I think the point where I went from being merely frustrated and annoyed at the overly long, pointless and most often trite passages of this book came around page 484. This is because the next 7 or 8 pages are solely about Randy (one of the main characters) eating Cap’n Crunch. At this point, I just began to resent and hate this book and the fact that it had no need to be as long and annoying as it was. Even if there was eventually some vague cryptographic point at the end of it, it just wasn’t fucking worth my time.
The other thing that annoyed me so badly was the fact that it is relentlessly sexist. None of the women needed to be in the book, other than as possibly for a male character to have sex with her. Almost every other woman is referenced as a prostitute (there was also lots of references to rape because of the war) or is a general bitch, as is Randy’s ex. As I said on Twitter, it would be less sexist if there were no women in it.
So not close to passing the test. Not only that but it just revels in stereotypes and that tech, hacking etc is a solely male domain. Basically, it’s full of stereotypes and is sexist. It bucks the trend of books that I’ve read that are post 1990 that aren’t sexist and do a reasonable job of gender balance.
This one doesn’t even have a main female character – you may argue that Amy Shaftoe is a main character but she’s mainly an item of fixation and an eventual…let’s politely say receptacle for Randy’s pent up emissions. Another woman with a name (there are only a handful) is Glory, who gets leprosy. Amazing. The main characters also deceive another woman, setting it up that the man she just married dies (even though he doesn’t). But then, she’s just after his British passport, so in the warped head of Neal Stephenson it’s not as bad? Fucking fantastic.
As well, the only males that seem to exist in the book are super macho or are ultra geeks. Stereotypes, through and through.
On top of that, there is just so much description about how the two main Waterhouse’s, Lawrence and Randy (one strain of the story taking place in World War Two, the other sometime in maybe the 1990s) basically need to have sex or at least masturbate to concentrate. The description of this, several times was unbelievably fucking stupid. There’s even a massive digression from the threadbare plot to update us on the state of one of the character’s urgency to fuck someone. For fuck sakes, I don’t fucking care and this in no way adds the story at all.
So, basically. I hated it. I hated it because it was long, sexist, boring and still really had no ultimate point for about 70% of the story. I think I was interested in the last 200 pages just so it would end and that I would finally be free of reading anything by Neal Stephenson again. Free of his overly long, sexist, boring and stupid characters.
If anyone ever recommends me to read any of his fucking books I am going to laugh in their face or perhaps suffocate them with my paperback of Anathem. I feel somewhat empowered by finishing the 920 page behemouth but in the same sense that I felt empowered after shovelling a full cowpen full of shit – in that I’d accomplished a great deal but now wanted a shower and feel less gross.
You can talk about journey versus destination when it comes to plot versus description – but in this case, the journey is more like a forced march across a desert while a loud, nerdy man prattles on about masturbation and how women are either bitches or entirely disposable.
So -5/5 stars. Fuck it. I hated it and it was more than 500 pages too long, so it’s a full minus rating of utter suck-tacular nonsense. The only reason you should read this fucking book is if you’re writing an essay on stereotypes and sexism in science fiction. But, to be fair, there are shorter books you can do that with.