This is a powerfully thought provoking book. It is enjoyable simply because it is so very disturbing. As a high-school teacher I found the information relating to the necessity of a large uneducated workforce enlightening. Also, the detailed examples about food processing and taste are well...thought provoking. And, the information about the aggressive campaigning for ever younger customers has lead my wife and I into many discussions about the amount of television and fast food we are willing to let our children consume.
I am critical of the author's biased approach to the material, but he clearly states his agenda at both the beginning and end of the book; so the material can be read with the knowledge that this book is a prosecution of the industry with no real defense.
This book was not at all what I expected: I loved it. This is the first cyberpunk novel I've read, and I'll be reading more. Please be warned that the first few hours of the audio are dedicated to the circumstances of the setting. Stephenson does a wonderful job of setting up his vision of the future, but I found myself wanting the story to progress. Honestly, I may not have finished this book if I hadn't been able to get through the entire exposition in one sitting. When I downloaded this novel I expected fluff, a fun novel but lacking depth. However, the intertwining of religion and technology is amazing, and the depth of philosophy relating to language and history made me think again about my own beliefs. On another note, if readers of this novel find Stephenson's vision of a future dominated by huge franchised cultures intriguing, I recommend reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Fast Food Nation, although not an unbiased presentation, makes clear parallels between Stephenson's future and today's industry.
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