The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
From bestselling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed historical and contemporary commercial novelist Nicole Galland comes a captivating and complex near-future thriller combining history, science, magic, mystery, intrigue, and adventure that questions the very foundations of the modern 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.

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

TitleThe Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 13th, 2017
PublisherWilliam Morrow & Company
ISBN0062409166
ISBN-139780062409164
Number of pages768 pages
Rating
GenreScience Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Time Travel, Adult, Thriller, Humor, Science Fiction Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Audiobook

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

  • Will Byrnes
    April 13, 2017
    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 evergladesOccasionally 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 siteThe 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 hisAnother 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 rideOk, 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 ghostsThere 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, 2017Published – June 13,2017=============================EXTRA STUFFLinks to the Nicole Galland’s personal, Twitter and FB pagesLinks to the Neal Stephenson’s personal, Twitter, Google Plus and FB pagesFor 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
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  • Morgannah
    May 7, 2017
    I REALLY need an ARC of this book, can any one help me? PAAALEASE!!!
  • Liviu
    April 25, 2017
    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
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  • Joe
    January 29, 2017
    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!
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  • Lillian
    February 20, 2017
    Fabulous!!Stephenson and Galland have written a story where magic is supported by science. An oxymoron but they make it highly feasible.In the words of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law;"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."Nicole Galland manages to soften the hard science edges of Stephenson's story line and temper his 'pop culture' language into a more literary flow. However, his characteristic humor and wit remain causing you to smile often while reading and freque Fabulous!!Stephenson and Galland have written a story where magic is supported by science. An oxymoron but they make it highly feasible.In the words of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law;"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."Nicole Galland manages to soften the hard science edges of Stephenson's story line and temper his 'pop culture' language into a more literary flow. However, his characteristic humor and wit remain causing you to smile often while reading and frequently laugh out loud.They have both brilliantly crafted a complex narrative that is captivating and populated it with vibrant, well drawn characters whom I was loathe to say goodbye to at the end of the novel. I miss them still.Virtually, the entire novel is epistolary and you get so caught up in the story it's almost unnoticeable. The authors move easily through diverse time periods; 1850's chronicle (or diachronicle), letters written in 1600, 1200, a twentieth century journal, twenty-first century letters (truly) and the ubiquitous electronic communication also of the twenty-first century. An immediate intimacy develops between reader and writer and it is delightful!Skilled writing and very impressive.The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is a lively jaunt to a variety of destinations through time and place.There is so much to like about this book. I'm convinced it will widen Stephenson's fan base and bring more readers to Galland.Thank you HarperCollins for the advance!
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  • Lina
    March 15, 2017
    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.
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  • Christopher Farrell
    March 15, 2017
    This is the coolest book I have ever read. Stephenson and Galland have created this long, beautiful book that scratches any itch you have that might include; time travel, linguistics, witches, government organizations, Crusades, Elizabethan England, and Vikings. The pages shift from prose to government reports to diary entries, all distinct, wonderful, and creative. I will be pushing this one on everyone I know.
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  • Bentgaidin
    April 28, 2017
    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.
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  • Nicholas Leazer
    February 9, 2017
    This was perhaps my second favorite Neal Stephenson book after Snow Crash, and I will most definitely be reading some of Nicole Galland's books after this! I could barely put it down. The pacing was excellent, I loved all the characters, and the plot was unpredictable in the best way possible. If you're a fan of science fiction, time travel, and magic, this is definitely one to keep on your radar. I can definitely see myself reading this for a second time in the very near future.
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  • Pamela
    March 3, 2017
    Review of an Advance Reader's Copy. It's got time travel, and technology, and witches, and quantum mechanics, and magic! This could be my favorite book so far of 2017. Only complaint: needs some tightening up through the middle sections. There are some parts that are perhaps interesting but don't really move the story along, and when you're in the midst of a 750 or so page book -- in my opinion -- there are moments when you want things to just move along!
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  • Loring Wirbel
    April 10, 2017
    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.
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  • Billie
    May 5, 2017
    Smart and interesting with just enough humor to keep it from getting ponderous. Honestly though, it was about 100 pages too long, especially since the ending made it feel like set-up for a series.
  • Kristine
    March 6, 2017
    I received this ARE from Our Town Books, Jacksonville IL, and excited I was to read it! I first read this author's book Snow Crash, which became one of my favorite cyberpunk stories. Mr Stephenson has a unique talent in blending genres; quantum physics, ancient languages, historians, computer geniuses, and time travel all combine for one of the most intriguing books I have read in a long time. DODO stands for Department of Diachronic Operations; you won't know this until you sign the contract. " I received this ARE from Our Town Books, Jacksonville IL, and excited I was to read it! I first read this author's book Snow Crash, which became one of my favorite cyberpunk stories. Mr Stephenson has a unique talent in blending genres; quantum physics, ancient languages, historians, computer geniuses, and time travel all combine for one of the most intriguing books I have read in a long time. DODO stands for Department of Diachronic Operations; you won't know this until you sign the contract. " Do you want to be involved in research that will change the world : yes or no? Read and sign." Talking about your new job is a now a treasonous offense because you have signed up for a shadowy government operation. However, you will get to travel ; 1203 Constantinople, 1601 London, and more! Someone has found a link between quantum physics and magic, which enables time travel ; however, it's tough to find women practicing witchcraft these days. Something happen in 1851 to fade magic and these DOers ( Diachronic Operatives ) want to find out & change that event. I have only one grumble ; there is a section that tells the story only from Approved Memos written in Govt Bureaucratese. It was amusing for the first few pages, but really dragged the story down in the middle. A Sitrep Report about an Incident Involving Staff Witches at the Approved Halloween Party. You get the picture. Read this book!!
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  • Jayne
    March 14, 2017
    I received this ARC from Westwinds Bookshop, Duxbury, MA.What a romp of a novel!This is not a book I would normally choose.....quantum physics, time travel, witches...get outta here!I couldn't put it down, engaged with the plot and the characters. Cheering for some (Tristan & Melisande) and booing for others (Blevins). Loved the inter-departmental communications.Fun to read, interesting historical events and some non-events. Food for thought with regard to 'what if someone HAD changed that t I received this ARC from Westwinds Bookshop, Duxbury, MA.What a romp of a novel!This is not a book I would normally choose.....quantum physics, time travel, witches...get outta here!I couldn't put it down, engaged with the plot and the characters. Cheering for some (Tristan & Melisande) and booing for others (Blevins). Loved the inter-departmental communications.Fun to read, interesting historical events and some non-events. Food for thought with regard to 'what if someone HAD changed that tiny little detail in history'.....Nooooo!Despite the heft of 750 pages, this would make a great vacation read or (for this reader) a stuck in a blizzard read.Good fun, easy recommendation.
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  • Lisa Wright
    February 25, 2017
    Talk about quantum entanglements! It's not often (ever) that you see quantum physics entangled with magic and history. This is an epic romp from the near-future through all of human history. And then some. I love the technical explanations of how and why magic died out and how and why it might be brought back. It manages to be both thrilling and hilarious.
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  • John Sundman
    May 24, 2017
    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 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.
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  • Lindsey
    April 5, 2017
    **I received this as an ARC from my local bookstore in exchange for an honest review.**The Rise and Fall of the D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland was not what I expected coming from an author like Stephenson. I have not read all of Stephenson’s works, but I have read enough to be seriously disappointed by this novel. This novel is told through various forms: letters, government documents, and diary entries from various characters.The novel is told mostly from the point of view of Mel **I received this as an ARC from my local bookstore in exchange for an honest review.**The Rise and Fall of the D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland was not what I expected coming from an author like Stephenson. I have not read all of Stephenson’s works, but I have read enough to be seriously disappointed by this novel. This novel is told through various forms: letters, government documents, and diary entries from various characters.The novel is told mostly from the point of view of Melisande. When the story opens, Melisande works as an adjunct linguistics and ancient languages professor at a university in Massachusetts. Then a chance encounter with a mysterious man by the name of Tristan Lyons offers a far better salary for Melisande to work as a translator of some documents that will benefit a secret mission.Essentially, the secret governmental organization that Tristan works for is attempting to bring back magic, which disappeared centuries earlier. Tristan and Melisande with the help of several other key players set out to use science to bring back the use of magic. This sounds like a great plot; a novel combining science and magic? Perfect!Unfortunately, this novel did not live up to my expectations. I had some serious issues with the pacing. Even though a fair bit happens in the story, I felt like I was reading about the events in slow motion. This did not compel me to want to pick up the novel and keep reading. The most interesting sections were the letters written by the witch, Grainne, those letters contained the kind of pacing I was wanting from the rest of the story that just didn’t deliver.In addition to pacing, much of the dialogue felt stunted, and like I was reading a romantic comedy script. The issues I had with the dialogue could have been in part because of the gender problems contained within this novel.All of the female characters in this novel are flat. Melisande has very little agency of her own, despite being one of the main characters whose perspective we follow the most throughout the novel. We don’t know much about her, beyond her connection to Tristan who becomes her love interest, but their relationship is stilted and childish in nature.All of the female characters suffer from this same flat and stereotypical depiction. We have Rebeeca East-Oda who is depicted only as a caretaker to her husband, cats, and garden with little personality of her own. She is only there to support her husband in his experiments All of the actions by the women in the novel are motivated by the men around them. Overall this novel, despite having an excellent premise did not live up to what I expect from Neal Stephenson. It had some enjoyable parts, but the pacing, dialogue, and issues concerning gender took away much of what was good about this novel.
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  • Jon
    May 3, 2017
    Well, it ain't crap, but it ain't great, either. This one really feels like he phoned it in. In typical Stephenson fashion it takes a minute to get rolling, and does a decent job through maybe the first quarter of the book. Then it gets a little -too- into itself, like "It's a Stephenson novel so we need infodumps! You get an infodump, -you- get an infodump, -YOU- get an infodump!!!" I haven't read Galland's work so I'm not putting any of the blame on her, because the editors/beta readers/Neal H Well, it ain't crap, but it ain't great, either. This one really feels like he phoned it in. In typical Stephenson fashion it takes a minute to get rolling, and does a decent job through maybe the first quarter of the book. Then it gets a little -too- into itself, like "It's a Stephenson novel so we need infodumps! You get an infodump, -you- get an infodump, -YOU- get an infodump!!!" I haven't read Galland's work so I'm not putting any of the blame on her, because the editors/beta readers/Neal Himself should have caught this. The middle slog is generally where Stephenson shines, right up to the 85-90% mark where he throws in the grand climax, and then it's all downhill from there. This time around that anticlimax surprisingly held off, as the book actually picked up around that point only to peter out at the finish line. All in all a bafflingly mediocre book that, while it has great premise, fails to deliver even the flawed quality that I've come to expect from Stephenson. 3 stars, if you're bored go ahead and try it, otherwise there's other -better- stuff coming out that you can read.
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  • Jon Lewis
    April 13, 2017
    Working up a full review for SFRA, but this book is a hoot.It's a time-traveling book of witchcraft, sword-fighting, banking, berserkering fun. I think it's Stephenson's best book since Anathem and his most fun book since Snow Crash.
  • Wes
    April 24, 2017
    [Read as an Advance Reader's Edition]Full review to be published on SFRevu.com in May/June. Will post it here when exclusivity expires. In the meantime, suffice it to say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable, fast paced read. I found that I couldn't put the book down (which is good since it is a 750 page tome!) Whether that was due to the fact that the narrative is done via journal entries, emails, diaries, official memos, and sundry other documents, or the fact that unlike many Stephenson books [Read as an Advance Reader's Edition]Full review to be published on SFRevu.com in May/June. Will post it here when exclusivity expires. In the meantime, suffice it to say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable, fast paced read. I found that I couldn't put the book down (which is good since it is a 750 page tome!) Whether that was due to the fact that the narrative is done via journal entries, emails, diaries, official memos, and sundry other documents, or the fact that unlike many Stephenson books this one isn't as technically rigorous, is unclear. But it is a fun read and well worth your time.
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  • Penelope
    March 16, 2017
    I haven't read Neal Stephenson or Nicole Galland before but I certainly will be again after finishing this marvellous novel. This tome of a book (over 700 pages) flies along at a pace that has you trying to catch your breath before it reaches it's conclusion leaving you breathless, entertained, amused, awestruck and utterly bewildered (in a good way). It's the story of a plan to bring magic back to the world using scientific time travel but as you can imagine plans never go smoothly, especially I haven't read Neal Stephenson or Nicole Galland before but I certainly will be again after finishing this marvellous novel. This tome of a book (over 700 pages) flies along at a pace that has you trying to catch your breath before it reaches it's conclusion leaving you breathless, entertained, amused, awestruck and utterly bewildered (in a good way). It's the story of a plan to bring magic back to the world using scientific time travel but as you can imagine plans never go smoothly, especially when humans and time travel are involved. Told through multiple perspectives using mission briefings, diary entries, letters and memos it is at times a little confusing but stick with it, trust the authors and things do become clear in a most marvellous fashion that won't leave you disappointed.
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  • Myles
    February 27, 2017
    This was the most fun I've had with an arc so far, and I had initially given it full marks despite some wavering issues I had with the pacing, but then I read Lina's review and she brought up the troubling gender problems, that when lined up like that are hard to deny. I still really liked it, but some things can't be unseen.I also want to point out that for the first 100 pages of this I was still actively confusing Stephenson with Neal Shusterman, whoops. I realized this was going places a youn This was the most fun I've had with an arc so far, and I had initially given it full marks despite some wavering issues I had with the pacing, but then I read Lina's review and she brought up the troubling gender problems, that when lined up like that are hard to deny. I still really liked it, but some things can't be unseen.I also want to point out that for the first 100 pages of this I was still actively confusing Stephenson with Neal Shusterman, whoops. I realized this was going places a young adult novel, possibly, still can't go. Though there were 'voice' problems in the book that made it feel juvenile. I've never read Nicole Galland's other work so I can't be sure it was her influence, but the dialogue strayed to far into RomCom territory. I recall some clunky conversations in Snow Crash so it may have been all Stephenson. The story. Right. Classical linguist Melisandre Stokes is swept off her feet by a mysterious, but alluring, government agent of D.O.D.O., who asks her to translate a series of documents and artifacts. It quickly becomes apparent that there is historical evidence that magic once existed but at some point in the 19th century became impossible. There are info dumps and speculating and finally a break through where D.O.D.O. figures out time travel. This isn't a surprise to readers because the novel begins with a journal entry from Mel despairing about being stuck in the past.The novel has plenty of time to expand on its theories of magic and shuffling its cast of characters around enough that they mostly justify their existence. In the end, I enjoyed it very much, despite the competing government agencies and horrible fuckups funded by tax dollars. It still managed to make me stop thinking about the fuckups of our strand.
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  • Jody Robinson
    March 26, 2017
    I loved this book, some of the quantum physics made my head spin but it was a great read, great characters and great plot! That is all I will say about that...
  • Just Another
    May 25, 2017
    releasing in june 2017
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