writing style in Snow Crash and Zodiac than he does in Diamond Age or Cryptonomicon.

        • The Diamond Age suffered very badly from 'gee wow isn't this nano- stuff interesting', without really explaining why. It also had what seemed to me some really stupid plot points, notably the one where they can do all these wonderful things with technology but not simulate voices so someone has to be paid to do the voices in the simulations.

  2. kcr says:

    ISTR Cryptonomicon had the same problem. It took a while to reach airspeed (I'm not sure whether it could be said to take off) and it had a typical stephenson non-ending. But the middle was ok.

  3. nerpdawg says:

    which stephenson book do you like?

    • jwz says:

      I've liked them all, including the Stephen Bury ones (the only one I haven't read is The Big U.) Snow Crash is my favorite, I guess.

      Cryptonomicon also started off almost-intolerably slowly (though not as bad as Quicksilver) and I ended up liking it.

      Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash, and Diamond Age all suffer the same problem: he devotes the first 50% of the book to the first 10% of the story, then rushes through the next 80% of the story (which sounds to me like "the publisher is breathing down my neck, time to wrap it up"), then the last 10% is just completely incomprehensible metaphysical babble that seems to have nothing to do with what's gone on so far.

      Still, though, even with those two pretty glaring bugs, I've liked his books.

      But so far, Quicksilver is reminding me of The Difference Engine, which is to say, utterly intolerable. I didn't make it more than a few chapters into DE before throwing it across the room.

      • illiterat says:

        Cryptonomicon also started off almost-intolerably slowly

        Well I've described Cryptonomicon as a book that should have been three books. One of which would probably have been great, one might have been pretty good ... and the other should probably have been set on fire.

        I liked Snow Crash, and Diamon Age was interesting (but the ending was crack) ... but after cyptonomicon I was very wary of reading any others. There are just too many good books :).

      • netik says:

        Funny, I did the same with Difference Engine, even after buying the hardcover. I kept reading it and I realized it just sucked so badly that it had to be destroyed.

        I really want to read quicksliver, but you're not giving me a reason to.

        Also, the last Gibson book blew too.

        • IMHO, all of Gibson's work after Mona Lisa Overdrive that I've read has been forgettable. In fact, after reading them, the details melt together and it's hard to remember which grizzled mercenary tech/butt-kicking teenage girl with an odd name was which.

          With Neuromancer and so on, Gibson didn't know much about technology and didn't care, so he made up cool stuff. Then he finished them and started caring about realism, and the fantastic gave way to the mundane.

          (I haven't read Pattern Recognition yet; I'll probably wait until I find it second-hand, or at least in a small-format paperback.)

        • kcm says:

          heh. yup, I'm reading Difference Engine now, and I keep telling myself that I'll like it, dammit, and every page I read just goes nowhere, and then I wonder why I'm trying so hard to finish the book.

          oh, well. i'll make sure to borrow Quicksilver instead of buying it, from the sound of it.

      • 1eyedkunt says:

        that's always bugged me about stephenson's books. the endings are always a garbled rush, like he suddenly got tired of writing and just said "fuck it let's end this thing as quickly as possible"

        i love his writing style so much that the slowness doesn't bother me. he's constantly making me laugh so i never get bored. though i actually didn't consider cryptonomicon to be terribly slow. jeez, if you find that slow i can't imagine you reading some of the more soporific (but often rewarding) lit out there. do you ever read stuff without a really fast-paced plot?

      • stonemonkey says:

        I just bought 'QuickSilver' and I just finished reading 'The Difference Engine'. I also found the book intolerable, though for some reason I did completely read it. What a mistake.

        I did enjoy 'Cyrptonomicon', but it was a slow starter. Perhaps that is the case for this book as well.

        Another Stephenson point is his 'lets-thread-12-story-lines-into-one-book-and-have-them-all-come-together-in-the-last-40-pages' style can be frustrating at times. Enoch who? I cannot imagine 3000 pages of this. I hope the three volumes don't have too many relationships to keep track of.

  4. suppafly says:

    i dunno.. im about 3x that far and its all been interesting.. there is a lot to take in, but it's not really boring or slow.

  5. I found it a bit slow at first, but I started to enjoy it after a while. A friend who's reading it mentioned the same thing to me. However, you may find yourself hating all of it. Before we had the "instant entertainment" of TV and radio, books were the closest thing to such a medium. Because people didn't travel much, they often couldn't visualize what was in the books, so books tended to be much more long-winded so that they could both convey an unfamiliar scene and last a long time. I suspect that Stephenson is deliberately copying this style, but it makes tough reading for some.

    • burritob says:

      So Stephenson is now following the lead set by George "overacting and weak dialogue are just an homage to the silent film era" Lucas? I hope not...

      FWIW, I haven't picked up Quicksilver yet, so perhaps you're on the mark - but that sounds suspiciously like an apologist's after-the-fact excuse for shoddy writing to me.

      • I don't know. I am enjoying the novel, but I've been known to have some rather strange tastes. As for "shoddy writing", I think that many older "classic" novels, were they to be released today, would be criticized for being long-winded.

        It kind of reminds me of when a wag renamed the Casablanca screenplay to "Rick's Place" and sent it all over Hollywood. It was constantly rejected, but no one seemed to recognize it.

    • I dunno. I've read everything from the Canterbury Tales to Jane Austen and enjoyed them, but Quicksilver is still boring me to tears. I'm 300 pages in, and I still don't give a flying fuck about any of the characters, and there is no discernible plot development.

      There were some people. They knew every famous person in 17th century Europe. Stuff happened. The end.

      When I'm done reading this monstrosity, I am going to take great delight in going through it with a big red pen and crossing out any passage which is there for NO FUCKING REASON AT ALL.


      • rzr_grl says:

        Someone who likes Canterbury Tales (someone does?!?) says Quicksilver is boring?
        Jamie, set it on fire at once!

        Ooooooh. Shredder!

      • flipzagging says:

        I like this idea. I'd read Stephenson again if his editors were doing their jobs.

        We've had the "Phantom Edit", why not this?

        Okay, okay, copyrights, also it's rather rude. No, I am not really advocating anyone do this. But I can dream.

      • Heh :) I guess we have completely different views on the book, then. I can't say that I am enamored with it, but "fascinated" wouldn't be too far off the mark. I suspect that this is a book more for someone interested in the history of the time. I'm only to about page 290, so maybe I'll wind up with a different opinion, but it is slow reading.

        You are, I assume, the same "skud" as on use.perl and active in the Perl community? If so, "hi!" (and if not, I guess I can say "hi" anyway :). If it's not painfully obvious, I'm Ovid.

        • Yeah, same Skud.

          If I wanted to learn about the history of the17th century (which I do) I would read one of the numerous history books on my shelves. Just as much historical detail, and a better likelihood that the author hasn't just made shit up.


  6. riffraff says:

    *whines*... don't tell me that, i'm just starting it... i had hoped it would be good like Cryptonomicon and his previous works...

  7. jorm says:

    It's taken me four days to get 90 pages into it (and I usually read close to 200-300 pages of books a day).

    You're not alone; it's boring me to death. He should have started with the Shaftoe character, who is a pirate; I could give a fuck about what kind of boy Sir Isaac Newton was.

    • recursive says:

      It took me 2 weeks to finish it. I too normally finish 300 pages in a day. It's only some sort of fascination with the scientific history of that period that kept me going. Honestly, I really wish he'd go back to writing like he did in Snow Crash, even though I liked some elements of this novel.

  8. papawheelie says:

    I thought it started really slow too, but I ended up liking it a lot.
    One review I read of it said something like "He wrote this book by hand (as opposed to using a word processor) and it shows"

  9. ntang says:

    It does get better, if you're patient. The real question is whether you think it's worth being patient to get past the suck. Basically, once the narrative abandons Enoch it picks up quite nicely. I still haven't quite figured out why we were tortured with those first few chapters.

    • agentcooper says:

      I have to disagree a little. Enoch was a semi-interesting character, enough to carry me through the first couple chapters. Waterhouse has zero personality - he just observes the people around him, who are likewise pretty boring.

      I bought it a couple weeks ago and am still only 150 pages in. Nothing remarkable yet. Whereas Diamond Age and Snowcrash were brilliant in the first scene.

      Unrelated Question: I am the only person puzzled/creep out by the barter scene at the fair, where Stephenson deliberately used a dozen different slang terms for "Jew" to describe the merchant?

      - Cooper

      • ntang says:

        Enoch was a semi-interesting character, but that doesn't make up for the fact that the first few chapters were almost painful to read.

        Waterhouse does have a bit of personality, but it's his interactions with (and observations of) those around him - and there are so many around him - that are the most interesting part.

        I agree, though, it's his slowest starting book yet (I've read them all, or at least all that I'm aware of) and it's been fairly disappointing overall. I'm about halfway done and while I'm enjoying it now, I'm used to his endings being terrible but the 95% of the book up until then being a giddy, exciting ride... this has been an entirely new experience, starting off painfully slowly but picking up speed as it goes along. I'm curious to see how it ends, and I'm wondering if he'll find a way to make up for the beginning.

  10. chromebishop says:

    Interesting, I'm having the same experience. I feared bringing it home because i thought i'd lose a week reading it. havent picked it back up in about 4 days. Cryptonomicon I loved, read it straight through twice. And while a fan of Gibson and Sterling I couldnt get through Difference Engine either. Hopefully Quicksilver will pick up and become Crypto and not DE. (oh and also liked the Bury book. Wasa there more than one? and the Big U is a silly light read, i recomend it....)

    • jwz says:

      There were two Bury books, Interface and Cobweb. I liked 'em both, though I can't remember a thing about Cobweb (the summary doesn't even sound familiar!)

      • I think Cobweb is out of print, funnily enough I have just finished rereading it (I came across it in a box I was tidying). If anything I think it was better than Interface - which I thought had major plot holes.

      • jorm says:

        Cobweb was creepily prescient about the type of crap that everyone was scared of after the WTC attacks: a bunch of Iraqi citizens, inside the US, making a biological weapon (botulism toxin) - and doing it under the noses of the government through a bunch of visa and passport swapping.

        It was a pretty damn good book, overall - though, it has the Stephenson trademark "rush the ending" bit.

        Interface. . . well. I think we're *living* in Interface right now, only, well, the guys at the clinic won.

  11. Man I sure hope so. I'm a bit further in, and it seems it has potential, but it's kinda hard to read right now, it just isn't sucking me in like some of his other books.

    I still like Snow Crash best.

  12. brlvrwy says:

    Stick with it 12 more pages or so... then it gets boring for real...

  13. I don't know when it got so hard to write a short fucking book, I really don't.

    I bailed on Stephenson after wading 300 pages into CRYPTONOMICON and realised that nothing had happened yet.

    • elthar says:

      It got hard to make money writing a short book, because nobody will buy a slim lil novel (the size of, say, A Wizard of Earthsea) when they can pick up the latest Robert Jordan tome/doorstop for the same price.

  14. bbe says:

    I just passed pg. 700. The damned thing's frustrating - there are good parts, but you have to read through a lot of crap, a lot, to get there.

  15. kaos_kelly says:

    I don't really read anything of this genre but I would say that if a book is boring you to tears after 50 pages, I would recommend to stop it immediately and asking for advice about it!............well,...........

  16. vilehelm says:

    I'm about 560 pages into it and am enjoying it immensely though I'm a bit unsure if I'll ever finish it, I started it on a vacation, now the vacation is over and my progress has slowed.

    Warning though it's a complicated story line, moreso than Cryptonomicon.