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Sui Generis book club

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

I read both of these books last weekend, in that order, so comparisons were inevitable. Both are classified as science fiction. That's about the only thing they have in common.

The Time Traveler's Wife (henceforth TTTW) pokes at interesting ideas like fate, free will and predestination, but I was disappointed that they were not explored more deeply. Instead, it was content to be a love story with a twist, which is fine if you're into that kind of thing. But the chapters tended to drift along and I found myself occasionally losing interest. And unless I missed something, most of the little plot diversions and promising threads turned out to be red herrings; I kept waiting for everything to tie together in an interesting way, but I was left with a disconnect.

There's a lot of good stuff in there too, but it didn't add up to a great novel in the balance. Like Randy Jackson says on American Idol, "it was just okay for me." If I myself were a time traveler, I would advise my past self to skip it.

After waiting a couple of hours for these impressions to sink in, I turned to Snow Crash. Unlike TTTW, this book gripped me from the start. I was blown away by Stephenson's writing; each line sparkled, he made every word count, and he kept up the pace consistently throughout the entire novel. Snow Crash introduced tons of cool ideas, and then played with them, expanded them, changed them and turned them over and re-examined them from different points of view.

You could say that TTTW is more character-driven, i.e. its strength is in the people rather than the concept, but I cared about Snow Crash's Hiro and Y.T. just as much if not more than for TTTW's Henry and Clare (I also had to think for a few seconds to remember Henry's name). Maybe it's an unfair comparison--after all, there's a reason that Snow Crash is a classic.

The upshot of it is that I was unimpressed overall by Audrey Niffenegger and thrilled with Neal Stephenson, and Snow Crash raised the bar on my own writing. It is sadly lacking in comparison. But like I said, he's a master, and I can't expect to write a masterpiece on my first, second or thirtieth try. It's good motivation to keep trying.

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