Book: Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson
Reviewed by: Joe T.
One of the things I love most about reading a new Neal Stephenson novel is the detailed digressions that he often makes. Whether it’s having Eliza from The Baroque Cycle explain how money works or, in Reamde, describing how an MMO game (such as Warcraft) could be used to outsource Airport security, these are the moments that get me excited and keep me coming back for more. For this reason, I was anxiously anticipating Stephenson’s newest work, Some Remarks.
Subtitled Essays and Other Writings, this is the book for everyone like me. It collects pieces he’s written over the years from places such as the magazine WIRED, The New York Times, and many other diverse publications. This is those digressions without the interruptions that plot, dialogue, and character sometimes brings to his novels.
There are many standout works in this book. The first and previously unpublished, Arsebestos, is one of my favorites. Concerning how our sedentary lifestyle is slowly killing us and that if we were to keep moving at a comfortable rate, we might see improvements in our health, he suggests that people upgrade their desks and swivel chairs to a treadmill designed for use while working. The best part of the essay, for me, is that it basically implies that a retail job such as mine (one where you’re constantly in motion) is pretty darn healthy. YAY RETAIL!
The epic centerpiece of the book is one that originally appeared in WIRED. Mother Earth, Mother Board is a 127 page journey into the heart of the internet. Originally published in the mid-90s, it is a fascinating as it happened origin story for the digital world as we know it. Travelling across the planet to all the various sundry places where the wires and tubes were laid down to link the world together, Neal Stephenson gives you the story of telecommunications. Long but fascinating, I wish it could have been developed into a longer work and published on its own as it was infinitely more interesting than most books about the inner workings of the internet that have been released.
Anyway, I don’t want to give away too many of the details hiding in the book. All I’ve got to say is if you like Neal Stephenson even just a little bit, then this is a great book for you and, if you already have David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More, this book includes Stephenson’s forward to the new edition that was published. Great book, great read, my only complaint is that there isn’t more to it.