I ask you audience: what the fuck do you people see in Neil Stevenson? Because between this, and Seven Eves (heh, I see what you did there), I just don’t get it.
Recently, I joined a scifi book club. Yeah, I know, me being social. The end of days may be upon us pretty soon. Although I think The Kansas City Chiefs have to win the superbowl before it’s TRULY official. Whatever.
The scifi bookclub I joined chose The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. as their book of the month to read. Considering I’ve been spending the last couple of months alternating between Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland (a book series about dragons that I can’t decide on whether or not I might be a little too old for), The Demon Accord by John Conroe (a series of books I honestly liked a lot better when it was called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter), and the occasional Yahtzee Croshaw book, I probably needed a change of pace. It’s just too bad that it had to be this near-800 page brick of a dud.I was willing to give Stevenson the benefit of a doubt. I couldn’t see my way past the first part of Seven Eves when I picked it up, but I still can’t decide if it was because of the story itself, or if it was because Mary Robinette Kowal’s voice really annoyed me. She has a weird accent that according to my memory, is very George Tekai.
But hey, sometimes, an author puts out a dud. I myself, in my infinite wisdom, felt like Homecoming: a Novella of Highfill, Kansas needed a sequel for reasons I can’t remember anymore, so yeah, even I’m capable of doing it. So maybe Seven Eves was just one dud in an otherwise steller catalogue.
If The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is anything to go on… Yeah, no. I’m officially in the minority. Hashtag-TJBHatesEverything and what not.
D.O.D.O. is a government organization built around the concept of time travel. For a lot of scifi guys, that right there is already a red flag. Time travel is one of those concepts that even GOOD authors struggle with. Add on the fact that Stevenson manages to include multiverse theory into time travel, and it becomes an even more tangled mess.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is read by at least ten different readers. And while I perked up when I heard Luke Motherfucking Daniels was one of them, the rest were a real mixed bag. Each reader reads from the perspective of one character, which is actually a really cool idea, and I really wish more audio books would do that. I’m not especially familiar with the other nine readers, though. I could tell you their names after looking up the book on Audible.com, but I couldn’t tell you who played who. Other than Luke Daniels, of course.
I will say, though, that whoever they got to voice Stokes was a SERIOUS miscast. Someone who is stranded in 1851 England with little to no hope of returning should NOT be this fucking perky. Everybody else in the recording, though, is passable at worst, and pretty damn good at best.
Then we get into the story. Oh god, the story.
Stevenson apparently decided to tell the story through a compilation of Stokes’ diary, government emails, memos, letters to the queen, transcripts of video conversations, and so on. It’s not especially obnoxious… Until you get to part 3, anyway. Then it becomes a serious fucking chore to get through.
The entirety of the book club can at least agree with me on the fact this was not a great idea. I personally believe they could’ve stuck with Stokes’ diary from 1851, and call it good. It’d probably be three hundred pages shorter, but oh well. Length does not dictate quality of story. You’re talking to a guy who’s written books that barely hit the one-hundred page count.
I personally didn’t care for how the Stokes diary chapters basically announced what the chapter was going to be about. I’ve literally seen titles for Dragon Ball Z episodes that left more to the imagination than this.
Some of the group think that Stokes was way too detailed in her descriptions, despite complaining constantly about hand cramps from writing with a quill pen, or shortage of ink or paper, and just that nobody could hope to remember the insane amount of detail put into each conversation. I see what they’re talking about, but honestly, that’s the one thing I personally could look past. Largely because by the time I’d gotten to parp 4, a fucking unicorn could’ve come through space and time, farted a rainbow, and blown up the Earth, and I still could’ve shrugged, said “whatever”, and used the book to squash cockroaches. If I had a copy of the print version, that is.
The story overall doesn’t go anywhere. It’s not really a story so much as it is a series of events. Someone in the group said it reminded them of someone writing a pilot to a TV show, and it’s not hard to see where he got that.
The concept of time travel in this series is heavily built around Schrodinger’s Cat. IE, you can only travel through time and space when you somehow achieve a state of dead-alive. if you can somehow convince the world you’re both dead and alive, you can convince the world you are both in the present, and… Well, say, 1851. That’s actually kind of a neat idea.
It’s just too bad we had to achieve the concept of time travel through WITCHCRAFT.
I have no problem with sorcery in my fiction. Especially nowadays, where I’m a lot more open to the fantasy genre than I used to be. It seems like they spend all this time talking about witches, and how they can do all this magic, but aside from turning an apple into an orange, or turning a can of white paint into a can of black paint in the beginning, the only thing the witchcraft is used for is time travel. And maybe mind control towards the end.
The thing about time travel in this book that gets me, though, is that just because you accomplished this deed in the 1600s doesn’t mean it carries over to our specific present day. Remember, I said this version of time travel includes multiverse theory ON TOP of past and present. Meaning that the version of the past where you meddled probably isn’t the version of the past that’s on our timeline! Meaning you have to go back in time at least FOUR OTHER TIMES if you want to accomplish what you want! That, or create a disaster so catastrophic that the entirety of time and space has to go out of its way to rewrite more than one timeline in order to stay afloat.
Keeping that in mind, the only REAL way to change time is to basically burn down taverns, or murder super-important figures in time. Otherwise, what’s even the point!? It’s all an exercise in repetition.
But there in lies the theme. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is pretty much a 700+ page allegory on the mind-numbing repetitive nature, general incompatence, and bureaucratic nightmare of government. Wow, a book that’s extremely critical of The United States government? WOW! Haven’t read that one before. And in 2017 no less! All we need now is a thinly disguised representation of Donald Trump, and we’ve hit the zenith of creativity that no one has ever thought of reaching! *sigh*
Okay, let’s cool off. I know I’m going to get hatemail up the wazoo from Stevenson fans no matter what I have to say (I hear he has a cult following), but let’s cool down.
As much shit as I give this book, I DID manage to see it to the end. More than I can say for Seven Eves, that’s for sure. The book was tedious enough to annoy me frequently, and make me consider putting it down to read something I actually WANT to read. On the other hand, the premise was actually intriguing enough to where I actually wanted to see where it was going. There was a good story in this near 800 page brick somewhere. I just wish someone up in editing had taken out the chainsaw and made the effort to hack away the driftwood to get there.