|| Termination Shock
Other Books Read By This Author (5)
- Fall; or, Dodge in Hell
- Some Remarks
- The System of the World
|12.14.21|| This is a near-future... rumination? on climate change and possible geoengineering efforts to combat it. I put off reading Stephenson's last one for quite a while and, while I had a few bumps with that, it put me in a mood to keep the momentum rolling right into this one not really knowing anything about it other than it had something to do with climate change. As with all his books, I liked it for the most part although I don't think it's in my top 5 of his for several reasons.
In some interview, Neal mentioned how many of his books are multiple books bound together. I often feel like when I see that organization in the table of contents that it's really meant to be like sections instead of literal books, but Stephenson's explanation was more like figurative books mashed together (for instance, Fall was a techno-thriller and a fantasy book, Cryptonomicon was a techno-thriller and a WW2 book, etc.) With this one, it's literally like reading two separate books for the first... 85% of the book. It's so comically separated that you just have to shrug and assume one eventually has something to do with the other.
Which leads to maybe my biggest disappointment with the book. Over and over in interviews he says his firm belief is that the book has to be an entertaining yarn at the heart of it in order to carry any other subject matter or themes that Stephenson wants to explore... but this book really has no plot to speak of - again - until 85% the way through. Every other chapter is someone meeting someone else, going on a tour of sorts, and maybe learning something about other geopolitical events. Things do happen, but there's no dramatic pull or drive to propel you through. Instead, as each character gets introduced you are treated to like 20 pages of backstory on their lineage and entire life up till this point. Luckily it's all written well so, in my case, I didn't mind floating along with these characters because I needed no winning over. I can't see how I'd summarize the book to anyone else though.
And the last of my gripes is that so much of the book feels like he's presenting an idea but there's not really any follow-through in terms of effect or consequence. The sci-fi parts of this feel VERY minor (largely due to how "near" this near-future vision is) but come on... this is the guy who wrote "3000 years later" in one of his books. I'm not saying there HAS to be Termination Shock in the book named Termination Shock, but I was hoping for some... resolution. Some speculation of what might happen if the stuff presented does go on for 10 years or so. The ending gives a vague sense that things will work out, but would it??
Anyway, things do come together in the end though, in a mildly satisfying way. Again, not blown away...
But the good things: I liked all the characters and thought Stephenson represented them very well. I almost felt like there was a little reaction to criticisms of Fall here where everyone got meticulous attention paid to their motivations. There's also some of that trademark Sahara-dry Stephenson humor which I like and I was quite keen to keep reading to see what - if anything - would happen. I guess due to his exhaustively detailed style, not a lot HAS to happen to fill 700 pages. And since I was on board to begin with, I liked hanging out with these people pretty good. I also like a lot of the outlooks and strategies for geo-engineering presented. It's not quite at Michael Crichton levels of mixing equal parts techno- and thriller (this one's more like 75% techno, 25% thriller) but I did feel like complex subject matter was explained in relatable and interesting ways.
I just feel like a lot of what happens in Neal Stephenson books is left unwritten as an exercise for the reader to infer or deduce what's going on, and sometimes he's more successful at that than at other times. This one's kinda in the middle. I am very much looking forward to getting on Youtube and watching all the interviews he does for this though|