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In the Beginning... Was the Command Line
Neal Stephenson
Avon Books, 151 pages

In the Beginning... Was the Command Line
Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson's background shows clearly in his writing. He was born in Fort Meade, home of the National Security Agency (NSA), and grew up in a family that included biochemistry, physics, and electrical engineering professors. His own studies included physics and geography.

Stephenson is the author of Zodiac, Snow Crash, and the Hugo award-winning The Diamond Age. He also writes with his uncle J. Frederick George under the pseudonym Stephen Bury. Stephenson currently lives in the Seattle area with his family.

Cryptonomicon Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Neal Stephenson
SF Site Review: Cryptonomicon
SF Site Review: The Cobweb by Stephen Bury
SF Site Review: The Cobweb by Stephen Bury
SF Site Review: The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson Interview

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

"You can't do it," they told me. "That be a book that can't be reviewed. No poor fool's been able to last fer more than two paragraphs." I heard their warnings, their legends, saw them cross themselves when I told them I would do it. Now, only the PowerBook will tell...

There are a few basic groups who are going to be drawn to In The Beginning; it's not for everyone.

Group 1 is comprised of computer experts. They may work as IT professionals, lurk as loathsome hackers, or be that kid next door who recovers the scattered and shattered fragments of your thesis after your computer burps and just stares back at you. Experts probably already know most of what Stephenson reveals, but the chance to commune with one of their own kind is always irresistible. And if you are going to chuckle wryly at observations, who better to chuckle along with than Neal Stephenson? He's been there and he says it better.

Group 2 are the people who use and basically understand computers, but -- let's face it -- experts we aren't. We recognize the author's name and want to know more about the whole computing game. For us, there are some eye-opening revelations and a new way of looking at those slick ads on TV and in magazines. Find out exactly what they are selling us. And maybe, learn a little more about what is happening every time Windows boots up.

Group 3 would be the people who know nothing about computers, software, or the internet. Why did they buy this book? No matter, this is a chance to get a genuine understanding of how the whole thing started and what it is all about. No, you won't learn how to be a member of Group 1, but you may have a more accurate view of what the computer business is built on. Hell, you may even find something that allows you to make sense of those up-and-down tech stocks. Maybe.

At last -- Group 4, the readers who will snatch up anything with Stephenson's name on it. Once they get over the shock that In The Beginning is not his latest novel, they can settle down and enjoy an insightful essay. They may just realize that this book is the closest thing on the market to Stephenson speaking directly to them. There is no protagonist, really no villain, and only the author's analysis coming straight at them.

Come to think of it, that may be the appeal of this little book; if you were to meet the man and ask him to explain the birth, growth, and future of computing, this might be what he would say. You would have to pay strict attention in any case. This is not a playful romp through the joy of emoticons and screensavers. This is the technical tale, smuggled out to us by one of the Group 1 elite.

Copyright © 2000 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, will be published in early 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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