It caught my eye as I walked past my basement bookshelf last week. My favorite Stephenson novel, Zodiac, sitting squarely between The Big U and Snow Crash, looking particularly tempting, was too hard to resist. So, over the course of 3 or 4 shockingly long baby naps, I breezed through the 308 pages that make up this entertaining, thought-provoking and possibly overly informative eco-thriller.
It helps that I've read it before. The first-person narrator, Sangamon Taylor, is an asshole, and he's hilarious. Every one of Stephenson's focal characters is just a little bit of an ass, just a little too smart for their own good, and just precocious enough that the story almost happens to them solely because of who they are. (I suppose that's the point, right?) This is a formula for fiction that I find incredibly entertaining, hence the repeat read.
I mentioned the first time I read the book on my old blog back in November of 2004:
I started reading Zodiac by Neal Stephenson at the airport, and was about 2/3 of the way through it by the time we landed at Midway. I gotta say, there isn’t a thing that I’ve read by him that I don’t like. I need to pick up The Diamond Age before reading his current trilogy set in the 17th century called The Baroque Cycle.
The book is set in Boston, which means that when the narrator says “We took the green line to Kenmore Square and took a bus to Watertown Square...” I know exactly what he’s talking about, and happen to know he probably took the 70 or 70A bus.
One of the things I like most about Stephenson’s books is that he throws in all of this semi-random, yet utterly useful background information about his characters and the science behind whatever it is they’re dealing with. This means that I learned a lot about Chlorine last night, which I don’t much care about, but was nonetheless entertained.
I highly recommend this book, based only on the first 250 of 308 pages. I’ll re-endorse it later, I’m sure... and on that note, I think I’ll go finish it.
This is actually the third time I've blasted through this book, I enjoy it so much. It's still holding place as my favorite Stephenson novel of all time, just ahead of Cryptonomicon, with Snow Crash in at a close third.
Mona Lisa Overdrive is the third book in the Sprawl Trilogy, along with Neuromancer and Count Zero. I read the first two almost back to back a year or so ago, and only happened upon the trilogy's conclusion this month. It took almost a third of the way through to remember some of the more pertinent details from the first two volumes — the Tessier-Ashpools, and their reclusive orbital spire for instance.
The book was a very easy read, much like Spook Country and the rest of Gibson's books I've had the pleasure of reading. Again, however, I was struck with the single-person-on-drugs thematic element which I have yet to see anyone else take and interest in. Maybe it's so minor that no one else cares, but every one of his books that I have read to date shares it. It is as if Gibson is a closet fan of substance abuse, or that he's never experimented and wants to live its effects vicariously through one of his characters. Nevertheless, it was just as entertaining this time around. There is, again, an element of control loss when the addiction is in play.
I'm still psyching myself up to get started on The System of the World later this year. I think I'm going to cram in another book before the end of the month, and try to do another two in September so that I can spend October through December on the third tome of The Baroque Cycle and hit my "one book a month" goal, in number anyway.
Via Sweet Free Stuff, my wife found me a sampler of Nescafe's Taster's Choice Instant Coffee. I love coffee, and I complain regularly about what we have around the office so she's been looking for alternatives that might keep me from being crabby. Coffee is very important! No, I don't have a problem! sip Variety being the spice of life, here's how each of the five samples faired, in my only-kinda-sort-humble opinion:
A fair cup of coffee. The flavor is good, and not overwhelming or sweet. I'm neither impressed (Hazelnut is my favorite coffee flavor) nor disappointed.
Fair. Certainly not Dunky's or Starbucks, but it's pretty decent. I'd drink this on a daily basis and not nearly be as crabby as I am when I have to drink the
swill free stuff we have in our break room.
The best of the bunch. The vanilla flavor is stronger in proportion than the Hazelnut. I don't know if I could drink it every day1, but it's certainly enjoyable.
I expected this to be a tad better than the Original, seeing as it's "Gourmet". In this case, Gourmet must mean "tastes like your normal office kitchen coffee". Blech.
Pretty strong for instant coffee! I liked it more than I was expecting. It's better than the Original, and easily the best non-flavored of the group.
I... don't drink decaf. Ok, fine, I'll try it... meh. Overall, I'd have to say I'm pleased how well I enjoyed the instant coffee. I had my doubts, though my experiences with Starbucks' Via line were also positive. Maybe I'm not cut out to be a coffee snob.
More? Yes, please!
I’d get sick of the flavoring after a while.↩
Home Game was a gift for my first Father's Day last month. Immediately noticing its cuteness, my wife picked it up and read it before I did. She assured me I'd enjoy it and like with everything else, she was 100% right.
This book is loaded with hilarious anecdotes about Lewis' experiences with his three young children. He has some interesting theories on fatherly love, mostly that it comes from wanting to toss your children from high balconies and not doing so. I can't attest to personally scaling any tall objects with my son in tow, but I can relate to the surprise that is the level of stress an infant brings. It's incredible, and the level of openness in this book is refreshing and easily relate-able1.
I highly recommend this book for any new or soon-to-be new father. You'll laugh. You'll groan. You'll think "yeah, me too!". You'll wonder why he's storing his cheese outside.
Well, you would too.
Yes, I know “relate-able” is not a word, but my inner thesaurus is failing me. Identifiable sounded wrong.↩
For six years (1999-2005), I maintained a blog that was, for a portion of its existence, highly personal and unfiltered. A bit too long after this became inappropriate for both my personal and professional lives, I archived the site and stopped blogging for a couple of years.
Every so often I flip through the thousand-ish old entries and find a few that are still relevant now. In that vein and that vein only, I am going to sprinkle a few of them in here and there, whenever it makes sense.
Originally posted to the old blog: August 12th, 2005
God, no. What I do is far worse. Trust me, preserve your innocence.
/me is a sad doobie.