Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell: A Promising Start That Got Lost in the Digital Abyss

So, I recently dove into Neal Stephenson’s “Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell,” expecting an epic adventure. Well, let me tell you, it didn’t quite deliver. Clocking in at a whopping 900 pages, you’d think there’d be enough room for some serious action. But nope, not much happens for the most part. I mean, we get bombarded with pages upon pages of philosophical musings, theological ramblings, and political banter. Some of it relates to the story, but a lot of it feels like it’s just there to fill up space. It’s like Stephenson took a philosophy/theology textbook and tried to disguise it as a novel.

The story? Yeah, it’s in there somewhere, but good luck finding it. It keeps getting swallowed up by this jungle of words. And let me tell you, it’s not even that great of a story. In fact, it could’ve been told in a fraction of the pages. But no, we’re treated to this never-ending maze of verbiage instead.

The writing itself is a bit odd, especially when we venture into the simulated “souls” in the virtual world. Those characters speak in this archaic, overdone high fantasy language that feels totally out of place. And get this—they draw inspiration from Norse, Greek, and Judeo-Christian mythology, which they just assume the reader to understand.. I mean, cool, but it’s done in such an obvious and random way that it just doesn’t make sense. The virtual world, which should be the heart of the book, ends up feeling forced and unconvincing. It’s like, come on, give us something to believe in!

Towards the end, we spend almost all our time in the virtual world, and guess what? It turns into a typical, run-of-the-mill Quest fantasy with a weak and predictable ending. Talk about a letdown!

Overall, I hate to say it, but it feels like Stephenson wasn’t giving it his all. It’s like he was going through the motions, throwing together a mishmash of parts that don’t fit well. It’s a shame because we all know he can be a fantastic writer when he wants to be. Unfortunately, “Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell” isn’t terrible, but it sure isn’t a masterpiece either.

Individually the “parts” offered a very interesting premise which could have been a story unto themselves. The hoax’s propogated by the internet and then believed in by certain demographics. The idea of Ameristan, the idea of “souls” living in a digital world. All very interesting, however I was very much left wanting.

Rating this one? Well, I’d say it’s a solid 2.5 out of 5 stars.