It was difficult getting out of Topeka. The city sprawl followed me to the north for hours, with chewed up roads, a narrow shoulder, and impatient motorists hemming me in. Since I couldn't concentrate on anything complicated, I listened to two comedy albums by Chris Rock ... and then afterwards wondered why I had done so. His material really didn't age well.
But that got me through the sprawl and onto the more relaxing scenery of highway 4, where I queued up Neal Stephenson's latest novel ReaMde and gazed at the late-Autumn skyline, while Neal plodded through his overlong, obligatory process of making introductions and setting the stage.
I really do understand that beginnings are very difficult for writers. I just wish that Neal had stuck to the approach he used in Diamond Age; an approach that Terry Pratchett uses to great effect. Sidle up to the stage, talking about the woodwork and the weather, throwing out a few unsorted but shiny factoids to catch the mind's eye. Tell an anecdote about one, and oh look, we've blundered into the path of a major character, and hello, here's another, and that factoid was pretty interesting but something is clearly going on here ... and suddenly the stage is set and the players are ten pages into act one. At no point were you distracted by a huge, blinking sign reading "CHARACTER PROFILE", heralded by the sound of squealing brakes as the narrative jerks to a halt to take on this additional baggage.
Just so with ReaMde I'm afraid. For over two hours I had to wait while Neal halted his own story and lugged another suitcase onto the roof-rack. But then in hour three, he shifted gears and dropped his foot on the gas pedal. Now things are moving along beautifully, and I can't wait to get back on the road tomorrow just to listen to the next chapter.
Well, okay, I can wait. I do need sleep!
Today I made two new friends. One pulled up next to me in a parking lot, and the other chatted with me in Atchison about exercise and adventure.
People are very nice! It encourages me to keep on truckin'.
Also, awesome cloudscapes:
Okay, time to get some sleep. I have to pass through St Joseph tomorrow and then bike due east for 70 more miles. Whohoo!!