I found "Cryptonomicon" to be quite the page turner. It's not science fiction, rather a thriller that jumps in time between the 90s (plot concerns the creation of a free data haven) and WWII (the breaking of the Enigma code). There are large sections explaining cryptography with mathematics, which can be skimmed over without affecting the plot. I read through much of that and only got a faint glimmer of understanding until I had to take a required Linear/Vector Algebra course at university and got to a section where we looked at operations that allow a traffic light to work, which (at it's most basic) is similar to code.
Never heard of it, truthfully. Might have to check it out once I get done with Garrett, PI, though. Am partway through the Merchant Princes series by Stross, although that is fantasy with a dose of economics. Stross seems to have some range, so maybe I would like it (I've also read a sci fi short story by him, which was totally different from the Merchant Princes books).
Let me chime in with my praise for "Cryptonomicon".
It is definitely one of the best fiction books that I have read in a long time.
While I have not read "Catch 22" and "Gravity's Rainbow" again in a long time, this book definitely strongly reminds me of them.
Right, just read the description of the first book on Amazon. Sounds VERY Malazan too! In fact, could be Malazan!
In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the caravan-guard Holla-Sayan, escaping the bloody conquest of a lakeside town, stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog. The girl, though, is the incarnation of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail, and the dog a shape-changing guardian spirit whose origins have been forgotten. Possessed and nearly driven mad by the Blackdog, Holla-Sayan flees to the desert road, taking the powerless avatar with him. Necromancy, treachery, massacres, rebellions, and gods dead or lost or mad, follow hard on the their heels. But it is Attalissa herself who may be the Blackdog’s—and Holla-Sayan’s—doom.
(Which of course, makes it sounds absolutely awesome)
It has that feel I agree. And it deals with gods, similarly as Malazan.
Here's the synopsis for Blackdog which is a standalone.
In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the caravan-guard Holla-Sayan, escaping a bloodily-conquered lakeside town, stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog. The girl, though, is the incarnation of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail, and the dog a shape-changing guardian spirit whose origins have been forgotten. Possessed and nearly driven mad by the Blackdog, he flees to the desert road, taking the powerless avatar with him. And long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, the seven devils, who had deceived and possessed seven of the greatest wizards of the world, were defeated and bound with the help of the Old Great Gods...
Necromancy, treachery, massacres and rebellions, gods dead or lost or mad, follow hard on the devils' heels. But it is Attalissa herself who may be the Blackdog's—and Holla-Sayan's—doom. And perhaps some of the devils are free in the world, and perhaps some are working to free themselves still.
And here's the synopsis for The Leopard, 1st in a Markand series.
Ahjvar, the assassin known as the Leopard, wants only to die, to end the curse that binds him to a life of horror. Although he has no reason to trust the goddess Catairanach or her messenger Deyandara, fugitive heir to a murdered tribal queen, desperation leads him to accept her bargain: if he kills the mad prophet known as the Voice of Marakand, Catairanach will free him of his curse. Accompanying him on his mission is the one person he has let close to him in a lifetime of death, a runaway slave named Ghu. Ahj knows Ghu is far from the half-wit others think him, but in Marakand, the great city where the caravan roads of east and west meet, both will need to face the deepest secrets of their souls, if either is to survive the undying enemies who hunt them and find a way through the darkness that damns the Leopard.
To Marakand, too, come a Northron wanderer and her demon verrbjarn lover, carrying the obsidian sword Lakkariss, a weapon forged by the Old Great Gods to bring their justice to the seven devils who escaped the cold hells so long before.
Both are shelved as epic fantasy by a lot of people on GR.
It's not that bad. Out of 30ish reviews on the first page, there's two 1 star reviews and four 2 star reviews. The rest are mostly 4 star reviews.
This book however is not widely read. There's only 357 ratings (meaning that's how many people finished and rated the book), and out of those 62 people wrote some kind of review.
I think it might be worth a shot if only for the reason that epic fantasy standalone books are so hard to find.
No, but I've been planning to for years. "Cryptonomicon" was my last Neal Stephenson read (shortly after the paperback came out) until "Anathem" approximately a year ago. I can't recall clearly, but I do remember feeling the end of "Cryptonomicon" to be a little untidy in a way where I half expected a sequel - I think there was even some news at the time that Stephenson was writing one. He ended up writing the Baroque trilogy, instead. Two people I know who've read it say it's their favourite of Stephenson's works (at least, "Quicksilver" is).
Signed hardbacks take pride of place on my shelf!
They are excellent books on a number of levels. He follows the invention of national debt, stocks & shares, cryptography and more. It uses quite a few famous historical folk (not least of all Newton) to show the development of Natural Philosophy - Physics as we call it now - and the founding of the Royal Society. It has political and religious elements as well as straight up adventure and Half-cocked Jack Shaftoe is a great character who will leave you very aware of the "Imp of the Perverse" when it alights on your shoulder.
It's hard to see how they could have been any more wide ranging and still maintain a good story. If you enjoy the historical richness of someone like James Clavell and multiple plotlines in the sweeping epic tradition, you'll probably like them much as me.