[PDF] ↠ Fall, or Dodge in Hell Author Neal Stephenson – 1sm.info
This is a very hard book to review, but one thing is absolutely true I m absolutely blown away by this book Ameristan Lol MOAB lol This is definitely one of Neal Stephenson s better books Just for the ideas and the great twisting of several tales in one, I m already looking forward to a glorious re read He does lead us down a few winding paths that eventually turn out to be VERY important to the whole, and I admit to laughing out loud several times when the important bits bit me on the butt All told, it s the hundreds of wonderful details, ideas, technological problems, and the nature of our world of Lies and Truth in the Miasma Stephenson s term for the future of the Internet that make this an extremely memorable book, but it s the depth of the themes that go well beyond the obvious Milton s Paradise Lost that make me grin like an idiot.My favorite is the whole perception as reality by way of Philip K Dick, hitting all the big points AND even throwing the scholars a bone by setting up a fantastic Manichean Heresy Real God and the Flawed God and the temperance of Sophia And for you PKD fans, look no further than Divine Invasion The other obvious theme connecting it to Paradise Lost is actually a subversive red herring There s a big twist to this that makes it a lot like PKD, including the paranoia, the corruption, and the faulty memories.I came into this kinda expecting a single viewpoint adventure like many old SFs that take on uploaded consciousnesses and or Hell, but you know what This is so much better We have many viewpoints, great adventures, and very little actual Hell except in a you brought this with you sense Kinda awesome when you think about it No cheap theatrics, only an in depth issue revolving People doing what People always do Character driven, with a lot of added juice Like several ages of mythology run by high speed processors in the ultimate game of Life as an afterlife , skirting the edges of a technological singularity, and wrapping it all up with a reality based hackathon by way of a Gamer s Ultimate Quest.I think I see the point, here For all of us future afterlifers, let s MAKE SURE THE GAME DESIGNERS retain control over it Please No one wants to live an after life CONTROLLED BY THE BEAN COUNTERS The book has some great mirroring going on, rooting itself in near future meatspace with tons of corporate intrigue, funny nasty worldbuilding that put the quality of Truth on trial The whole SF of tackling perception as reality is taken to new heights and multiple threads that keep twining and intertwining in really great ways And then it takes on HUGE significance in the digital realm Nasty significance Lordy The Moab disaster in ways than one is the very thing that sparks the Heaven 2.0 disaster I loved that The whole mad god theme is great And perfectly in line with regular corporate madness, too Why shouldn t we bring all our usual messes into the afterlife We are, after all, only human, even when some of us become gods, angels, or incarnations of DEATH lolI had such a fun time with this, I can t even begin or rather, I have begun, but I could keep going on forever.Like I said, it s a really hard one to review It has a lot of great depth to it that is rather MORE surprising than I ever gave it credit for, and this is coming from an avowed fanboy of Stephenson I definitely like it than Seveneves and Reamde I d have to re read Snow Crash and Diamond Age again to see where it ranks by those I will always have Anathem as my primary love, tho BUT I think I will have to nom this one for next year s Hugo Just for its sheer audacity and richness. So to establish my bona fides right away, let me mention that I ve read and loved all 16 novels that Neal Stephenson has now written in his life yes, even his disavowed 1984 debut, the now out of print The Big U , and consider him one of my top three all time favorite writers currently alive and publishing new work So what a profoundly heartbreaking thing, then, to finish his latest, the 900 page virtual reality morality tale Fall Or, Dodge in Hell, and have to be forced to admit to myself, You know, that book waswell, it was kind of crappy, is what that book was During the first half of the manuscript, I became convinced that this was because Stephenson turned in a clunker of an actual storyline here because, for the first time in his career, Stephenson takes on here the very contemporary real world issue of the Red Pill revolution of the 21st century which I m defining here as the interconnected throughline that links together the Bush administration, the rise of Fox News, the Tea Party, Gamergate, Sad Puppies, 4chan, the Meninist movement, incels, the alt right, and the dark ascendency of God Emperor Trump Seemingly not a single person in the last twenty years that opposes this movement has been able to write critically about the subject without just losing their shit and quickly devolving into lazy, badly written doomsday scenarios about the nightmarish hell our world will become if these people were to ever gain unstoppable power and Stephenson too succumbs to this hacky temptation, painting an America 30 years from now that has essentially broken down into a civil war between The Stupids and The Smarts , in which the Stupids have forcefully overtaken large swaths of the Midwest through a Christian version of the Taliban a brand new strain of Protestantism which rejects the entire New Testament because it depicts Jesus as a beta cuck, about the most lazily on the nose reference to the alt right one can even make , who then proceed to literally crucify people from burning crosses for such Old Testament sins as wearing clothes that mix together different strains of animal fibers Also, let me confess that I lost my patience quickly with Stephenson s attempts in this section to paint autistic people as superheroes, through his unending self righteous declarations about how much better he and his little STEM buddies are than the rest of us mouth breathers Autistic people aren t fooled by fake news Autistic people s feelings aren t hurt by blunt opinions Autistic people don t feel obliged to engage in pointless small talk Thank God we autistic people are around to save all you blathering morons from yourselvesThen in the meanwhile, we also follow the fate of one of the characters from Stephenson s 2011 novel Reamde, billionaire videogame developer Richard Dodge Forthrast, who unexpectedly dies one day at which point it s revealed that, earlier in his life, he got convinced by a startup buddy to have his body frozen, so that maybe one day in the future his brain can be brought back to life if science ever invents a way to do so And through a convoluted series of events, science does in fact invent a way, and just two decades after his death at that, by essentially scanning a complete digital copy of the trillions of neural pathways in his brain, then letting those digital pathways virtually interact again within a town sized complex of newly invented quantum computers But this being a game developer, the first thing Dodge s digital brain does to make sense of his situation is to start building out a World Of Warcraft type fantasyland for him to place himself in, with Stephenson burning through literally hundreds of pages in describing in excruciating detail just what it must be like when a brain has its consciousness wiped, then starts filling it in again bit by bit from the retained memories of its subconscious What are these two fleshy appendages underneath my torso What are these ten smaller appendages attached to the bottom of these two What are these squiggly symbols I keep picturing when attempting to count these appendages What is this locomotive motion I seem to be engaging in when placing one appendage in front of the other What is this hard gravelly surface these appendages seem to be pushing against during its locomotion Jesus CHRIST, Stephenson, ENOUGH already, we fucking GET it, WE FUCKING GET IT ALREADY 1 It was at this point, already 400 pages in, that I finally lost my patience for good, and initially decided to abandon the novel altogether but just out of curiosity I ended up flipping through the rest of it and reading the increasingly smaller non virtual world parts, because I was simply too interested in knowing how the story ends up finishing out And that s when I realized that it s not actually the storyline itself that s the problem here when you look at the overall plot in quick big picture form, it s actually quite interesting, an attempt by Stephenson to do no less than retell the religious story of God s creation of the universe, his war with Lucifer, the manipulation of Adam and Eve as pawns of this war, the path towards self sentiency and human technological progress that was the fallout of this war s manipulation, and the final battle between good and evil that s foretold in the Book of Revelations, but all seen through the filter of the speculative question, What if our old religious stories actually came about because an alien race figured out a way to digitize themselves, and the first couple dozen people who got imperfectly digitized became the angels and devils of our Bible, and everything we know and experience in our universe is actually just the result of a giant computer running on this alien planet, and the aliens are actually watching and analyzing us in minute detail but have no way of communicating with us about it Seen in this light, then, the real problem of the novel becomes immediately clear because while Stephenson has claimed in recent interviews that his intent with the virtual world part of this manuscript was to bury a fantasy novel within the middle of a science fiction novel, what he actually did was write a slightly altered 500 page version of the King James Bible And as anyone who was ever forced to go through this during Bible summer camp as a kid knows, reading big chunks of the King James Bible as if it were a narrative novel is the most tedious activity in the entirety of human existence, which sadly turns out to be the case here too with Stephenson s rewritten version of it When examined in Wikipedia form, Fall actually has a lot of fascinating things to say, not least of which is Stephenson s ultimate conceit at the end, which is that maybe the human race s fate is to live on in body free, pure energy form, cruising the universe in a self perpetuating and self repairing Dyson sphere long after the fragile biological version of our species is dead and gone back on Planet Earth.If Stephenson had explored these topics through a tight, action packed 350 pages, it could ve been one of the best books of his already excellent career, exploring many of the same issues in his 2008 Anathem but through the prism of our real contemporary society So what a shame, then, that he instead turned in this profoundly overlong, page fluffing, endlessly rambling and pretentiously purplish version, a book that will be hard for even his hardcore fans to finish, and that everyone else will give up on long before that point It pains me to have to admit that, because up to now I had thought of Stephenson as an author who could do no wrong but alas, it turns out that he s just as capable of clunkers as every other author, his first major miss here in a career that s otherwise been full of hits As much as I hate to say it, my recommendation here is to skip Fall altogether, and wait a few years for what will hopefully be a return to his normal brilliancy. After a great start, the book bogs down into gibberish that is neither sf see P Hamilton Void series for that , not portal fantasy see M Stover nor theology lacks any moral dimension 5 star for the first third, 1 star for the last two thirds and a huge, huge disappointment after such an awesome start If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.April 1st Fall, or Dodge in Hell by Neal StephensonIs it April 1st already Or is this one of the worst attempts at writing serious SF When I was doing UNIX for a living, I fondly remember a running joke that went like this.Unix erotica Here are some examples of inputs and responses from the Unix C Shell. Where have I seen this before We Are Legion We Are Bob Bobiverse 1 by Dennis E TaylorBob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch So it s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets The stakes are high no less than the first claim to entire worlds If he declines the honor, he ll be switched off, and they ll try again with someone else If he accepts, he becomes a prime target There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed Or so he thinks Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad very mad. So I had some issues with this book, overall I liked it, but I found it was easier to separate into the good and the bad The Good One of his readable books, so no heavy technical nonsense like in cryptonomicon Features the Waterhouses, the Shaftoes, the Forthrasts and Enoch Root Topic of discussion is really cool as its all about the afterlife Ameristan is the most hilarious thingThe Bad As usual, its way too long, just under 900 pages When the book switches gears at the 3 4 mark and becomes a fantasy book it can be a pain to read in that, the pace slows down, too many characters in the other world, can be difficult to follow and therefore slow and boring The Meatspace human world parts of the book are the most interesting, so its a disservice when it becomes purely the other world for the half part of the book No ending, againOverall, I did like the book, but its got some major strikes against it which keep it from being on the level of Snow Crash and Reamde. Fall, or Dodge in Hell is a book that s hard to talk about because I find it basically fractally bad at any level I look at it, there s an interesting idea shot through with some fatal flaw, and so if I let myself I could go on at far too much length about any one of its problems At the highest level, it s a story about uploading human consciousness and the creation and organization of virtual realms, told with a tech bro s certainty in technology and obliviousness to anything else, plus also the casual misogyny then there s the story told about the uploaded, that attempts to be biblical without an understanding of morality, and fantastic without ever surpassing the level of 80s Tolkien imitators It s too bad the book wants to be Paradise Lost, instead of Frankenstein there would be a really good metaphor in something like this, pieced together from various half envisioned ideas, and brought to life as a monstrous whole that its creator cannot control That s not to say you couldn t enjoy reading this the certainty and declarativeness of the writing can carry you through a lot if you don t think too much about it but it would be best if you ve never read these ideas before, or if you re looking for something to reinforce your particular technological eschatology, or if you re a teenager with time on your hands On the other hand, let me offer some alternatives that have done better service to these ideas First, Peter Hamilton s Void Trilogy if you want long spanning future history and an ever expanding realm of uploaded consciousnesses, this has you covered, in spades Alternately, Elizabeth Bear s Grail it s much shorter, full of excellently realized characters, and deals thoughfully with the ethics of different ways of being human minds And finally, Matthew Stover s Heroes Die if you want a fantasy adventure in a world where modern people insert themselves to create epic drama without regard for the other inhabitants it s only tangentially similar, but even its dystopian capitalist hellscape is well realized than the realistic political events going on in Fall So yeah, there s a lot better stuff you could be reading instead don t spend your time on this unless you have to. A loose continuation of the author s other contemporary novels Cryptonomicon, Reamde sees brain scanning and uploading become a reality along with a digital afterlife modeled on Paradise Lost The story follows Richard Dodge Forthrast just before he dies, the events preceding his uploading and then the fate of the digital world he finds himself in while the real world changes around the existence of life after death.The book is interesting enough, although it engaged me much in the early stages as we look into Dodge s death, his upload and the actions around it, particularly with Corvallis and Sophia When most of the action moves to the bitworld it gradually lost me until the point where it just became a fantasy quest story filled with character after character that I didn t care about In terms of Stephenson tropes, this one feels a little lighter on with the infodumps than usual, but there s a lot of wry humor and poking at political realities that disturb the author In particular there s a section early on that s set in Ameristan that simultaneously addresses the fragmentation of US society between secular urban and rural religious while also having a poke at just how un Christian most of the performative Christianity of conservative America actually is The other Stephenson trope of hugely bloated and meandering prose is in full effect.Overall, while it has interesting elements and good characters in the first half, the characters in the bitworld are only caricatures at best and that whole sequence I found quite disappointing. The 1 New York Times Bestselling Author Of Seveneves, Anathem, Reamde, And Cryptonomicon Returns With A Wildly Inventive And Entertaining Science Fiction Thriller Paradise Lost By Way Of Phillip K Dick That Unfolds In The Near Future, In Parallel Worlds.In His Youth, Richard Dodge Forthrast Founded Corporation 9592, A Gaming Company That Made Him A Multibillionaire Now In His Middle Years, Dodge Appreciates His Comfortable, Unencumbered Life, Managing His Myriad Business Interests, And Spending Time With His Beloved Niece Zula And Her Young Daughter, Sophia.One Beautiful Autumn Day, While He Undergoes A Routine Medical Procedure, Something Goes Irrevocably Wrong Dodge Is Pronounced Brain Dead And Put On Life Support, Leaving His Stunned Family And Close Friends With Difficult Decisions Long Ago, When A Much Younger Dodge Drew Up His Will, He Directed That His Body Be Given To A Cryonics Company Now Owned By Enigmatic Tech Entrepreneur Elmo Shepherd Legally Bound To Follow The Directive Despite Their Misgivings, Dodge S Family Has His Brain Scanned And Its Data Structures Uploaded And Stored In The Cloud, Until It Can Eventually Be Revived.In The Coming Years, Technology Allows Dodge S Brain To Be Turned Back On It Is An Achievement That Is Nothing Less Than The Disruption Of Death Itself An Eternal Afterlife The Bitworld Is Created, In Which Humans Continue To Exist As Digital Souls.But This Brave New Immortal World Is Not The Utopia It Might First Seem.Fall, Or Dodge In Hell Is Pure, Unadulterated Fun A Grand Drama Of Analog And Digital, Man And Machine, Angels And Demons, Gods And Followers, The Finite And The Eternal In This Exhilarating Epic, Neal Stephenson Raises Profound Existential Questions And Touches On The Revolutionary Breakthroughs That Are Transforming Our Future Combining The Technological, Philosophical, And Spiritual In One Grand Myth, He Delivers A Mind Blowing Speculative Literary Saga For The Modern Age. Richard Dodge Forthrast, the creator of the world s most popular video game, dies suddenly, unexpectedly, and without updating his will So his heirs are obligated to cryogenically freeze him or find a way to upload his mind to a computer So begins this fractal of a novel filled with computer science, mythology, eschatology, corporate dirty tricks, life, death and what might come after Stephenson s digs down through layer after layer of what ifs Themes appear, disappear, and reappear A wild ride of unexpected ramifications that held my interest through all 800 pages So set aside some serious time because you will not want to put it down Oh, and you might want to brushup on your D Auliare s before you start.