Cobweb

Dec. 17th, 2007 02:57 pm
purplecat: (books)
Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George previously teamed up to write Interface, a political thriller about media-manipulation, focus groups, brain/computer interfaces and a presidential election which was fascinating and well-written but didn't quite hang together. The same could be said for Cobweb, which is about the inner workings of the CIA and FBI and bio-terrorism all set against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. I love Neal Stephenson's writing but there are relatively few of his books which I feel have managed to carry everything through to the conclusion successfully. Some of them, such as the Diamond Age, just fall apart into a bit of a mess. Cobweb is an improvement on this, the ending makes sense as do most of the events leading up to it (though I'm still at a loss as to the motive behind a series of attacks on one of the characters, dozens of other people knew what he did and the problem was clearly lack of governmental will to take action, not governmental ignorance) but at the end of the day it was a strange mixture of being a little too pat (one of the two lead characters having worked hard at solid detecting throughout suddenly has the answer handed to him in a diner), a little too simple (nothing particularly complicated was going on), and a little too unlikely (OK, I'll buy that Saddam couldn't get up to his nefarious tricks within Iraq, but why go to the trouble of getting up to them in the American midwest, of all places, rather than any number of more sympathetic and geographically closer nations?). That said, I remain a big fan of Stephenson's writing (and I'm guessing, in this partnership, George primarily brings a slightly more sober style and knowledge of the internal workings of American government to the table) and I was never bored or irritated by this book, which is a big plus.
purplecat: (books)
The problem with writing a book that follows one family through the ups and downs of Roman Britain is that it inevitably causes the reader, or at least this reader, to draw comparisons with Rosemary Sutcliff. Although Sutcliff set her books in many historical eras Roman Britain is the backdrop for many of them and, indeed, many of the best of them. Following the progress of one family is also a trick of Sutcliff's - The Capricon Bracelet does this in one volume as a series of short stories, but her most famous family must be the Aquila family who, as far as I'm aware, first appear in The Eagle of the Ninth and I last encountered them in The Shield Ring, set against the backdrop of resistance to the Norman Invasion in the Lake District. The problem with causing a reader to compare your work to that of a well-loved children's author is that you are almost bound to lose out.

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