The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

This is the impression I have of Neal Stephenson: after publishing Snow Crash in 1992, he very quickly became Saint Neal of Technodom, revered for the breadth of his knowledge and vastitude of his imagination. What didn’t the dude know? What couldn’t he dream up? Reading some of the reviews of his books, you’d think he already had his throne reserved at the right hand of You Know Who.

But the knives seem to come out when he isn’t displaying that mighty intellect and knocking us dead with awesome theories. Anything else is somehow not enough. Reamde dazzled me with the way a tiny computer virus could cause 1,000 pages of chaos that spread from the USA to Asia and back again, and along the way took in the Mob, fantasy geeks, online gaming, Islamic terrorists and Survivalists. Yet it was dismissed by many as just a thriller. The imagination it took to come up with, and more importantly sustain, such a plot seemed to count for little.

I’ve read similar negative impressions of D.O.D.O, (co-written with Nicole Galland) a 750-page story about using time travel to save witchcraft. (Or vice versa. You choose.) It’s just a time travel adventure, say some. They ignore the readability of a tale told not just in standard narrative but also emails, instant messaging, official reports and interoffice memos as if that’s easy. (It’s not. Try it.)  They pay little attention to how wonderfully unpredictable the plot is. And the illustration of how bureaucracy, careerism and politics can stifle and kill true vision gets no time at all. It’s just a time-travel adventure, the naysayers say.

Enough of a rant. I loved this book, and I only hope I live long enough to forget enough of it so that I can enjoy it all over again when I re-read it.

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