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The Best Essay Collection from 2012 Courtesy of Neal Stephenson,
This review is from: Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing (Paperback)
Without a doubt, Neal Stephenson may be the most pensive, most expansive, writer of my generation, and these are traits he shows abundantly in his recent essay collection, "Some Remarks", that also include several terse short stories he has written over the years. Stephenson's writing is expansive in the sense that it covers many topics at once, which is why, for example, his "Baroque Cycle" trilogy is a compelling fictional exploration of the emerging science and personal rivalry of Leibniz and Newton during this period, as well as a most memorable action-adventure yarn whose main protagonists are the ancestors of those in his earlier post-cyberpunk novel "Cryptonomicon". In "Some Remarks" his essay on the construction of FLAG (Fiber Optic Link Around the Globe) "Mother Earth, Mother Board" compares and contrasts its construction with the successful laying of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable in the 1860s, but is also discusses the life of William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, especially with regards to his design of the first successful undersea cable, as well as series of travel guide vignettes aimed at the "hacker tourist". His early cyberpunk short story "Spew" anticipates much of the same literary style Stephenson would use in "Cryptonomicon" and the "Baroque Cycle". Other writings discuss the relevance of the films "300" and "Star Wars" to contemporary culture, the still uneasy relationship between science fiction and fantasy with mainstream literary fiction, why scientists are distrusted by those in the far Left and the far Right, and discussing the life and literary career of David Foster Wallace. "Some Remarks" may be the finest collection of short writing by a notable contemporary writer writing in English that I have read in years, not only recently. For those who are long-time admirers of his writing as well as those who are unfamiliar with it, "Some Remarks" should be viewed as essential reading, simply as a guide to a most memorable polymath, one Neal Stephenson.