Neal Town Stephenson was born on the 31st of October, in the year of 1959, in Fort Meade, Maryland, United States of America. He is a prominent and notable American author, particularly famous for his speculative fiction work. His novels most often fall into the genres of sci-fi, historical fiction, cyberpunk, post-cyberpunk, and baroque.
Stephenson was born in Fort Meade, Maryland, into a family of scientists and engineers. Neal’s father was an electrical engineering professor, while his grandfather was a physics professor. Stephenson’s mother worked in a lab for biochemistry, as her own father had been a biochemistry professor.
Best Neal Stephenson Books
Neal attended Boston University where he specialized in physics before changing it to geography upon discovering that this change would enable him to have more time on the mainframe of the university. Neal graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in geography, with a minor in physics, in 1981. Presently, Stephenson resides in Seattle with his family. With that said, let’s take a peek at what we think are the best Neal Stephenson books.
Cryptonomicon, one of the most popular Stephenson books, leaves no one surprised we chose it for our list. Cryptonomicon was published in the year of 1999 and it spans upwards of eleven hundred pages. Cryptonomicon is a novel that takes us to many places all over the globe. We move between the past of the Second World War and the present day.
The characters we follow in the 40s are Lawrence Waterhouse, a cryptanalyst, and Bobby Shaftoe, a morphine-addict marine. The two are a part of the so-called Detachment 2702, a subgroup of the Allies that aims to break the Axis’ codes of communication while trying to keep everything under wraps.
Different, Yet Connected
The same level of thrilling secrecy and wonderful storytelling is present during the, for a lack of better words, in the present-day story, as well. The 40s protagonist’s grandchildren are the ones that we follow here, namely Randy Waterhouse and Amy Shaftoe.
The two of them want to make a kind of haven for data in Southeast Asia, but a character from the past, Enoch Root, inexplicably pops up around them. One of the best-selling Stephenson books.
Snow Crash is yet another wonderful standalone novel from the great author and one that we would go so far as to say that it is one of the best-rated Neal Stephenson books of all time. Snow Crash was published in 1992 and is a hair under six hundred pages. Snow Crash is the novel where we follow Hiro Protagonist.
So far as reality and day to day life is concerned, Hiro Protagonist is a pizza delivery boy for Uncle Enzo’s Coso Nostra Pizza Inc., however in the Metaverse, Hiro Protagonist is something wholly and completely different – he is a warrior prince. As Hiro’s time in the Metaverse is always a treat if you ask him, it stands to reason that he must like it quite a bit, which he does. An easy pick for Neal Stephenson’s best book.
However, when an unexplainable and befuddling computer virus begins beleaguering a number of hackers from all over the world, Hiro Protagonist has no choice but to take matters into his own hands before his loved Metaverse is all gone.
The enigmatic nemesis that he faces is one that wants to bring on the so-called infocalypse, but that’s not going to happen under the watch of Uncle Enzo’s best pizza delivery boy.
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer is one of the most creative and inventive steampunk novels that we’ve had the joy of picking up. It comes as no surprise why we rank it as being one of the top Neal Stephenson books, as well. The novel was published in the year of 1995 and is around five hundred pages long.
Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw might have a name that can annoy any jaw, but he also has a granddaughter whom he loves dearly. He loves his granddaughter so much, in fact, that she is actually built and designed.
John Percival Hackworth is an engineer, who got a task to create a primer that will help the Neo-Victorians’ children to think independently. Hackworth tries to steal a copy of the book for his daughter, but things got terribly wrong.
A street robbery is the means by which Nell, a young girl residing in the tatterdemalion conditions of leased territory in Shanghai, comes upon a much-coveted book. Nell could not have known what to expect, but a book that’s actually a completely interactive education for a young six-year-old kid all the way to the period of adolescence is not something that she was expecting. As Nell begins perusing the book, she becomes the target of many shady folk. Possibly the best Neal Stephenson book.
If we were forced to give our picks for Neal Stephenson’s books ranked, then Anathem would perhaps be among the top few. Anathem is a nearly thousand-page novel which was published in the year of 2008. Fraa Erasmas is a young, devoted mathematician currently residing in the Concent of Saunt Edhar.
The Concent is a haven for all those that have an affinity for mathematics as they are kept hidden from the outside world by means of traditions, rituals, and ancient stones. Over the course of history, many a city and many a people have fallen, yet the Concent lives on despite it all. At the present, the Fraas along with the Suurs are all but set to exit the Concent’s gates as a celebration for the once-in-ten-years rite of Apert.
Erasmas, currently celebrating the very first Apert he has had as a Fraa, is quite earnest and eager in wanting to connect with the people he hasn’t seen in so long upon his entrance into the Concent. Unfortunately, a force that could not have been anticipated has plans of making everything quite harder for the Avout mathematicians, as Erasmas is forced to take a stand. One of the best Neal Stephenson novels.
Seveneves is a standalone novel, one of the great author’s most recent works. It was published in the year of 2015. What is it that everyone would be concerning themselves with if the world had suddenly lapsed into a state indicative of its impending doom?
One such cataclysmic event is what triggers the Earth’s transformation into a literal ticking time bomb. A frantic battle against the inevitable and inescapable sees all the world’s nations trying to come up with a plan to, at least somehow, save some of their race and have them live even after the planet’s death.
Going Back Home
By dint of the scientists’ vigor, a group actually does make it out alive and five millennia into the future. The offspring and the grandchildren of these last Earthly survivors then take upon themselves to go on a remarkable journey – one venturing towards the catastrophe- and time-changed world, Earth. The writing of Stephenson right here is his most heartbeat-stopping and this is one of our favorite books. Perhaps the greatest of Neal Stephenson’s dystopian novels.
Reamde, yet another fantastic standalone book, is the one that many fans consider to be the best Neal Stephenson novel. The 2011 book is one of Stephenson’s lengthiest as well, spanning north of a thousand pages. About forty or so years ago, Richard Forthrast, not quite well regarded by his family in Iowa, decided to get the hell out of dodge so as not to get picked up by the draft for the war.
He ventured to the British Columbia mountains, where he began a business of his own as a smuggler of high-quality marijuana. Having no other viable pastimes, Richard became slowly intrigued and addicted to an online game, where he oftentimes paid real money for virtual trinkets and other some such items.
History Comes Back to Bite Us
In Richard’s mind, the game that he had found and had slowly come to love was the ideal chance to get rid of the hundred-dollar bills he had and to start his own high-tech business. This business is what turned into Corporation 9592 and it even has its own hyper-successful and famous online fantasy game called T’Rain.
However, something from the virtual past of Richard comes back to bite him years and years later. Of all those novels in our Neal Stephenson book reviews, this is one of his most telling.
Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle series is the most famous series that the author has authored. It is a three-novel series, all three of which are more than worth one’s time. The three books comprising the series are:
- The Confusion
- The System of the World
Daniel Waterhouse is the main character of Quicksilver, a character that is at odds with himself in regard to his Puritanism and a free thinker. Daniel lives in Baroque-period Europe, in the attendance of some of the most brilliant minds of the era.
That era’s events, however, were ones most often orchestrated by the whims of the mightiest and where things happen at a moment’s notice to change history as they know it. A certain London street urchin named Shaftoe and referred to as Half-Cocked Jack is also on whom the story focuses heavily.
The vagabond, formally referred to as their king, is forced to go about his business while a strange ailment gets to him. And, of course, Eliza, a Turkish harem escapee – helped by Shaftoe – is now a spy with connections not just in one place, but all over Europe. It is obvious why this series is often named as being the best Neal Stephenson book series.
While Stephenson’s books can oftentimes be very, very long, his series, in terms of the number of books they contain, are no laughing matter either. The one at hand, The Foreworld Saga, is a series comprised of twenty-two primary books and many other tie-in novels. Several of the books are:
- The Mongoliad: Book One
- The Mongoliad: Book Two
- The Mongoliad: Book Three
- Siege Perilous
With many of the other books being either prequels to the abovementioned ones or ones that focus on a certain character from them.
Keeping the World a Safer Place
In The Mongoliad: Book One, we are introduced to not so large group of mystics and warriors who have banded together in the hope of saving Europe from the terrible and bloody Mongolian invasion.
Their leader, a warrior monk elder, is the one that inspires them to take upon a dangerous endeavor as they attempt to make known a certain aspect of world history and the many societies that have come and gone.
A Tale That Must be Told
However, during the later years of the 19th century, Sir Richard F. Burton, an exotic language and historical swordsmanship expert, gets an offer to translate a number of eon-long manuscripts, by a group of martial arts aficionados from England. However, Burton dies before getting to do so, but not all is lost, as the manuscript makes its way to Italy. A close second for the best Neal Stephenson series.
Zodiac, another great standalone book, is the one that many fans figure as being among their favorites. Zodiac was published in the year of 1988 and it is one of the shortest Stephenson novels, spanning around three hundred pages. Sangamon Taylor is a man that prefers the wet suit to the trench coat and would rather pick up a Jolt than down a Scotch on the rocks.
Sangamon Taylor is a man that knows about many things, from the intricacies of chemical sludges to the depravities of evil. As Sangamon Taylor is focused on a certain trail that he can’t ignore, he finds himself in some vile places. As a result of his trespassing, in a sense, Taylor’s home is bombed, and that’s just the start.
A Rollercoaster of Emotions
From then on, Taylor is spied upon, followed continually, finds himself smack right into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted List, has a change of heart in regard to his girlfriend, and even somehow finds himself an accomplice to a nigh-assassination of a certain candidate for presidency. Zodiac might be the wildest and one of Neal Stephenson’s best books.
Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell is the most recent novel from Stephenson that we’ve had the chance of reading as it was published in the year of 2019. The nearly nine-hundred-page-novel is, in spite of its young age, a remarkable novel and one of the best Neal Stephenson books.
As a young man, Richard Forthrast, also referred to as Dodge, was the founder of Corporation 9592 – see Reamde –, a company for gaming that led to him being a multibillionaire. Over the years, Dodge’s life has become very pleasant and comfortable, as he juggles with marked ease his business and intimate life. The latter of which he spends with his niece Zula and her young child, Sophia. However, while having a routine medical procedure, something happens that changes everything.
Defying Life and Death
During the course of the procedure, Richard is pronounced brain dead and is put on a life-support machine, as his family is forced to make dire decisions. When Richard was a young man, he had asked for his body to be given to a certain cryonics company owned by Elmo Shepherd. No wonder that this novel got on our list of the best new science fiction books.
The family complies with his will and testament, and in a number of years, Richard Forthrast is revived, succeeding in doing something that no man alive – or more importantly – dead has ever done. Neal Stephenson’s books in order, if we were to assert them like that, would see Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell among the top ones. The D. O. D. O. series is another source of the best books by Stephenson as well.
Robert is a science fiction and fantasy geek. (He is also the best looking Ereads writer!) Besides reading and writing, he enjoys sports, cosplay, and good food (don't we all?). Currently works as an accountant (would you believe that?)