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2ish stars D.O.D.O is a tiny, shady government entity that introduces us to the awesome combination of time travel and witchcraft The organization starts out small with a lot of promise but then becomes mired in bureaucracy,or less undermining its original intent In parallel, Stephenson s and Galland s novel starts out strong with an original premise but soon hits a brick wall and doesn t go anywhere For 500 pages As a satire of The System, the book is clever and often funny but it t 2ish stars D.O.D.O is a tiny, shady government entity that introduces us to the awesome combination of time travel and witchcraft The organization starts out small with a lot of promise but then becomes mired in bureaucracy,or less undermining its original intent In parallel, Stephenson s and Galland s novel starts out strong with an original premise but soon hits a brick wall and doesn t go anywhere For 500 pages As a satire of The System, the book is clever and often funny but it takes things entirely too far It s frustrating to have certain expectations foiled by rolls of red tape and this book does a good job playing on those frustrations There areacronyms than can be counted and even longer lists of potentially offensive terms to be avoided in a diverse workplace But they re thrown at us over and over again for hundreds and hundreds of pages like that one friend who sings the freakin Lamb Chop song because he knows it gets on your nerves so you roll your eyes and let him get it out of his system ha ha he s such a dork but HE JUST GOES ON AND ON MY FRIENDS Within the middle, oh, 70% of the book there s about one collective page in ten worth of relevant information There s another one page in ten worth of humorous content Honestly this book could have been cut bythan half It s funny in concept, but I can t help feeling like I wasted so much of my life on a gag It goes absolutely nowhere until the last 10 pages or so, when the promise is rekindled and the important questions finally get asked and then the book ends all of a sudden I didn t love the characters, they were really all caricatures used for comic effect against Melisande s straight man And I didn t ever feel the chemistry between her and Tristan despite us being assured that it s there based on the tried and true principle of if you say it enough it s true I guess the joke s on me this time around Posted in Mr Philip s Library What happens when you put time travel, magic, quantum physics, witches, a top secret military operation, alternate timelines, Vikings, a family of shadowy bankers, and government bureaucracy in one book As you might expect, things get complicated.The story begins with the written account of Melsianda Stokes, a woman from our present who has become stranded in London during 1851 Mel tells us how she s an expert in ancient languages who was stuck in a dead end academic career until she is recrui What happens when you put time travel, magic, quantum physics, witches, a top secret military operation, alternate timelines, Vikings, a family of shadowy bankers, and government bureaucracy in one book As you might expect, things get complicated.The story begins with the written account of Melsianda Stokes, a woman from our present who has become stranded in London during 1851 Mel tells us how she s an expert in ancient languages who was stuck in a dead end academic career until she is recruited by military officer Tristan Lyons to take part in a top secret effort translating old documents that make repeated references to magic being done by witches Mel learns that magic was indeed once real, but that it ceased working in the mid 19th century Now Tristan is leading the government s effort to bring it back.Mel and Tristan are able to determine what what caused the death of magic, and with the help of a physicist and a very old witch are able to get it working in a very limited fashion The government demands an immediate practical application to justify the taxpayer expense and using magic to send people back in time to alter events in a way beneficial to the US meets that criteria However, changing the past turns out to be harder than everyone thought with multiple trips required to make the revisions in several timelines, and causing a paradox has immediate and dire consequences Soon Mel and Tristan are part of a growing covert department that sends operatives to the past to recruit a network of witches and perform complex missions to make subtle changes, and they find themselves working for infuriating bureaucrats who think they can control everything with PowerPoint presentations and policy memos That s a very boiled down summary which is what you have to do when reviewing a Neal Stephenson novel because as always there s layer upon layer that you could write essays about The explanation as to why magic stopped working alone gets into a whole Schrodinger s cat thing about how observation collapses quantum wave functions which is then tied into the rise of technology like cameras Throw in the usual Stephenson digressions like an explanation of the sexual harassment policy related to issues like wearing codpieces, and you get one of his typical kitten squishers.Stephenson isn t flying solo on this one, and although I haven t read co author Nicole Galland I could sense that this was a bitreined in and scaled down from his usual thing Still, you can see stray bits from other works, and one of the big sci fi aspects seem drawn directly from one of his other books Which means that if you ve tried Stephenson and get irritated with his quirks then you re probably not going to like this Usually I love a big fat Stephenson novel for its tangents and offbeat nature, but I found myself tapping my toe with impatience a bit during this one.The second act of this book is mainly concerned with the rise of D.O.D.O part of it, and it s told in a series of emails and policy directives which gives us the picture of how a government agency dedicated to time travel would take shape I m usually interested in things about how big projects come together and this also lays the groundwork for the fall piece by showing the development of David Simon Syndrome in the way that any large institution will almost inevitably become about projecting the image of competence rather than risk failure by doing the job it was created for in the first place In this case the narrow vision and arrogance of those in charge also leaves them vulnerable to threats from within.I get what the authors were going for there, and there s also some good humor laced throughout that part Yet it just seems to go on for too long, particularly since we know big trouble is brewing because of Mel being stuck in the past Secondly, for all the explanation and set up for how the time travel and magic stuff works we never really know WHY it s being done in the first place There s some mention about the government having indications that others are time traveling and changing things so that would be motivation yet we never get enough detail on that Plus, no one stops to question whether they should be doing this at all which seems like a glaring oversight Even when they see first hand the catastrophic results when too big of a change happens they don t hesitate for a second With poorly defined motivations this seems especially foolhardy.It also seems as if the schemes ignore common sense and get ridiculously complex For example, the first mission is for Mel to travel back to Puritan controlled Boston and obtain a copy of a book which will be incredibly rare in the future This is supposed to be proof of concept as well as a fundraising expedition Fair enough Since the time travelers can take nothing forward or back with them Mel has to get the book sealed up tight and buried near a rock that still exists in the present She also has to do this multiple times to force the change through the various time strands to the one they re in.A problem occurs when her strands undergo a shift that has a new factory built on the spot in the past so that she can t bury the book in the location they originally pick So they start a second campaign which involves Tristan going back to London to shift the investor from building that factory, and again, he has to do this repeatedly to get the change to stick in their timeline.Sooooo.Why not just come up with another location for Mel to bury the book rather than go through the effort of a second mission that requires trips to the past It s not even discussed that I remember, and it seems like a much simpler solution to the problem.That s kind of the issue overall with this one for me While it had a lot of stuff I loved view spoiler like a Viking raid on a Wal Mart hide spoiler and a lot of deep thought was put into the concept it seems like the obvious was often overlooked I also wasn t crazy about the ending that seems to besequel set up than resolution.Generally I liked it, but it wasn t the usual home run of a book I ve come to expect from Stephenson More like a solid double Who likes naked Vikings Raise your hand I m of two minds on this book On the one hand, there are quite a few great ideas with the complications of surrounding witches with a humungous incompetent bureaucratic machine, especially when it turns out that they can do a lot of time travel Not only that, but I was a huge fan of the acronyms and the lingo speak, especially when a costume party gets told as if it s a major military op or when a certain Lay of Wal Mart is written I was even mightily Who likes naked Vikings Raise your hand I m of two minds on this book On the one hand, there are quite a few great ideas with the complications of surrounding witches with a humungous incompetent bureaucratic machine, especially when it turns out that they can do a lot of time travel Not only that, but I was a huge fan of the acronyms and the lingo speak, especially when a costume party gets told as if it s a major military op or when a certain Lay of Wal Mart is written I was even mightily surprised at how much I enjoyed the day to day operations of D.O.D.O as the entire bureaucratic nightmare went on op after op in the past, but what really stole the show was the labyrinthine plot that underlay the fabric of time and finance Or chronofinance Or let s just call them Fuggers and be done with it What didn t I like so much Well, it s not that I actually hated anything about this book, but the quality of the wit within the conversations was lacking for what should have been a straight satire sf fantasy full of half successful bumbling alphabet soup American agencies as they get into trouble with witches The running gags could have been a lotsubtle I felt like the intention behind this novel was to beaccessible to just about everyone, to have realistic everyday MC s with normal human failings and urges, to feel warm amidst all these cool ideas and the basic incompetence porn of the bureaucracy, but my investment in Mel or Tristan wasn t that steep I found myself treating the whole organization as the main character and in that regards, I had a great time The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O kinda gave it away Who s the main character D.O.D.O, of course Things really got interesting for me when we were in the minutia of the time travel and the revealing of the strands of plots within plots that span over centuries, and I had a great time with all of that.I think this novel is a hit and miss As a satire, it tries a bit too hard, as a character novel, it lacks As an idea novel, it starts with a decent premise and then it gets quite complicated and that eventually tickled me to death Certain scenes were brilliant and laugh out loud funny.But I ve read a lot of time travel books I ve even read a lot of time travel with witches books This one is only average.That s not to say I didn t have a good time, though Because I did I just wouldn t dare rank this all that high among them.Unfortunately, by the end, I didn t think this was quite as good as Stephenson s Reamde and that happened to be my least favorite of his works I m a huge fanboy, too I can t say anything about Nicole Galland because this was the first of hers that I ve read.If I had to make a guess, though, the plot, the acronyms, and the nicely weird stuff as all Neal I could be wrong Probably am But those felt like him Assuming you buy its premise and do not throw it away disgusted when it is close but not quite imho though opinions may differ about that in quite a few places jumping the shark among many oddities, the novel contains a viking saga poem in verse cca 930 s about the sack of an Walmart cca 2010 s , this is a delight funny don t remember when i laughed out loud so many times when reading a book , zany, quite subtle on occasion while it seems to start in our universe cca early 2010 s, t Assuming you buy its premise and do not throw it away disgusted when it is close but not quite imho though opinions may differ about that in quite a few places jumping the shark among many oddities, the novel contains a viking saga poem in verse cca 930 s about the sack of an Walmart cca 2010 s , this is a delight funny don t remember when i laughed out loud so many times when reading a book , zany, quite subtle on occasion while it seems to start in our universe cca early 2010 s, there is the Trapezoid rather than the Pentagon for example and with a format that adds a lot to the story line while most of the narrative is a first person Victorian style with modern annotations crossed out from Melisande see the blurb who is marooned in London 1851 and wants to write a memoir and deposit it in a secure vault to arrive in our present and witness the creation of the D.O.D.O and her role in that, there are narrations in many voices Rebecca East Oda, descendant of Salem witches and New England aristocratic matron, whose genius physicist husband Frank Oda former professor at MIT, hounded from academia for alleged mistreatment of cats as in the Schrodinger Cat experiment, is the brain behind the time traveling machine at the heart of D.O.D.O, and Grainne, Irish witch spy in Elizabeth I England 1601 are some of thedistinctive voices and powerful characters of the novel , transcripts of official documents from debriefings after action, email exchanges between characters to the diversity policy of D.O.D.O this one is a hoot, not to speak of the Halloween dress code official paper , the aforementioned Viking saga in verse and muchWhile 750 pages long, the book ends way too soon would have loved to read another 700 pages and has a very useful glossary of the alphabet soup typical of governmental organizations most common being D.O.D.O Department of Diachronic Operations, D.T.A.P Destination Time and Place, D.E.D.E Direct Engagement for Diachronic Effect and K.C.W Known Compliant Witch and a cast of characters in the various times and places the novel takes place both have some spoilers so knowing the main acronyms above is probably enough to avoid needing read it until halfway through the book at least The ending is excellent in many ways and has enough closure to make the book a fully satisfying read on its own though it really reads like a stopping point withto come in future volumes which i would highly welcome Overall fast, funny, some mind bending stuff and lots of ingenuity, close but not quite jumping the shark on occasion and the top novel of the year for me to date [ Free ] ♵ The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. ☤ From bestselling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed historical and contemporary commercial novelist Nicole Galland comes a captivating and complex near future thriller combining history, science, magic, mystery, intrigue, and adventure that questions the very foundations of the modern worldWhen Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, accidently meets military intelligence operator Tristan Lyons in a hallway at Harvard University, it is the beginning of a chain of events that will alter their lives and human history itself The young man from a shadowy government entity approaches Mel, a low level faculty member, with an incredible offer The only condition she must sign a nondisclosure agreement in return for the rather large sum of moneyTristan needs Mel to translate some very old documents, which, if authentic, are earth shattering They prove that magic actually existed and was practiced for centuries But the arrival of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment weakened its power and endangered its practitioners Magic stopped working altogether in , at the time of the Great Exhibition at London s Crystal Palace the world s fair celebrating the rise of industrial technology and commerce Something about the modern world jams the frequencies used by magic, and it s up to Tristan to find out whyAnd so the Department of Diachronic Operations DODO gets cracking on its real mission to develop a device that can bring magic back, and send Diachronic Operatives back in time to keep it alive and meddle with a little history at the same time But while Tristan and his expanding operation master the science and build the technology, they overlook the mercurial and treacherous nature of the human heartWritten with the genius, complexity, and innovation that characterize all of Neal Stephenson s work and steeped with the down to earth warmth and humor of Nicole Galland s storytelling style, this exciting and vividly realized work of science fiction will make you believe in the impossible, and take you to places and times beyond imagining not a perfect novel but closer to five stars than 4this story combined beautiful timey whammy stuff and is driven by overall a beautiful book and with an open end so we may getplease mr stephenson and Ms Galland may we have somenot a perfect novel but closer to five stars than 4this story combined beautiful timey whammy stuff and is driven by overall a beautiful book and with an open end so we may getplease mr stephenson and Ms Galland may we have some Neal Stephenson Cyberpunk King writing about witches and magic.Neal Stephenson Speculative Fiction King writing about time travel, witches and magic.Neal Stephenson Historical Fiction King writing about turning the thought exercise Schrodinger s Cat into an actual experiment which leads to time travel, witches, magic, and the military.Can it get any better Oh yeah, there is an epic 10th century Viking saga about Wal Mart. This is the most fun I ve had reading a Neal Stephenson novel since SNOWCRASH Co author Nicole Galland brings a nice light touch to the proceedings so that it doesn t delve too much into technobabble Witches, time travel, and governmental bureaucracy all combine to deliver a thrilling read that I finished over a single weekend GOOD STUFF This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here Some general spoilers here, so that I am able to talk about what s troubling me with this novel.Dear reader, I am fucking heartbroken disheartened Neal Stephenson is one of very few authors I drop everything for quite literally I dropped out psychology 101 to read the Baroque Cycle instead, I cram every book as soon as they arrive in the stores, and sometimes as an advanced reader copy I can count on his books to be my reading experience of the year well, maybe not the Big U and usuall Some general spoilers here, so that I am able to talk about what s troubling me with this novel.Dear reader, I am fucking heartbroken disheartened Neal Stephenson is one of very few authors I drop everything for quite literally I dropped out psychology 101 to read the Baroque Cycle instead, I cram every book as soon as they arrive in the stores, and sometimes as an advanced reader copy I can count on his books to be my reading experience of the year well, maybe not the Big U and usually dive happily into his latest with no intention for stopping unless for basic survival things as sustenance and corporeal upkeep I read his novels assured of their entertainment value, his ability to wrap up all the myriad threads, the page turner quality, the remarkable world building, etc.Nicole Galland is a new authorship for me, so I cannot really say much about her earlier writing or assess how much of this novel is her I did give up on the Mongoliad Trilogy after the first novel There s a saying in Swedish thechefs, the worse the soup which probably has an excellent English equivalent that I just can t think of It is certainly applicable to the first novel, which has an inkling of an interesting idea, but suffers from its execition It was a boring read, which is not what I expect from Stephenson s authorship.The Rise and Fall of DODO is no exception to all above qualities It was an utterly fun read, intense and satisfying but with a huge flaw that makes me reconsider my assessment of his earlier novels From a gender perspective this book was utter crap Which astonished me, because this is not what I associate with Stephenson One of the main p o v characters, Melisande, is flat, has little agency of her own that is not connected to her crush Tristan, she upends her life when he comes sashaying in with little to offer really than a potentiallyinteresting work and life than her current Although she is the main story teller, she does very little She writes from her position as a damsel in distress, saved later on by the same Tristan.All other female characters suffers from the same flat, stereotypical depiction I was waiting, or maybe just hoping, for a surprise plot twist in the end where the world we read about was just a parallel one, and that it would morph into amodern one in regards of gender equality Alas, that was not the story, and I am left to wonder what the hell happened Rebecca East Oda is shown as a caretaker of her husband, cats and garden primarily, with little self motivated actions Her only reason for digging up her family secret is to satisfy her husband s curiosity Melisande Stokes follows Tristan around like a puppy, and does little for herself Her comparisons with her contemporary life and her life stranded in 1851 does little to emphasise what she really has lost, except basic freedom ascomfortable clothing Yes, that is an important point of liberation, but surely not the most important thing.She does not even get any kind of retribution against the bovine Blevins, whose part in the book seems to just peter out.Julie Lee, depicted first as incredibly cool and a bit scary according to Stokes, is turned into the computer geek s or nerd, I can t remember which one was right and which one was derogatory for Mortimer but an illadvised passage all the same when we now live in peak geek cultuer girlfriend solely I was expecting some Stephensonian multilayered turnout where Julie Lee was going to be an important key player as a descendent of the witch Xiu Li, but nothing of the sort Erzebet, a key player, is strangely non critical, except being verbally sassy, and only seems to have thought of a different solution when Gr inne explains her grand plan The only woman that is somewhat independent is Gr inne, who of course turns out to be the villain of the story in a negative stereotypical depiction of women with a agency of their own Most women s actions in the novel are motivated by the men around them When they are not, they seem to stand idly by waiting for direction Their characteristics are chiseled out by the men around them as well All in all, this feels like an first version of the novel, where some serious editorial work is needed to bring it into the 21st century It is in such contrast of the earlier novels that I feel the need to evaluate my idea of his earlier novels, and wonder where this, maybe not misogynistic but certainly horribly dated way of writing female characters, comes from.Reader, I do not know what the hell what troubles this novel But there s something afoot I can t abide I read an ARC of this with some bit of hope Seveneves had fallen kind of flat for me, but I was hoping that a coauthor would help shore up some of Stephenson s weak points, and the idea of a time travel story with witches was a good start I do feel like Nicole Galland helped, but unfortunately, not enough to make up for some disappointing flaws.Let s start with the characters this was where Seveneves lost me, with the first two thirds feeling like I was reading about cardboard cutouts movin I read an ARC of this with some bit of hope Seveneves had fallen kind of flat for me, but I was hoping that a coauthor would help shore up some of Stephenson s weak points, and the idea of a time travel story with witches was a good start I do feel like Nicole Galland helped, but unfortunately, not enough to make up for some disappointing flaws.Let s start with the characters this was where Seveneves lost me, with the first two thirds feeling like I was reading about cardboard cutouts moving towards their marked places in the plot DODO was a marked improvement there, with several different characters fleshed out throughout the book Unfortunately, a lot of their interaction had to do with a romance that never felt believable to me despite how often other characters remarked that the main pair seemed like a couple, or how much the female protagonist wrote about the chemistry she felt with the male lead, it never seemed to show up during their interactions on the page This wasn t helped by the creepy sexualization of all the women in the story from the description of always female witches as independent, therefore likely prostitutes or mistresses there is an actual conversation about this, including one of the witches who agrees that it s a reasonable expectation to the recruitment of time travel operatives as Lovers, to persuade people by means of sex followed by the next line recruiting Closers, described as what Lovers do, but without the sex There are also a number of scenes where because time travel renders people naked, for reasons men are admired for their physical attributes by the women, but none that I recall of the reverse oddly, this does not feel like it s to avoid objectifying the women, butbecause their status is people who would like to have sex with men and so their objectification is already taken for granted All told, even the characters who weren t supposed to be buffoons or unlikable never rose to the level of people I d like to chat with at a party So, setting aside the characters, how about the science Stephenson always likes diving into the minutia of how the world works in his books, and this is often an enjoyable rabbit hole to follow him down I just wish he d done a bit less of it here The basic premise is that magic works, because of hand waving about collapsing quantum states Unfortunately for witches, scientific developments in the late 1800s I don t know, permanently collapsed some wave states or something Anyway, magic doesn t work any, except Possibly our heroes can build a chamber where magic will work, if it s sufficiently cut off from the rest of the world The details that we re given are enough to make me admittedly, not a physicist of any stripe start to pick at things I m pretty sure the science doesn t, and can t, work like that And worst of all, this is completely irrelevant to the story After the first few info dumpy chapters, we re at a generic state of magic used to work, it stopped, and now we can with special effort do it again The details of how that s supposed to happen, and the specific scientific developments that cause it, are never important, either to the characters or the plot I feel like less would have been , here it would strain my suspension of disbelief less to simply say somehow science suppressed magic, and now we ve got a science that might bring it back So setting aside the characters and the science, how s the rest of the book Well, not much better The individual scenes are good, and it s easy to keep reading to see what comes next The overall effect, however, ends up landing like a lead balloon, and going nowhere This is doubly unfortunate because it started out so strong the book starts with the female protagonist stranded in the past, with disaster looming in her now unreachable present, as she writes this chronicle to explain how things came out the way they did So we start out with the idea that time travel is just a bad, doomed plan to begin with We see the characters build their first time machine and recruit the first witch to operate it, and every complication and failure is resolved by something that turns out to lead to an even larger failure, or a greater complication And always, we re reminded that even when they seem to be succeeding, that there s a grand doom waiting ahead of them And so I read the book, as the stakes kept being raised, expecting a disastrous climax, a cataclysm of such magnitude that it could wipe the slate clean Instead, it just fizzled the last chapters solved the one immediate problem, but then pointed out that this did nothing about all the larger issues they were worried about, and left a number of other mysteries in the air I almost wish it had ended perhaps two chapters sooner, after the return of the heroine and her night of passion with the male protagonist, and no acknowledgement of their future difficulties at all Then, it could at least be a book about how time travel brought these two together, instead of a book about time travel without a real end, that happened to include a romance I didn t care about.Meh, I say