In the time in which I write this, 1851, magic is waning. The research that DODO paid me to perform indicates that magic will cease to exist at the end of this month (July 28). When that happens, I will be trapped here in a post-magic world for the rest of my days. The only way anyone will ever know what became of me is through this deposition. While I have managed to land myself in comfortable (by 1851 standards) quarters with access to pen, ink, leisure time, and privacy, it has been at the expense of my freedom; my hosts would not consider allowing me out of the house for an evening constitutional, let alone to seek out witches who might help me.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland is about a U.S. government agency that uses witches to time travel.
This book is an adventure story, not a character study or a transcendent piece of literature about the nature of humanity. It’s supposed to be fun. And it is! The main characters are witty, the dialogue is breezy (even with long nonsense discourses about quantum mechanics), and the action is action-y. The time travel mechanic is unique and clever, and the world building is intricate and consistent.
I do not mean to suggest, however, that the book is a cover-to-cover swashbuckling adventure of fisticuffs and derring-do. The vast majority of the story involves the characters figuring stuff out, solving problems, and dealing with complications. And while there is a consistent linear narrative throughout the book, it’s composed of a variety of “sources” — journal entries, emails, letters, memoranda, Congressional hearing transcripts, transcriptions of security team recordings, etc. — that are used to satirize bureaucratic culture to charming effect.
I did not see any obvious issues from the book having two authors instead of one. There are no drastic tonal differences or plot points into nowhere, for example. The book reminded me quite a bit of Stephenson’s Crytonomicon in terms of style and tone. I do not have any experience with Galland’s writing, so I cannot tell how much of her usual style (if she has one) is present in this book.
I loved the book, but I will acknowledge it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s lengthy, but even so, the end still feels a bit rushed. The action is cerebral, the characters are a bit static, and there is a fusion of science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and satire that might turn genre purists off. I recommend it to anyone interested in an original time travel tale that has a sarcastic sense of humor.
There is sex and foul language in the book, so keep that in mind if you are thinking of giving this as a gift.
My rating: 5 stars.