May 17, 2015
What do you do when a new book that you have been eagerly awaiting receives a lukewarm review from a reviewer that you respect?
This is the dilemma that I find myself in as I await the release (5/19) of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves: A Novel.
The review in The Guardian is not all that negative. The reviewer, Steven Poole, is fan of the first two-thirds of the book. The big downer comes in the final third (after page 565), when Stephenson makes a narrative choice to jump 5,000 years into the future. Pool writes:
"Particularly once we arrive in the novel’s snail-paced last third, there are lots and lots of lavish descriptions of imaginary machines: city-sized orbiting habitats, giant pendulums reaching down into the Earth’s atmosphere, “sky trains”. After scores of pages of this, my eyelids were succumbing to a powerful gravitational force. And I quite like giant space gadgets.”
A similar note of concern about the final third of Seveneves is shared by Gary K. Wolfe of the Chicago Tribune:
“While this section offers some considerable surprises of its own, it also carries a bit too much luggage; after leaving behind characters we'd come to care for over hundreds of pages, it's hard to warm up to these strange new protagonists".
Normally, a couple of non-rave book reviews would never stop me from reading a book from an author that I love. In this case, however, I have two hesitations. Your advice would be appreciated.
Hesitation #1 - Seveneves Is Really Long: This is an 880 page book. The audiobook, which is how I’d probably read the thing, is 32 hours. I’m worried about the final 10 hours. At 32 hours long, Seveneves is also about 4 times as long as the books that I normally read. This means that the opportunity cost (in time) of reading Seveneves is 3 books. A long book represents a big time commitment, and hence a big risk. My bar to read a long book is set pretty high.
Hesitation #2 - No Whispersync for Voice: Why are so few books Whispersync enabled? You know Whispersync, the offering from Amazon that syncs Audible audio and Kindle e-books. Whispersync is ideal for long books. The ability to seamlessly switch back and forth between reading with my eyes and reading with my ears creates an impressive reading momentum. Does anyone know why Amazon has done such a poor job of releasing Whispersync enabled books? Is this a failure of licensing, negotiation, or focus? What is the Whispersync bottleneck?
My guess is that my love for everything that Stephenson has written will sway me to take a gamble on Seveneves. What about you?
How do you think about book reviews?
How does the length of a book influence your purchase decision?
What are you thinking about reading?
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