Novel Reviews

Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette was written by Maria Semple and published in 2012.

Synopsis

MacArthur Genius recipient and architectural phenom, Bernadette, escapes from L.A. with her husband Elgin to start a new life and family in Seattle. Fifteen to twenty years later, they have a ridiculously smart daughter, Bee, live in a crumbling building that used to be a school for wayward girls, and are planning a trip to Antarctica as a reward for Bee’s perfect grades. Combine Elgin’s high pressure job at Microsoft with Bernadette’s agoraphobia, general dislike of people, and feuds with the mothers of Bee’s classmates and it’s only a matter of time before the family unravels.

Reasons to Read

It’s funny. It makes fun of overly involved parents. It makes fun of Microsoft and Seattle. Bernadette is a great character. The book is pieced together through correspondence and told from Bee’s perspective. Minor characters are not forgotten, but change and develop as integral parts of the story. Virtual Internet assistants from India. The writing is accessible. It’s a bit of a mystery. Antarctica. Did I mention it’s funny?
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Review: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash was written by Neal Stephenson and published in 1992.

Synopsis

The Mafia, the nation of Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong, a cyborg, a skateboarding kourier, and a pizza-delivering hacker who is the greatest swordsman of the world team up to stop a communications monopolist from releasing a virus that affects people and computers.

Reasons to Read

The main character’s name is Hiro Protagonist. Key book in the cyberpunk canon. Stephenson almost invented the word avatar. Dystopian, commercialized, libertarian world where laws basically don’t exist. Cyborg doggies called Rat Things. It’s hard to predict where the novel is headed. Ancient Sumerian religion and artifacts. It’s way, way, way better than the Cryptonomicon. Sword fighting. Hackers. And again, sword fighting.
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Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was written by Robin Sloan and published in 2012.

Synopsis

Set in San Francisco, unemployed twenty-something, Clay Jannon, finds work in a mysterious bookstore that rarely sells books and checks out encrypted texts to its members. With the help of friends at Google and in the startup community, Clay tries to unravel the mystery of the bookstore using data visualizations, natural language processing, and crowdsourcing.
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