The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O
By: Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
My Rating: Four out of Five Stars Best
For: Adults only
How about a Science Fiction story with some Fantasy mixed in? Or is it a Fantasy story with ScyFy elements? Both? Neither?
I’m creating a new genre for The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. I hereby dub thee: Science Fantasy!
Every few years I get an itch to read something by Neal Stephenson. His trademark is long books with fascinating stories featuring complex science. Reading Neal Stephenson is a serious mental workout, and it takes me those years in between to recover. I read Cryptonomicon in 2013…it’s 2021 now. So I guess it takes me 8 years to get over the mind beating. I’ll be reading either Snow Crash or Seveneves 2029!
I thought The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. was really cool. A clandestine government agency has discovered a cache of historical documents that prove witches existed in the past, they could perform real magic, and they were respected and known in society because of their powers. History shows their power began to wane in the early 19th century, and vanished all together after 1851. What happened to magic? Why did it disappear? If we understand the how’s and why’s…can we bring magic back? And if we could, what would a government agency use it for?
I’ll let you discover the what and the why of magic’s disappearing. Hint: it involves serious quantum physics and locking a cat in a box. (Side story–I was telling my 14-year-old about D.O.D.O. and mentioned Schrödinger’s cat. He’s response? “Oh, I know about Schrödinger’s cat. They talked all about it on Big Bang Theory.” So, 1 point for Sheldon Cooper.) Can we bring magic back? Well…obviously the answer is yes, otherwise there wouldn’t be this cool book to read. And what would we use it for? Time travel. Duh!
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is the story of the re-discovery of magic, modern-day witches, and a secret branch of the US government that sends agents back in time to subtly nudge outcomes of events that will result in different outcomes in our current day. Cool, right!?
A side benefit is the time spent on the obnoxious (true) stereotypes associated with both government and private corporations. If you work for any of these entities, you’ll laugh in solidarity as D.O.D.O. navigates through a sea of acronyms, HR policies, bureaucracy, unqualified leaders, red tape, and other general goofyness. Some reviewers felt the middle of the book was bogged down by all time dedicated to these elements…I found it fun and relatable.
This is The rise and FALL of D.O.D.O.–the title should give you all the hints you need about how things work out for D.O.D.O. After all, these are witches we’re dealing with. The book has a strong ending, and sets up nicely for an optional book two if you’re interested in continuing the story. I probably will eventually, but I’m not in any hurry.
Some notes on content: The book is long and scientifically heavy, so if that’s not your thing you might skip this one. Plus, there is a fair amount of grown up language and sexual nuance. Nothing graphic or descriptive, but turns out when you time travel you can’t take ANYTHING with you, so there’s a lot of time spent naked. Plus, apparently a common cover for witches throughout history was to hide out as prostitutes. So you’ll find plenty of whores, bawdy houses, and courtesans to wade through, depending on what time and place in history you visit. All that means The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O is best enjoyed by adults.