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Shame on you Mr Stephenson
on 23 May 2013
Having just reached the end of Mongoliad Book 1, I am frankly astonished that Neal Stephenson has allowed his name to be associated with this novel, which as another reviewer has accurately described it, feels like a failed children's GCSE project. I like many turned to this novel having been captivated by the rest of Stephenson's work, hoping to find something similar to the Baroque Cycle but set in the world of Genghis Khan. Sadly all of the hallmarks of Stephenson's prose and imagination are conspicuous by their absence - there is no shred of humour, no attempt at characterisation, and none of the entertaining Stephenson digressions that make the reader bow to his encyclopaedic grasp of his subject matter.
The writing is simply appalling. On multiple occasions, sections or chapters end on that sophisticated technique - the authorial question... "would she ever see her friends again??". Honestly. There are gaping holes in the narrative - several times I found myself going back a couple of pages to check I hadn't missed something - and the attempts at characterisation are laughable. It is rare to reach the end of any novel and have developed zero sympathy for or affinity to any single one of the characters. Pedestrian, dull... I could go on and on.
Obviously one can point at the book's multiple authors, and how the book actually evolved, to explain its shortcomings. Sadly I think this only excuses it to a very small degree. Perhaps my expectations were too high - after all I have just come from the Baroque Cycle, Diamond Age, Snow Crash, Zodiac and Reamde (plus the excellent Ready Player One by Ernest Cline for video game afficionados, highly recommended) - but this feels like it had no editorial input whatsoever, and is simply a shameful attempt by its publishers to exploit Stephenson's popularity.
Shame on you, Mr Stephenson.