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A new Neal Stephenson, May 19


I wish the list were longer, but there are only two science fiction writers whose books I eagerly await and buy the day they’re released — John Twelve Hawks and Neal Stephenson. Stephenson’s new novel, Seveneves, will be released on May 19. I’ve pre-ordered the hardback version from Amazon.

By the way, the Kindle version is $16.99, and Amazon discounts the hardback at $21.04 with free shipping. Not many authors can command Kindle prices that high. If I’m paying that much, I want something that I can hold in my hand. So there’s another thick book that I don’t have shelf space for.

Seveneves is another huge book — 880 pages. One of the things I like about Stephenson is that he is unapologetically and unpretentiously intelligent. He has a weird mind. I suspect that he is fairly far along on the autistic spectrum, because his characters are oddly lacking in affect. Stephenson does not write social novels. His social IQ is probably as low as his intellectual IQ is high. This makes for strange fiction, but in science fiction, strange is good. His characters are nerds. Nerds are good.

Another factor that makes Stephenson’s long tomes a pleasure to read is that Stephenson doesn’t mess around with language. His prose is concise, clear, and transparent. I don’t know whether this is because Stephenson has mastered English or because his books make so much money that he is assigned the best editors. I generally decide within the first three pages whether I’m going to finish — or at least continue reading — a book. If I have to fight with sloppy prose or with a writer’s attempt to cultivate some sort of unique personal “style,” I fling the book and give it a one-star review on Amazon. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was such a book. How such writers keep from being murdered by their editors is beyond me.

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