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The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

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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 world. When Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, acciden 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 world. When 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 money. Tristan 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 1851, 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 why. And so the Department of Diachronic Operations—D.O.D.O. —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 heart. Written 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.


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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 world. When Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, acciden 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 world. When 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 money. Tristan 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 1851, 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 why. And so the Department of Diachronic Operations—D.O.D.O. —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 heart. Written 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.

30 review for The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    We seem to be living in a period in which time travel has captured a considerable portion of the public’s attention, its attention for entertainment at least. There are several TV series on at present (that I know of) that deal in temporal backs and forths, (I really loved Flash Forward several years back) and there seem to have been few extended periods in which the form was absent from the airwaves (and wires). It has long been an attractive concept for feature films. My personal favorites are We seem to be living in a period in which time travel has captured a considerable portion of the public’s attention, its attention for entertainment at least. There are several TV series on at present (that I know of) that deal in temporal backs and forths, (I really loved Flash Forward several years back) and there seem to have been few extended periods in which the form was absent from the airwaves (and wires). It has long been an attractive concept for feature films. My personal favorites are Time Bandits and Interstellar. Instead of loading up this review with a vast list of time-travel related works. I refer you to this wonderful Wiki entry, if you can find the time. Rod Taylor in a nifty film version of HG’s classic tale - looks a bit like it was intended to traverse the everglades Occasionally time jumps are used to illuminate political views about the chronological base point for those stories, what the future might look like if this or that keeps on. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells pops to mind for that. Another notion takes a more optimistic view. What might a utopian future look like? Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward fills that bill, although Bellamy uses the cheap device of the imagined future being visited via dream. Samuel Clemens had a go in a less political vein with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The time travel yarn has been around for a long time. Nicole Galland - from her site The latest entry into this long-favored class, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., offers one of the most delicious concepts I have ever encountered in a time travel book, hell, in any sort of book, merging hard science fiction with witchcraft. Melisande Stokes is stuck in London in 1851. Thankfully she has left her journal in a safe-deposit box, in a bank she knows will persist into the 21st century, which is a good thing. Stokes is in serious danger of being stuck in that time permanently. (zero bars) Having been transported to this past by a combination of technology and magic, she is running up against a deadline. July 2, 1851 is when magic vanished from the earth, (or in her immediate case, will vanish) and getting back to her own time without it is just not gonna happen. Tick tock. Melisande was an adjunct prof at Harvard’s Department of Ancient and Classical Languages (or will be. I get so confused.) when she literally bumped into Tristan Lyons, a military intelligence guy with a shadowy government agency. Meet cute. Turns out he has a special need for her particular skill set. And so the journey begins. It appears that diverse ancient and not so ancient cultures wrote about the existence of magic, (Trust me, this is not a spoiler.) and Lyons needs someone to translate these rare and fragile materials. Mel and Tristan’s early time together is an adorable sequence, entailing living small, lots of late nights in limited space, and too much takeout Chinese. (presumably, there being no takeout Sumerian nearby) So, what happened to magic? Where did it go? One of the mysteries in the book is why magic vanished when it did. Neal Stephenson - from his site - Stephenson insists that the Children of the Corn are not his Another key player is soon brought in. Doctor Frank Oda (There is no try, only invent?) who has had way too much fun with Schrodinger’s cat, and now has a chance to scale up and make some practical use of his theories, like creating a space in which one might be able to cast a spell or two. And if you intend to do some magic you might need a specialist. Voila! Enter a crone of a witch, sent to the project several lifetimes ago by a time-travelling Melisande. Still with us? The first third of the book is pretty much pure delight, as we follow Melisande, Tristan, Oda, the now-transformed (hubba-hubba) witch and a few others as they figure out what needs figuring and begin to practice actual time travel. In addition to the above named, there is an Irish witch in the Elizabethan era who adds her commentary and reporting of events in the form of letters to her leader. These are delicious. Marty McFly’s sweet ride Ok, this was HUGE fun to read, as the initial group forms, and takes on the challenges of transforming the theoretical into the possible. Dare we say it’s magical? There is a running joke for about 150 pps, as Melisande offers guesses as to what D.O.D.O. might actually stand for, (Department of Diabolical Obscurantism?) but the truth is eventually revealed and the joke dropped. So where does D.O.D.O.’s charm begin to wear thin? As the tech becomes reliable, the government sponsoring agency grows, and what had seemed an entrepreneurial startup, in feel, if not actuality, morphs into a lumbering bureaucracy, led, predictably, by buffoons. As happens when governments and contractors are presented with a new toy, how to weaponize it is brought in for some consideration. It is at this point that the form of the novel takes a turn. I expect it was intended as a satirical look at how the heavy hand of institutionalization does its best to stamp out creativity. Instead of more flowing, longer passages of story-telling, we are treated to a blizzard of (Rumsfeldian snowflakes?) small exchanges, back and forths among the primary and too many secondary characters. There are internal memos about far too many things. Occasionally they poke through the surface crust and offer up a yuck or two, but mostly serve to slow everything down. I kept on for the entirety, 742 pps in my ARE. But it sometimes became a chore. An epic Viking poem about a raid on a Walmart sounds like a funny idea, but was painful to get through. The best humor is that based on the characters. I thought the resident Hungarian witch, Erszebet Karpathy, (please, oh please, can Christina Hendricks play her if there is to be a movie?) was hilarious in her diva mode. There is an Irish witch who offers both danger and fun, and a nice bit of inside cynicism on Shakespeare. (Galland has considerable Shakespearean expertise, so we can guess who wrote most of this.) From the TV show Timeless - looking ready to munch some ghosts There are other sections that are pretty entertaining. Some elements of time travel make for interesting circumstances on the landing end. Stephenson (it really has to be him) takes adolescent delight in concocting joke names out of government acronyms. You don’t have to have the mind of a 12-year-old boy to enjoy these, but it helps. Others will get to exercise the muscles that make one’s eyes roll. (I flipped back and forth between these modes) Monty Python is referenced with some frequency, particularly when the witch is being put through her paces. I quite enjoyed those, Python fan that I am, but there were probably too many references to newts. (It gets better) The chapter sub-headings are in a 19th century style that was adorable: Diachronicle (Mel’s diary) Days 57-221 (Winter, Year 0) - In which Tristan determines to fix magic or Diachronicle Day 323 - In which we learn quite rudely that nothing is ever simple. I don’t want to give up too many details, but there are, as in most (all?) organizations, battles for power, intrigue, subterfuge, back-stabbing, sucking up (The Office, witchy time-travel edition) and all sorts of unpleasantness. Multiple places in time become relevant as both strategic advantages, and as opportunities for office intrigue, and the cast of characters keeps growing. One of the notions incorporated here is a relationship over the centuries with a family run bank, The Fuggers. (not to be confused with the 1960s band, The Fugs, or the leadership of most major banking institutions of today, which would be pronounced slightly differently.) Yes, there was and is a real Fugger bank dynasty. It originated in the 14th century and is still a going concern. It will definitely make your Spidey senses tingle if you are into concerning yourself about the illuminati and global conspiracies. Neal Stephenson is second to none when it comes to generating techno-babble, a skill born of the magical combination of his almost supernatural creativity, and his considerable technical expertise. He knows where the bull leaves off and the droppings begin and is gifted at disguising the lines between. (These aren’t the droppings you are looking for) In explaining how the techno-magic works he tosses in a bit of what sounds to my ears (looks to my eyes?) like a Salem version of string theory. But no matter. If you don’t have time for this sort of thing, there is no need to get stuck there. You can just jump over it. I have not previously read any work by co-author Nicole Galland, so musty rely on external sources for a notion. Her profile on GR fills that bill nicely. She has much experience in theater and is particularly knowledgeable about The Bard, which comes in handy here. She and Stephenson were among the co-authors of a cooperative writing project, The Mongoliad Trilogy. I will leave you to wander the internet for descriptions of Neal Stephenson. If you do not already know about him, quick, hurry, catch up. So, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is a mish-mosh, both wonderful and tedious, engaging and fun and tedious, jejune, but sometimes hilarious, fascinating, but sometimes making you want to scan pages. I really have no intel on which of the authors wrote what parts, or if the work was even divided that way. I suppose interviews closer to the publication date might offer more on that, who to blame for this and applaud for that. The book offers a smart look at the details of what concrete challenges might be presented were time travel a possibility, and a harsh look at the persistence of human foolishness through the ages. With not a tachyon in sight. But the concept. OMG, the concept is bloody magnificent! This book is worth reading for that alone. There is enough fun in here to keep you reading. There is enough adventure to keep you wondering what will happen next, and there are enough characters that you are likely to find some whose fate you care about. And if you do, you will be heartened to know that the ending holds what seems a promise that there will be a sequel, assuming, of course, that you can set a spell and make some time. Review Posted – April 14, 2017 Published -----June 13,2017 - hardcover -----April 17, 2018 - Trade paper November 15, 2017 - The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is named one of the top five Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels of 2017 by the Washington Post =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the Nicole Galland’s personal, Twitter and FB pages Links to the Neal Stephenson’s personal, Twitter, Google Plus and FB pages For a real-world example of someone attempting to solve the science of time travel, you might check out this nifty 2015 article by Hugh Langley from Techradar.com This man is closer than ever to building the world's first time machine

  2. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    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, more 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, more 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 are more acronyms 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 by more than 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

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    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 lot more subtle. I felt like the intention behind this novel was to be more accessible 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. :)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    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 the more distinctive 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 much more. While 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 with more to 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

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    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 bit more reined 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 be more sequel 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    not a perfect novel but closer to five stars than 4 this story combined beautiful timey whammy stuff and is driven by overall a beautiful book and with an open end so we may get more.😁 please mr. stephenson and Ms. Galland may we have some more. not a perfect novel but closer to five stars than 4 this story combined beautiful timey whammy stuff and is driven by overall a beautiful book and with an open end so we may get more.😁 please mr. stephenson and Ms. Galland may we have some more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Carden

    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 a ctual 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lina

    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 - the more chefs, 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 potentially more interesting 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 a more modern 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 as more comfortable 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 Gráinne explains her grand plan. The only woman that is somewhat independent is Gráinne, 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    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!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bentgaidin

    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, but more because 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 anymore, 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 more, 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    This was fun. A real lark of a story. Magic has disappeared from the world and D.O.D.O. want to bring it back. Time travel and witches will solve that. Right? What can go wrong? This is an elaborate use of the Schroedinger's Cat theory. It works. But what happens when motivations get muddy? This story is funny, interesting, blends science with fantasy & history. It's got a crazy mix happenings. It's hilarious at times. Told completely in an epistolary way through letters, diaries, memos, email, This was fun. A real lark of a story. Magic has disappeared from the world and D.O.D.O. want to bring it back. Time travel and witches will solve that. Right? What can go wrong? This is an elaborate use of the Schroedinger's Cat theory. It works. But what happens when motivations get muddy? This story is funny, interesting, blends science with fantasy & history. It's got a crazy mix happenings. It's hilarious at times. Told completely in an epistolary way through letters, diaries, memos, email, notes, etc. A fun romp of a story. I thoroughly enjoyed the craziness. ...also Vikings appear! What could get better than that? LOL! I listened to the audio version which was really well done.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    What is it with big idea novels having to be so looooong! Seriously. I had this problem with that novel by Ada Palmer and I certainly had it with this one too. You have a big idea, we get it, no need to drag the damn thing out over more than 700 pages when half of that would have sufficed. In this case we follow a government agent (he's Army Intelligence, supposedly) who recruits a linguist. They then proceed to translate certain scripts, recruit Dr. Oda (a scientist formerly from MIT) as well as What is it with big idea novels having to be so looooong! Seriously. I had this problem with that novel by Ada Palmer and I certainly had it with this one too. You have a big idea, we get it, no need to drag the damn thing out over more than 700 pages when half of that would have sufficed. In this case we follow a government agent (he's Army Intelligence, supposedly) who recruits a linguist. They then proceed to translate certain scripts, recruit Dr. Oda (a scientist formerly from MIT) as well as his reluctant wife, and finally find a witch. Because witchcraft is real here. Or used to be up until 1851 when photography was invented. The goal is to harness witchcraft to slightly change historical events in order to help the US government. Thus they are building a time machine, fueled by a witch's magic, and proceed to travel back and forth along different strands of reality, at first to make money by placing artifacts in strategic places they can later dig up and cash in, then extending D.O.D.O. so as to have several people capable of travelling back in time. But they also need a network of witches because only those (living natively in the times the agents travel back to) can send the time-travellers back to their original time. Sounds like an interesting setting. My problem with this book? Oh, where to begin? The characters are so silly, it's actually very annoying: Like Tristan (the Army guy) who walks around with a priceless artifact in his backback, banging it against walls and doors. He's also not really very smart/smooth when it comes to getting information (which an intelligence officer should be?). But hey, as long as he's good-looking. Which he is. We're told constantly. Later he at least does some swashbuckling as any male hero must do, naturally. Or Mel. The linguist who can supposedly translate at least 4 ancient languages but says that Hungarian is so complicated she can hardly understand Erzebeth. Riiiiiight. She also calls Dr. Oda "sensei". Now, "sensei" is indeed a title of respect for a form of teacher. However, you only call someone that after having been chosen as a pupil and even then not immediately. But our Mel arrives at the good doctor's house and immediately addresses him that way (having never met him before). And OF COURSE she has a crush on Tristan - to the extent of her not doing her job right and making idiotic claims as to their work relationship on page 3 already ("if he has a girfriend/wife, she's not getting the best of him, I am" - WTF??? I can't even follow where such a sentence would come from, to say nothing of the arrogance of it). And she doesn't mind advances by men all that much if said men are good-looking. I can't even. Then we have Erszebet, the first witch. She is basically a wild cat in a bath what with all her shrieking and tantrums. But apparently that's ok because she's young again (though hundreds of years old) and hot. For some reason she later becomes downright obedient when being promised a US passport although there was never even only a hint about her wanting/needing one. Naturally, since she has sophisticated taste and enough scornfulness for ten, she is the natural leader of the witches. We also have Dr. Frank Oda, a physicist formerly employed by MIT, who experimented on cats via his version of Schrödinger's experiment and was thus let go. Basically, he's only there to flip a lever once or twice, to come up with the machine that ultimately becomes the time-travel device ODEC, is advanced out of the way by D.O.D.O. later and talked about by Mel and his wife in their journals. Oh, and his house basically is a hotel for various witches and other D.O.D.O. members at different times in the book. Rebecca Oda, Dr. Oda's wife, is a passionate gardener. She seems to be very intelligent but doesn't really get to show it. She's basically some form of grumpy comic relief like when she's complaining about her veggies being destroyed when the group tries to dig up a bucket Mel has placed in what is to become Rebecca's garden a couple of hundred years ago or when she complains about how her husband is being treated. But she did have a nice line towards the end of the book about how modern men, because their masculinity was bred and trained out of them in most cases, have to attack / question the intelligence of very masculine types such as Magnus. Supporting this lovely cast is a group of Maxs, Vladimirs and Lukes (I'm not kidding, those are their designations/names) to emphasize the exchangeability of government employees. Oh, and an obnoxious general who gets killed by the witch but it's not a big deal because he was so rude he deserved it and the bosses of D.O.D.O. also don't have a problem with his death because they see now that time-travel has potential (the dead general is getting a star so it's all good). He's replaced by another general who is so professional that he lets himself be (verbally) put in his place by Erszebeth in under a minute. But that's OK too because he's only there to emphasize how connections bring you farther than actual knowledge / talent (like when he brings in his friend / Mel's former boss, who is - of course - an old scholar with less knowledge than Mel who likes to throw his weight around to make himself feel important). Then come the other witches. They and their historical settings were mildly interesting (that "summary" of Hamlet by the Irish witch was one of the only things I chuckled about in the entire novel), but many seemed to be horny 24/7 (especially when they meet Tristan), most of them actually sold their bodies and were very devious. Because what else could witches be like? Don't get me wrong, a lot of women had to sell themselves if only to be relatively safe in times past (some have to still do it) and I'm neither a prude nor have I forgotten historical facts. However, even if they were meant to only appear as in charge of their fate and comfortable with their sexuality or manipulative, the other women (non-witches) were not portrayed that way so it came off as a "typical witch" thing. It also ties in to later designations of different types of time-travellers (like "lover") and the fact that D.O.D.O. even monitors sexual activity (audio, video, transcripts). Do you see a trend yet? Yeah ... maybe the authors tried to be funny with certain satirical stuff, but it was so extremely overblown that I could only roll my eyes at it and was very annoyed very quickly. Most in this book was just too much. The changing POVs / style of writing: This was done to break up the narrative and not let it become too boring, I'm sure. Thus, we're getting diary entries by Rebecca on top of chronicle entries from Mel and even several operational reports. However, take the military reports for example that are so wonderfully authentic military documents that they even contain smileys. *doh* Some witches write letters to other people, reporting about their encounter with our time-travellers, but basically they are all reporting how they were either at least hot on Tristan or even hitting on him. Then there is also internal communications / memos from one D.O.D.O. employee to another but while they were mostly meant to add to the satire and silliness, the many redacted paragraphs naturally didn't say anything at all and it just added to my eye-rolling (like most of the acronyms). There were several other annoyances and mistakes. Like Tristan's comparison of the Crusader's sack of Constantinople in 1204 making the invasion of Normandy look boring - all those knights, the armour, the burning arrows etc will certainly have been impressive to look at (and it is a popular topic) but that doesn't make the mowing down of wave after wave after wave of soldiers boring (if for no other reason than that the numbers just don't compare - the 4th Crusade had about 35.000 men on all sides total, no exact number of losses so lets assume an exaggerated 100%, while the invasion or Normandy had over 230.000 confirmed casualties). And such a phrase from a military expert? Riiiiiiight. If there had been only one or two mistakes, I could have overlooked them, but add them all together and we had one big pile of bullshit I could no longer ignore. Even all the time-jumps, that really should have been interesting to me since I love historical settings so much, just ended up being too drawn-out and prolong the novel needlessly. In short, the book is just full of awful dialogues from flat characters I didn't care about in the slightest ((view spoiler)[not even when the witch conspiracy to prevent the emergence of technology and preserve magic was under way (hide spoiler)] ), the authors are trying to be funny too often and too hard (I appreciate absurdity but only to some extent and only if it's done right), there are several technical mistakes that could have been avoided so easily with just a minimum of effort / research ... Even the good audio version that had funny scratching noises whenever Mel was scratching out modern words like "fuck" in her chronicles (a really nice detail) couldn't make up for it. I got the distinct feeling (especially regarding where the authors took the story in the last 30% of the book) that the authors were trying to put too many things in and had to make them fit together somehow (with not much success). I have read a number of books about time travel and at least one series with a considerable amount of humour / silliness springs to mind, but although Neal Stephenson apparently is a good author with intelligent concepts, either this is not his kind of subject or it's because of the collaboration. Anyway, it didn't really work for me. I just don't like being hit over the head with a club and the way this book was written, the over-simplistic way certain groups of people are described / displayed / stereotyped, the way we are told what to think and feel, it's like being hit over the head with a club (no finesse, no real style). So 3 stars really is generous. P.S.: In case you were wondering how I nevertheless justify 3 stars - it was the naked Vikings (and the Walmart) as well as the Fuckers Fuggers who did the trick.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nick Borrelli

    To view my full review for Fresh Fiction please click the following link: http://freshfiction.com/review.php?id... To view my full review for Fresh Fiction please click the following link: http://freshfiction.com/review.php?id...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Absolutely superb! I loved every one of its 742 pages. So sorry to finish it. Fabulous!

  15. 5 out of 5

    John Sundman

    Full disclosure: one of the authors (Galland) is a friend. In fact she & I went out yesterday for a cup of tea. Because Nicki's a friend I really wish I could give the book 5 stars or even 4. But if I'm going to stick to my Goodreads grading curve, it comes in as a solid 3. There are parts that I really liked, and parts that I really *really* liked. But also there are whole sections that made me want to throw the book against the wall. (This is a not uncommon experience for me when reading a boo Full disclosure: one of the authors (Galland) is a friend. In fact she & I went out yesterday for a cup of tea. Because Nicki's a friend I really wish I could give the book 5 stars or even 4. But if I'm going to stick to my Goodreads grading curve, it comes in as a solid 3. There are parts that I really liked, and parts that I really *really* liked. But also there are whole sections that made me want to throw the book against the wall. (This is a not uncommon experience for me when reading a book by Neal Stephenson.) I sum, I liked it. I recommend it. But it didn't light my world on fire. On the positive side, this book is a wild yarn. It's not afraid to be outlandish, over-the-top. It's about as subtle as a Mel Brooks movie, like Young Frankenstein or Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It has about 100 characters and a few dozen sub-plots. Moreover, because the story concerns time travel the plots and characters get jumbled up in all kinds of paradoxical ways, some of which are laugh-out-loud funny and others of which are like Rubics cubes that get resolved (or sometimes don't) before your eyes. Much of the book is a send up of bureaucracies -- military, governmental, academic and other. It's meant to be fun, and it is fun. The premise of the book, that "magic" is a form of technology for locally manipulating space-time that is transmitted both genetically and culturally through maternal lineages of witches and which allows witches to send regular folk short-distance hopping between nearby alternative universes, has a bit less of the scientific plausibility that characterize most Stephenson books, but a lot more than most fantasy/time-travel books have. Sure, there's a lot of hand-waving. But it's of the kind that even readers of "hard" SF are likely to go along with. As you would expect in a book by Neal Stephenson, there is serious geekery within. A few of the characters are very finely drawn. The old/young witch Erszebet is my favorite, and my desire to learn more of her story was what kept me going through some of the weedier patches, when she would be mostly off-stage for 100 pages or more. Some of the characters who inhabit exotic places in the past are also nicely done, even though their roles often are small. But, alas, the book is full of gimmicks that don't really work (The novel is presented as a collection of letters, diaries, email archives, etc, with no explanation of how they came to be gathered into a thing. This artificiality drew attention to itself at every turn. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I had a hard time getting past it.) And the info-dumps. My gracious, the info-dumps. The bane of every SF writer. How do you convey all kinds of information to the reader about an unfamiliar world without making her feel like she's reading a textbook (a really old, dry textbook)? There are lots of ways to tackle this problem (see, for example, Frank Herbert's DUNE or Orwell's 1984 or anything by Ursula LeGuin, or . . .). Unfortunately The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. mostly relies on a lot of "As you know, Bob, . . ." type presentations where one character explains to another the workings of some gizmo or whatever in excruciating detail. For example, there's a multi-page memorandum on the evolution of styles of swords and sword fighting told in self-conscious hacker-speak. Please. And finally, although the main present-day story takes place over 5 years (and the book is over 700 pages long), there doesn't seem to be any human connection, or drama, or growth between or among any of them -- the main, present-day characters (except the aforementioned Erszebet). No arguments? No sadness? No betrayals? No family troubles? No qualms about their work? No soul-searching? No particular intimacies? Office romance? Do any of these people have sex lives? Over 5 years these people work with each other every day -- where "work" involves highly secret and astounding things like time travel and magic -- yet we get no sense of wonderment, and all these people ever talk to each other about is the mechanics of the job. (It's kind of an inverse of the Harry Potter novels, where magic is just presented as is, and it's the interaction between the characters that keeps you flipping the pages.) Stephenson's books are rightly praised for sheer inventiveness. He's a guy with a remarkable ability to think about the implications of technology and to write stories that explore those implications. He's not really known for creating memorable characters. Galland on the other hand really likes to explore character. For example, she wrote a novel called "I, Iago", imagining the story of Othello from the villain's point of view. She's all about character. The Rise and Fall of DODO feels to me like a book that's 2/3 Stephenson and 1/3 Galland. ( I have no idea if that's true, by the way. It will be interesting to see how the authors handle that question when they go on book tour next month.) If it had more of the feel of a 50-50 collaboration I think I would have liked it better than I did. On the other hand I won't be entirely surprised if I find myself reading it again a year or two from now, as I've done with Cryptonomicon. There's a lot of heft to this book. Time will tell how much of a pull it has on me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    There have been a lot of novels with a time travel theme of late, and even novels like this one invoking the multiverse. This is one is complex and fun at the same time with the ultimate point of time travel being to bring magic back into the world. Magic is thought to have vanished from the world with the increased use of technology around 1851 and a secret government body (D.O.D.O) is working on a Schrodinger's Cat type experiment that will allow witches to perform magic again. The book was ov There have been a lot of novels with a time travel theme of late, and even novels like this one invoking the multiverse. This is one is complex and fun at the same time with the ultimate point of time travel being to bring magic back into the world. Magic is thought to have vanished from the world with the increased use of technology around 1851 and a secret government body (D.O.D.O) is working on a Schrodinger's Cat type experiment that will allow witches to perform magic again. The book was overly long for me and I felt got a bit bogged down in the middle but the tone was kept light and there was a lot of fun to be had with the characters involved: Melisande Stokes - a linguist, Tristan Lyons - from military intelligence, Dr Frank Odo - a physicist and brains behind the experiment, an ancient firm of bankers called the Fuggers, Erszebet - a grumpy witch from Budapest, and Grainne -a clever but sneaky Irish witch, who has plans of her own. The time travel experiments all start to go a bit pear shaped when the military decide to start carrying out secret operations and really spirals out of control when Vikings decide to raid Walmart. The book is written in different styles including emails, reports, letters and diary entries from different time zones (as well as an epic Viking poem) which keeps it interesting and entertaining.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Rounding up. What a shame! Why did Stephenson partner with another writer? Doesn't sound like his work at all. Too long and bloated-s story that could have been half the length and be much more interesting.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cynnamon

    Well, what can I say? This was not my cup of tea? I guess this would be only half of the truth. The other half might be the clash of expectations vs. reality. I expected to read a Neal Stehpenson-style scifi-novel with lots of action, cool protagonists, futuristic environment and a weird plot. I expected a crazy mixture of fantasy and scifi, of witchcraft and time travel. Obviously I completely forgot to consider that Stephenson wrote this book with a co-author and that this co-author might have s Well, what can I say? This was not my cup of tea? I guess this would be only half of the truth. The other half might be the clash of expectations vs. reality. I expected to read a Neal Stehpenson-style scifi-novel with lots of action, cool protagonists, futuristic environment and a weird plot. I expected a crazy mixture of fantasy and scifi, of witchcraft and time travel. Obviously I completely forgot to consider that Stephenson wrote this book with a co-author and that this co-author might have some impact also. I have no idea, though, if the cooperation with Galland is the reason for the result. So what did I get? The cover of my edition looks like a pretty old-fashioned and boring envelope folder. In this case you may judge the book by its cover. The whole novel is a collection of diary entries, mail exchanges, intranet communication, letters, transscriptions of interrogations, various memoranda, work process descriptions, Power Point slide decks and -as a notable exception – a Viking poem. You might say, that is a completely legit and innovative way of presenting a story. True, but not if the documents read like a bureaucratic administrator’s handbook. We struggle through work procedures, acronym catalogues, diversity policies etc. The fantasy/sci-fi elements I expected showed up as a meager topping only. Even witchcraft can be boring, if you press it in a folder. So in my eyes this is rather a satire on bureaucracy with focus on the military, but written like an office report. Also the book was spiked with acronyms. Yes I know, they were meant satirically. But they showed up in such abundance, that pretty soon I lost the will to figure out what they mean. (Yes, there is a glossary. I also lost the will to look them up). I noted positively, though, that there was quite a bit of historical information due to the DEDE (Direct Engagement for Diachronid Effect = time travel activities^^). Now the plot: this could have been interesting for a 300 pages novel, but for 700+ pages it was definitely far too skinny. I feel sorry (mostly for myself^^) that I couldn’t find the enjoyment in the book like many other readers, but for me it is only a 2 star, hardly okeyish read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    Some people are put off by the sheer volume of Neal Stephenson's books--they tend to be big, and useful as doorstops. But, I think they are all fantastic. This book is just as good as any of Stephenson's other books--and I have read almost all of them, including the incredible The Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon. Without giving away any spoilers, this book is about magic and time travel, and handles both in a very logical, almost scientific manner. A few time travel paradoxes are mentioned, and Some people are put off by the sheer volume of Neal Stephenson's books--they tend to be big, and useful as doorstops. But, I think they are all fantastic. This book is just as good as any of Stephenson's other books--and I have read almost all of them, including the incredible The Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon. Without giving away any spoilers, this book is about magic and time travel, and handles both in a very logical, almost scientific manner. A few time travel paradoxes are mentioned, and the consequences are beautifully described. The best part of Stephenson's books are that there are no loose ends. By "loose ends" I mean that each subplot in the book comes together in a meaningful way. In some chapters, Stephenson builds up the plot to a point where an incredible scene is unveiled, incredibly exciting, hilarious, and completely overwhelming. This book has a few such scenes, and despite the length of the book, they are like a climax of climaxes. But here I must say, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!! I repeat, DO NOT READ IT! Instead, you must LISTEN TO THE AUDIOBOOK!! It is fabulous. The point of view of the book is mostly in the first person--but that person switches from one character to another, slowly at first, and then the switching accelerates. And, each point of view is read by a different narrator. At first, this is a bit disconcerting, because different narrators breathe life into the characters with different voices and accents. But the overall effect is remarkable. The list of narrators on Amazon's audiobook page only lists six narrators; but really there must be 10 or 15 different narrators, each of them excellent. Highly recommended for fans of Neal Stephenson.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    Light and meandering, anda surprisingly fast read. I have to admit I actually enjoyed reading how the DODO bureaucracy ballooned, hampering the ability of the core group to maintain control over the various DEDEs at DTAPs. (The number of abbreviations and acronyms in use reminded me of my time at a variety of corporations.) And watching the smarmy and condescending Blevins at work -- blechhhhhhh! I liked Melisande Stokes a lot and Erzabet frequently had me grinning.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Loring Wirbel

    Neal Stephenson proceeded directly from one of his more serious and technically challenging works, seveneves, to a rollicking multi-century spoof co-written with historical fiction author Nicole Galland. Stephenson and Galland had worked together along with five other authors on The Mongoliad Trilogy, though I'll admit I'm not familiar with the series. Funny that trilogies are involved with the Stephenson-Galland resume, however, because this book resembles nothing so much as the high-humor and Neal Stephenson proceeded directly from one of his more serious and technically challenging works, seveneves, to a rollicking multi-century spoof co-written with historical fiction author Nicole Galland. Stephenson and Galland had worked together along with five other authors on The Mongoliad Trilogy, though I'll admit I'm not familiar with the series. Funny that trilogies are involved with the Stephenson-Galland resume, however, because this book resembles nothing so much as the high-humor and faux-conspiracy Baroque Trilogy Stephenson authored a decade ago. What is common in Stephenson's sober and technically-accurate tomes, and in his comical tall tales, is the tendency to push the plausibility of events right up to the limit. In seveneves or Anathema, that can get in the way of the storytelling, because the author tries so hard to make the science and engineering ring true, only to present events that seem close to implausible. In satire, we needn't worry so much, because we know in advance that every shred of reality is up for grabs. The premise of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. reminds me of a question my daughter asked me in her latter high school years: "Did miracles die off because people became more science-minded and realized they never existed in the first place, or did science chase the miracles away?" Stephenson and Galland chronicle the rise of a new federal intelligence agency (and bureacracy) under the auspices of IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, a real thing), which is tasked with the mission of "bridging the magic gap." As all good scientists and historians know, magic officially died in July 1851, having been placed on its death bed by the Industrial Revolution. A specific event related to the perfection of photography finally put all witches out of business, and it is the job of DODO (you'll have to read the book to learn the acronyms) to bring them back. Stephenson and Galland develop a rather interesting theory of witchcraft, related to Schrodinger's Cat and Hugh Everett's many-worlds theory. Suffice it to say that probability wave fronts have particular ways they tend to collapse, and their collapse into actuality at different break points creates multiple universes, and multiple "strands" of the history we know. Witches develop ways of manipulating the probability waves to fall in one way or another, a "summoning" of spells. There is a lot of overlap in the bewitching language of this novel and Mark Z. Danielewski's The Familiar series: "Scrying," "familiar," "glamour" and "glimmer" used in a wiccan context, etc. Witches certainly don't know probability influencing and many-worlds in a quantum sense, but they have yarn or broom creations (like the South American "quipa") that allow them to hand-calculate, abacus-style, how the casting of a spell might influence possible futures on possible strands. One must avoid at all costs the notion of "diachronous shear," when multiple universes approach each other with logically implausible scenarios, and the universes die a mini-death at a particular place and time, like the local collision of matter and anti-matter. I'd be willing to bet that Galland influenced Stephenson to not get too heavy in the early portion of the book, and to explain the connection between Schrodinger's Cat and witches' spells with a light-hearted cartoonish aura resembling Mr. Peabody of Bulliwinkle fame. A reader with a firm background in science fiction might roll eyes at first, until discovering the entire book carries a cartoonish tenor, and is never to be taken too seriously. We watch how federal bureaucracies arise and become infected with civil-service mundane action, all with the forementioned cartoon silliness. The book takes place in an alternate universe in which the Pentagon is called the Trapezoid, but the character-types are all too familiar, albeit drawn in the hyper-exaggerated manner of Dr. Strangelove. And of course, the time-travel is wild and woolly, filled with the accuracy Galland can provide, as we hop from a tenth century Norman village to Constinople in 1203, during the Fourth Crusade, to Elizabethan England in a hyper-paced search for witches. And, without providing too many spoilers, the intelligence-agency meddlers must avoid events leading to diachronous shear, such as allowing too many people to know that Christopher Marlowe might not have died in that infamous barroom brawl. The federal effort to exploit magic is not merely to spend taxpayer money - what happens in Constantinople, and in the Seljuk and Ottoman empires to follow, could have a big bearing as to whether Russia occupies the Crimea and invades eastern Donbas in 2014. Or could it? It all depends on which strand one is on. The bulk of the book is written from the perspective of Melisande Stokes, a linguist and ancient culture specialist from the 21st century, left stranded in 1851. Thanks in part to Galland's influence, much of the book is written from the perspective of women, from witches and would-be witches to the very un-magical Stokes. It is a great perspective from which to observe the folly of men that are responsible for creating much of the nation's, and world's, military-intelligence bureaucracies. The authors intersperse Stokes' diary with government memos and handwritten notes in different typeface, moving the story forward in the manner of the graphic insertions used by Reif Larsen, Garth Risk Hallberg, and many other modern novelists. Some readers may find this makes the story too nonlinear, I tend to love this, and hope it is used to greater extent, as in Danielewski's series. There are times when elements seem very over the top, as in the Viking invasion of a Lexington, Mass. Walmart, but let's remember the absurd adventures of Jack and Company, sailing around the world in the 17th-century Baroque Trilogy. Stephenson is a master at moving way, way beyond the boundaries of what could be. A reader either gets used to that, or dismisses Stephenson as the biggest boaster at the bar. Since I started reading this novel knowing it to be a fairy tale, I figured no pushing of the reality boundary was a bridge too far. There are few hidden terrors or moral lessons in this book, as there are in many Stephenson and Galland works. The conclusion is a little bit too melodramatic, and too many good-guys win in the end -- or at least, we think they do in a conclusion that leaves room for a sequel. But the Hungarian witch, one of the strong supporting actresses in the novel, leaves readers with a suggestion that must be hard for the scientifically-inclined to make, and hard for Stephenson to suggest as well. As a new battle emerges between those who would kill the scientific method to preserve witchcraft, and those who think that the death of magic was an acceptable bargain to gain 21st-century technology, Erszebet the Witch reminds us that nature does not care if the Enlightenment or the world of magic and fairy-tales wins in the end. There are different ways of perceiving and interacting with the natural world. We children of the Enlightenment who are used to the universality and predictability of the scientific method may wish to think that a scientific understanding is naturally preferable to living in superstition and fear. But the death of magic brought with it the end of the summoning of probability waves, the end of glimmer and scrying. Maybe, just maybe, science and witchcraft have equal benefits to bring to the party. At the very least, witchery brings us bone-chilling terror from time to time, and can also be the source of some silly cartoon-style fairy tales, of which D.O.D.O. is a perfect example.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*

    Technically, I haven’t abandoned this yet.... but I’m about to. I’m listening to the book and I was following it just fine and was actually enjoying it, that is until the book turned into a bunch of email/messages being read. I’m trying to follow it, but I have found this so tedious and I don’t have any idea what’s happening at this point. I don’t have any desire to go back and re-listen to the parts that I hated. I’m on the last third of the book, so I did give it a serious try. But I can’t do thi Technically, I haven’t abandoned this yet.... but I’m about to. I’m listening to the book and I was following it just fine and was actually enjoying it, that is until the book turned into a bunch of email/messages being read. I’m trying to follow it, but I have found this so tedious and I don’t have any idea what’s happening at this point. I don’t have any desire to go back and re-listen to the parts that I hated. I’m on the last third of the book, so I did give it a serious try. But I can’t do this anymore.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Time travel is possible by witches performing magic, although Mmes. Who, Whatsit, and Which do not make an appearance. A shadowy defense agency of the US government wishes to control and use the magic and witches. This bureaucratic encumbrance is not to be confused with the Ministry of Magic, nor, any other magical governance. Although, the Viking hoards invasion of Wal-Mart reminded me a lot of Genghis Khan’s trip to the mall in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Time travel is possible by witches performing magic, although Mmes. Who, Whatsit, and Which do not make an appearance. A shadowy defense agency of the US government wishes to control and use the magic and witches. This bureaucratic encumbrance is not to be confused with the Ministry of Magic, nor, any other magical governance. Although, the Viking hoards invasion of Wal-Mart reminded me a lot of Genghis Khan’s trip to the mall in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

  24. 5 out of 5

    RG

    3.5* I usually enjoy Stephensons work and having read positive and negative reviews on this I was hesitant to start. It deals with an entire host of ideas. Quantum physics, time travel, history, witchcraft/magic, administration politics foundations just to name a few. The novel was divided into 5 parts and I thoroughly enjoyed Part 1 introducing the 2 main protagonists. It introduced the foundation for why magic was lost and what DODO briefly was. From there it became alot of backlog and info dum 3.5* I usually enjoy Stephensons work and having read positive and negative reviews on this I was hesitant to start. It deals with an entire host of ideas. Quantum physics, time travel, history, witchcraft/magic, administration politics foundations just to name a few. The novel was divided into 5 parts and I thoroughly enjoyed Part 1 introducing the 2 main protagonists. It introduced the foundation for why magic was lost and what DODO briefly was. From there it became alot of backlog and info dumps that really didnt have much ti add to the story. In saying that chunks throughout the info dumps did feel important and were relevant but you had to wade through the lot to get there. The writing was great and witty at times, but it definitely felt like Stephensons lightest novel in terms of ideas. I would probably classify this as an urban scifi fantasy novel with historical aspects. The portrayal of red tape to promote and build an organisation was extremely well done ( tongue and cheek) however it was way too hefty/long in size. I think if it was 300 pages or so less, a little more concise in its direction, the authors may have created a 5 star reading. Will maybe continue the series if there is to be a 2nd book but will probably wait for reviews.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    3 ½ stars Take time travel, witches, Schrodinger’s cat, dwindling magic, a shadowy government entity and naked Vikings and you have some idea of what to expect. Magic had disappeared from the world in 1851 because of the development of science and technology, particularly the photography of an eclipse. The story follows the exploits of a government agency that tries to restore magic by any means possible. The story idea was fantastic and fun but also frustrating at times. I think the time travel co 3 ½ stars Take time travel, witches, Schrodinger’s cat, dwindling magic, a shadowy government entity and naked Vikings and you have some idea of what to expect. Magic had disappeared from the world in 1851 because of the development of science and technology, particularly the photography of an eclipse. The story follows the exploits of a government agency that tries to restore magic by any means possible. The story idea was fantastic and fun but also frustrating at times. I think the time travel concept was very well thought out with just enough metaphysical jargon to make it feel believable. The ridiculousness of bureaucracy is well-captured with some funny emails and memos between department heads showing the tension between characters. But these also irritated me a little at times, it slowed down the pace and I think most of these could have been cut shorter. The mysterious Fuggers were not explored properly and makes me think this book is setup as the start of a series. This is a light, madcap satirical book that reads surprisingly fast for a 750-page book. It has something for everyone. The science geeks, historical fiction fans, thrill seekers and even a little romance. This is my first book by Neal Stephenson and if some of the more negative reviews are anything to go by this is not the author’s best work, so I will definitely try more from this author.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (Kalanadi)

    Close to 4.5 stars. Some of the plot is ludicrous, but it is so much fun! (view spoiler)[I'm really, really bummed that Blevins didn't get his comeuppance. The man was an idiotic offensive asshole and Stokes had to put up working with him for YEARS. I mean, she says at one point she had sexual harassment issues with him... and grrrr. This is open-ended for a sequel though, so who knows what may happen. (hide spoiler)] Close to 4.5 stars. Some of the plot is ludicrous, but it is so much fun! (view spoiler)[I'm really, really bummed that Blevins didn't get his comeuppance. The man was an idiotic offensive asshole and Stokes had to put up working with him for YEARS. I mean, she says at one point she had sexual harassment issues with him... and grrrr. This is open-ended for a sequel though, so who knows what may happen. (hide spoiler)]

  27. 5 out of 5

    Breinholt Dorrough

    This book is one wild ride! Told entirely in epistolary form, D.O.D.O. works, shall I say, uniquely - the reader becomes intimately acquainted with all the characters because he learns about said characters from the perspectives of all the other characters in the story. These are characters who remain memorable. Not once did I have to pause and ask myself who somebody was. While D.O.D.O. is certainly the "least sciency" of all Stephenson's works, that is exactly the point. It in no way detracts fr This book is one wild ride! Told entirely in epistolary form, D.O.D.O. works, shall I say, uniquely - the reader becomes intimately acquainted with all the characters because he learns about said characters from the perspectives of all the other characters in the story. These are characters who remain memorable. Not once did I have to pause and ask myself who somebody was. While D.O.D.O. is certainly the "least sciency" of all Stephenson's works, that is exactly the point. It in no way detracts from the fun the reader experiences - really, the focus is more on the human story behind the magic and time travel than on technical details of how said time travel would work. Any technical explanation would be pure speculation, anyhow. The book is intriguing in its notions of altering time once in the past and having that alteration not affect the present because so many different futures are possible. Above all, D.O.D.O. is funny. The epistles, letters, diary entries, memos, emails, and Norse poems (these last about sacking Walmart, no less) are clever in design and hilarious in execution and purpose. Also, if you check out Neal and Nicole's Facebook live interview about the book, you will a couple questions answered - asked by yours truly and credited by name!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Allison Hurd

    I give up. Time of death: 60% I've read for 14 hours. All forward progress halted and the past 3 hours have been bad transcripts of of congressional budget hearings, email exchanges between snippy colleagues, some of which are literally just "email to X from y re: that email you just sent. REDACTED." It actually said redacted. More than once. All the women are so far overbearing or are defined at least part of the time by their availability for sex. The dudes are caricatures, and as I mentioned it I give up. Time of death: 60% I've read for 14 hours. All forward progress halted and the past 3 hours have been bad transcripts of of congressional budget hearings, email exchanges between snippy colleagues, some of which are literally just "email to X from y re: that email you just sent. REDACTED." It actually said redacted. More than once. All the women are so far overbearing or are defined at least part of the time by their availability for sex. The dudes are caricatures, and as I mentioned it's more boring than doing dishes with it on. It's also uh...not at all right on the agency side lol. I think the only person I have respect for is Grainne. I'm not impressed. I feel like poor Ms. Galland had a tough job making anything useful out of the rambling, nonsensical, offensively stereotyped book that Stephenson wanted to write. Pbbbbt. CONTENT WARNINGS: (view spoiler)[ rampant sexism, casual racism, sexual coercion, loss of a loved one. (hide spoiler)]

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    “You have an agreeably uninteresting existence. Let’s see if we can change that.” Before I start this review, I just want to say that it took me way longer to read this than planned. That has nothing to do with the quality of the book (which as my rating above already indicates, I quite enjoyed it) and everything to do with life changes. I will no doubt always look back at this book fondly as the one I was reading when my daughter was born… which is quite delightful, but as one goodreads friend s “You have an agreeably uninteresting existence. Let’s see if we can change that.” Before I start this review, I just want to say that it took me way longer to read this than planned. That has nothing to do with the quality of the book (which as my rating above already indicates, I quite enjoyed it) and everything to do with life changes. I will no doubt always look back at this book fondly as the one I was reading when my daughter was born… which is quite delightful, but as one goodreads friend said (and I will now use this quote as often as I can) “New-borns have a way of banjaxing your reading time.” This quote is highly accurate. So, to begin with I picked this book up after a request thread in which the novels of Neal Stephenson came up. I confess I have never read Stephenson before, but with the release of a new novel, this seemed like the time to start (plus the plot description was quite intriguing). While I'm not sure if it is the best place to start with his work (especially with a co-author, I won't know how much of what I dislike or like in terms of style is him or Galland), I’ve got to say that I really loved this book. There is honestly so much that I love here that I really had to debate with myself if I was giving it 4 or 5 stars. On one hand I do see flaws with it, but the book makes up for all flaws with a wonderful sense of humor, an intriguing story, and delightful writing tricks throughout. Stephenson and Galland obviously had a lot of fun writing this, changing writing tactics from case files, transcripts of conversations between character and even the most excellent take on a Viking poem I’ve ever read. I say without a doubt, this is easily the most entertaining novel I have read thus far this year. So, without knowing what are traits of Stephenson and what Galland brought to the novel, let’s do some pros and cons. Pros: The book is genuinely laugh out loud funny. I do not say this lightly. There were moments where I was reading this book next to a sleeping baby and doing my best not to make any noise for fear of waking her up, but even with that I’m still practically dropping the book to cover my mouth to prevent noise. I haven’t laughed this hard since I discover Pratchett and that was certainly something I did not expect when going into this. Technobabble! I love that they actually explained how things work. Sure, I can’t say I understood it all, but I don’t honestly think that I was supposed to fully understand it. They explain it well enough for you to get a partial understanding, but something seems to be missing. Maybe that’s just me, but I notice others having some difficulty figuring exactly how it all works. (view spoiler)[An epic Viking poem about raiding a Wal-Mart. That alone is worth the price of the book. (hide spoiler)] Despite the length (742 pages on my copy) the authors do a good job of introducing new aspects without taking up too much time. Characters are often introduced as part of recruitment files, yet despite this their introductions are memorable enough that I never found myself looking back wondering who the hell such and such character was. Cons: (view spoiler)[The book doesn’t so much as end as just stops. It leaves a lot of room open as to what happens next, and after spending 700+ pages, there’s just not much closure. This is a fairly minor one for me personally, but I can see how it could really bother some people. Given the nature of the book I felt it was rather fitting that things are still left unfinished as the very goal of time travel keeps things in flux. There’s no way to really properly end things as long as anyone has time travel capabilities and ending it with a bit of a stale mate is fitting. With all the references to a “magic-gap” early on I would have been disappointed if there wasn’t a touch of the Cold War to things. (hide spoiler)] Honestly… I can’t really think of any other cons. There were a few points in the book where I thought it was going to go in a direction that would have annoyed me, but all were avoided. For example: (view spoiler)[I really thought that Les Holgate was going to turn it into a situation where they had to find ways around orders to get things done, but thankfully that situation got resolved rather… dramatically. (hide spoiler)] All in all I just really enjoyed this start to finish. Fans of hard science fiction may enjoy the technology aspects but be put off a bit by the magic. Fantasy fans may feel the opposite… but as a fan of both science fiction and fantasy, I found this a wonderful hybrid and a delight to read. Highly recommended. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to decide where to continue with Stephenson next...

  30. 5 out of 5

    David

    Naturally, when the U.S. government discovers that magical time travel is possible, rather than leaving it alone for fear of causing rifts in space-time, they decide the thing to do is recruit some secret agents to go back in the past and meddle. Just a little. For the benefit of our national interests. Hence D.O.D.O. — the Department of Diachronic Operations. This is a book that takes a premise that's been done in many bad movies, TV shows, and RPGs, and plays it straight despite the obvious au Naturally, when the U.S. government discovers that magical time travel is possible, rather than leaving it alone for fear of causing rifts in space-time, they decide the thing to do is recruit some secret agents to go back in the past and meddle. Just a little. For the benefit of our national interests. Hence D.O.D.O. — the Department of Diachronic Operations. This is a book that takes a premise that's been done in many bad movies, TV shows, and RPGs, and plays it straight despite the obvious authorial tongue-in-cheek. I tend to be skeptical of coauthored books, especially when a big name teams up with a lesser-known writer, in which case I suspect that the minor author did most of the work with the Big Name contributing minimally but adding his name to the cover to boost sales. But I'm cynical and that may not be how it usually works. Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. While I haven't had my socks knocked off by everything he's written, I have never been disappointed by a Stephenson novel, even his early ones, the ones he's said he'd rather people didn't read. This book definitely shows Stephenson's influence — in particular, his ability to stick crunchy sci-fi into a story about literal time-traveling witches, his cynically humorous treatment of government agencies, and the usual affable, dorky computer genius, even if he's a minor character in this book. Nicole Galland apparently writes historical fiction (as does Stephenson), and I felt her hand in the narrative in the "softening" of this novel — we did not get Stephenson's usual pages and pages of infodumps about the history of science and technology, and if he were writing the book by himself, we'd probably have had several chapters on the precise mechanics of magic and various historical magical organizations and why witches are always female and the socio-political implications of that... instead, we are just told that magic exists, it's always been around (until it died out in the middle of the 19th century, for reasons around which the entire plot of this book revolves), and the fact that all magic users are women is somehow never addressed at all. There's also not a lot of violence, and while the book is not exactly a romance novel, you can tell a woman wrote all the romantic parts. This is not a bad thing, as Galland and Stephenson seemed to work well together to produce a book that, while not among my top Stephenson reads, still entertained me as much as any of his other books, and made me willing to check out some of Galland's works. Our primary protagonists are Melisande Stokes, an expert in ancient linguistics, and Tristan Lyons, a very straight-arrow G-man who recruits her for a very secret black box agency. Soon enough she finds out that it involves recruiting a witch — the last surviving witch — to send agents back in time via a special piece of equipment. (Time travel requires both a magic user and the equipment, for elaborate MacGuffin-ish reasons.) Initially on what was frankly a rather hare-brained scheme to raise funds for this underfunded organization (seriously, you don't think the U.S. government would dump billions into a working time travel device?), but then the government decides they can start tinkering with history, a little. The mistake, of course, is in treating witches like resources that you'd recruit and manage like any other assets, and not taking into account that they may have goals of their own. The time travel chapters, in which both Tristan and Melisande go back to Puritan America and Elizabethan England were entertaining and humorous. As was the constant sexual tension between them. The story doesn't really kick into gear until the later chapters, in which D.O.D.O. has its fingers on so many things it is inevitable that things will start to unravel. The highlight of the book was probably the band of Viking warriors who invade the modern era on what turns out to be an ingenious scheme orchestrated by a 12th century warrior from the Varangian guard and a 16th century Irish witch. It is accompanied by an appropriate epic tale in Skaldic form: The Lay of Walmart While there are a few suspensions of disbelief — no time travel story can be free of these — I was reasonably satisfied with the handling of temporal physics and how they empowered the plot. It's a successful blend of historical and science fiction, with some lancing of bureaucratic cliches as well.

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