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CNET Book Club: Neal Stephenson explores the long, odd future in Fall, or Dodge in Hell – CNET


Neal Stephenson’s most current book is intimidating.

Sarah Tew/CNET.

If you’re searching for a long, thick, wild check this out summer, here’s one that’s 880- plus pages. The strangely called Fall, or Dodge in Hell is simply awaiting you to get here.

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Neal Stephenson, whose 1992 book Snow Crash specified virtual worlds and the “metaverse” as much as William Gibson’s Neuromancer did the online world, has actually composed a variety of incredible and difficult books: The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Anathem, Seveneves His newest book shares the exact same characters as Reamde, a 2011 book about online video game worlds, gold farming and fear cells. However Fall also stands on its own. Richard Forthrast, a legendary video game designer, passes away and winds up having his brain scanned and published. His consciousness resides on in a virtual afterlife. Meanwhile, the real life keeps going on … and getting increasingly unusual.

Stephenson is the master of long-scale science fiction: his book Anathem checked out civilizations spanning eons, Seveneves starts in today, and follows the survivors of the damage of Earth over countless years. Fall, or Dodge in Hell begins about now, and progresses about a century … or more. I won’t ruin the rest. “It’s not a conscious thing,” Stephenson says about his current pattern toward time-spanning books. “I believe it’s real of a lot of fantasy and science fiction that it’s everything about world building. And a lot of the time, in most cases, those worlds span extended periods of time.”

Part of Fall, or Dodge in Hell seems like a headache review of existing life: a meme-destroyed America can no longer inform reality from fiction, and augmented reality glasses make truth bend even further. To battle the self-important flow of details, everybody has personal editors that curate their feeds … which results in more reality bubbles. Stephenson confesses that our present reality has actually gotten complete stranger and darker than many sci-fi: “Individuals discuss dystopian fiction and dystopian writers. But we’re in the dystopia right now, since of what social media is doing to our civic institutions and our society.”

However Fall goes further, spinning past that. A great half of the book occurs in a digital afterlife patterned on Forthrast’s dream online game worlds, and begins to end up being a vast fantasy novel. Scriptural overtones abound, with angels, Adam and Eve, and a storyline that Stephenson says is motivated by Paradise Lost.

It’s not simple cruising. The book’s level of information is often complicated. Some areas seem to last forever. I discovered myself glued to everything, though. And, weeks after I ended up reading, the concepts are burning in my brain. Some chapters have concepts that could seed full books of their own.


The within cover of Fall, or Dodge in Hell, with a mystical map.

Sarah Tew/CNET.

The book has maps, by the method, a suggestion of the hat to sprawling impressives like Lord of the Rings. “I have actually constantly liked dream and science fiction books with maps in them: you understand, ever because Lord of the Rings, and Dune, and so on,” states Stephenson. “I have actually always desired to do among those. And the brand-new twist, in this case, is that instead of the landscape being a fixed thing that’s constantly existed, it … type of gets constructed out gradually into a fully recognized world.” While a digital version is far more portable, seeing the occasional maps turn up in the book (there’s a factor for them) makes the physical version worth it.

And by the way, if you’re a regular Stephenson reader, this book shares many familiar characters as other books: the Shaftoes and the Waterhouses of the Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon, and the ever-enigmatic character Enoch Root. Fall shares the exact same universe with those books and Reamde, but Stephenson says that this may be completion of that: “I mean, never state never. But today, I would say it’s a cycle that I have actually written. I think we have actually sort of wound that up with this newest book.”

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About CNET Book Club

The Book Club is hosted by a pair of self-proclaimed book experts: Dan Ackerman (author of the nonfiction computer game history book The Tetris Result), and Scott Stein, a playwright and film writer. We’ll be revealing our next Book Club selection soon, so send us your suggestions and watch out for updates on Twitter at @danackerman and @jetscott

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