Thursday, April 14, 2005

Finishing the damn thing

Since the middle of 2003, I have been reading a book.

I can't tell you how many times i have picked the book up, read thre or four pages, and put it back down. Not once have I manged to read more than 50 pages at one sit, of this slightly less than 1000 page book.

Until tonight that is...

The Magnum Opus in question is Neal Stephensons "Quicksilver", the first book in the Baroque Cycle. I have actually purchased the other two books in said cycle (both equally weighty), in preparation for the day, some years hence, that I might actually finish the first.

For all I know, there may be a fourth, but I have simply stopped paying attention. I am currently using the other two as paperweights (very effective ones at that).

Now please understand, this is coming from a guy who read Kings 1300 page unabridged version of "The Stand" in a long afternoon. When I get going I can read straight through for literally days at a time, stopping only to fulfil those immutable needs that biology has presented to us.

Typically speaking, with a book I'm enjoying; my reading speed will be somewhere north of 100 pages per hour. I believe the fastest I have ever read a book, would the the 384 page "Get Shorty", by Elmore Leonard; which I read in 2:14. I wasn't timing myself, I simply remembered looking at the clock at noon when I picked the book up, and again at 1414 when I put it down; finished. It is rare for me to go a day without reading the better part of a book; sometimes reading four or five in a day, and once reading 14 (mostly Robert Heinlein and the like).

The funny thing is, I really like Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash is the seminal cyberpunk novel (though William Gibson is said to have invented the genre, his strength is in short stories, novellas, and collaborations. Stephenson wrote one of the best sci-fi novels of all time in snow crash), and I loved Cryptonomicon, which is such an interesting, odd, and complicated book that attempting to explain it other than to say "It's about codes and stuff" would be difficult if not impossible. I even liked "The Big U"; Stephensons hazy, helleresque satire of the modern university. It's an odd book, but worth reading; and I meant it when I said Helleresque. Yossarian would have been very much at home in this novel.

Semi-random Note: does anyone know if the restaurant minder binders in Tempe AZ is any good?

Quicksilver has been a good book so far (the characterizations and the story itself are excellent); but it has no flow, rythym, cadence etc... It has nothing to draw you in, but page after page of thick, though well crafted but not very engaging prose...

Until about page 350 or so, when the character of Jack Shaftoe is introduced, and especially about 50 pages later when the woman whom I assume will be jacks eventual wife, Eliza, is introduced...

For the last two years, I have only managed to read 340 pages; averaging one page every two days or so. In the last two hours I have read 150 pages, many of them while laughing.

I had been told that this was the case by others; somewhere 1/3 to 1/2 through the book they finally were drawn in. A guy like Stephenson, who has a huge loyal fanbase from his previous geek cred, can afford to get away with something like this... at least once anyway; but writing a novel where the interesting stuff doesnt even begin until further in than the entire length of many other novles seems a bit... I don't know, arrogant maybe isn't what I'm really looking for... maybe presumptious?

Anyway, I'm rather a bit tired now, and I'm going to get some sleep; but I have high hopes that I will soon finish the damn thing.