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Fall; or, Dodge in Hell

A Novel
Written by: Neal Stephenson
Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
Length: 31 hrs and 48 mins
4 out of 5 stars (88 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Seveneves, Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon returns with a wildly inventive and entertaining science fiction thriller - Paradise Lost by way of Phillip K. Dick - that unfolds in the near future, in parallel worlds.

In his youth, Richard “Dodge” Forthrast founded Corporation 9592, a gaming company that made him a multibillionaire. Now in his middle years, Dodge appreciates his comfortable, unencumbered life, managing his myriad business interests, and spending time with his beloved niece Zula and her young daughter, Sophia.   

One beautiful autumn day, while he undergoes a routine medical procedure, something goes irrevocably wrong. Dodge is pronounced brain dead and put on life support, leaving his stunned family and close friends with difficult decisions. Long ago, when a much younger Dodge drew up his will, he directed that his body be given to a cryonics company now owned by enigmatic tech entrepreneur Elmo Shepherd. Legally bound to follow the directive despite their misgivings, Dodge’s family has his brain scanned and its data structures uploaded and stored in the cloud, until it can eventually be revived. 

In the coming years, technology allows Dodge’s brain to be turned back on. It is an achievement that is nothing less than the disruption of death itself. An eternal afterlife - the Bitworld - is created, in which humans continue to exist as digital souls. 

But this brave new immortal world is not the Utopia it might first seem... 

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell is pure, unadulterated fun: a grand drama of analog and digital, man and machine, angels and demons, gods and followers, the finite and the eternal. In this exhilarating epic, Neal Stephenson raises profound existential questions and touches on the revolutionary breakthroughs that are transforming our future. Combining the technological, philosophical, and spiritual in one grand myth, he delivers a mind-blowing speculative literary saga for the modern age.

©2019 Neal Stephenson (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Stephenson's Fall

I have read every one of Stephenson's books, and am a huge fan to the point of annoying friends and families by referencing him on a wide variety of topics. I love his great sense of humor, deep intelligence, research, and insight into people, politics, and science. However, I am very disappointed in this book. I enjoyed it at first, as he was exploring a fascinating topic from a fresh perspective. However, it bogged down in the middle, and I found myself picking up the book and dropping it a few times over the summer. When I did finally finish it, I was left with the impression of a disjointed story that bogged down with an unsuccessful attempt to rewrite both ancient Greek and Norse myths and Genesis, and came off a bit self-important in the effort. His lightness and sense of humor that comes across in other stories, no matter how serious the topic, seems to have mostly left him in "Fall".

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Philosophical evolution

Heavy technological bent at the beginning sweeping from a personal view to a worldwide perspective, then splitting into many unique philosophical, moral, and practical perspectives. The parallel timelines, personal world evolution, and view of mankind's future in amazing colour and detail kept me entertained and often reflecting on the ideas and themes in the story. It felt like many stories threaded and woven beside and together without ever letting me forget a plot or character. Time jumps peppered into the story often had me refocusing on characters and changes but never lost the main plot.
Incredible read with perfect narration by Malcolm Hillgartner.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

Okay. I’m going to say it: Fall is boring.
I was excited to return to the adventures of the Forthrast family, and eagerly awaited this sequel to Reamde, but I could barely finish it. Stephenson’s view of the singularity is pinched and narrow, and his characters mostly flat plot devices, rather than the living people I have come to expect from him. Coming so soon after the similarly disappointing DODO, Fall comes dangerously close to pushing Stephenson off my must-read list!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good narration, book is.... okay

I typically love Neal Stephenson's books, but this was an absolute chore.

The first two thirds are very interesting, and deal with some fascinating subject matter, and meet the par for Stephenson's always excellent world building. The last third is intensely boring.

Intensely boring.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Stephenson is a master

Another facet of the Rootverse (is that a thing) snaps into place as another continuation of the Baroque Cycle is seamlessly delivered. if you haven't read, listened or otherwise absorbed his work fhen you need to stop reading this and get on with it!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Starts brilliantly but a bit of a slog to finish

Parts of the story are wonderful and intriguing and typical of Stephenson's excellent works, but too much of the book devolves into a disappointingly bland attempt at epic fantasy. This author is one of my favourites, but this is definitely not his best work.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

great first half

really liked the first half and am usually a huge fan of stephenson but it falls to pieces and is almost unbearable for the last third

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

disappointing for a Neal Stephenson book

got the impression it's an attempt to be his Lord of the Ring, but comes off more like Waiting For Godot.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Loved it! Wish it was longer.

I loved this story. My only criticism is that Mr Stephenson explores some fascinating threads briefly, but never touches them again, like Ameristan.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic.

Neal writes the kinds of books that when you read them the first time once you reach halfway you wind up staying up late and reading as you walk places so you can sprint through the finales. Then you reread them again a couple years later and find layers and richness that you missed the first time. They're the kind of books you chew on in the back of your head and perhaps dreams with all the narratives, themes and character/familial arcs.

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  • Barry McWilliams
  • 2019-06-24

Tedious & Mannered 2nd Half

Some great ideas that get buried in overly mannered, stilted language. I found the entire second half of the book to be nearly unbearable, listening to faux “olde tyme” language that stripped every character of personality. I grok that this is a parable, but it’s excruciating.

I remain a huge Stephenson fan, and will surely buy his next book, but this one is a huge disappointment.

57 of 60 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Ron
  • 2019-06-20

This is TERRIBLE

Imagine your friend gets really stupendously high and starts thinking out loud about the potential parallels between the start of a VR world meant for uploaded copies of humans (where conveniently everyone loses their memory during the upload despite having their entire brain scanned and simulated, but overlook that, he's high.) and the creation myths in our own world. Now imagine he talks about it for 31 interminable hours.
Sound awful? Wait, there's more. Characters in the VR world don't remember contractions, or the names of things, so the talk like babies for 20 of those 31 hours about painfully obvious things and to ham-fistedly deliver morality lessons.

This is not just the worst Neil Stephenson book I've listened to, it might be the worst period.
As one of the terrible characters in this book would put it: "The word stories from the talking box brought no pleasure and thus I turned away from them and called them bad."

48 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • k teed
  • 2019-07-04

3.80 stars......a bit disappointed

While this novel isn’t marketed as such, it is a sequel to Reamde, which I didn’t love but liked enough to try this one. Twelve hours into this novel, I would have said this was a much better audiobook than Reamde. Then, it started to lose steam and slowly petered out. By the end, I wasn’t interested in the outcome. Some of the interesting storylines were abandoned, and there was a lot of filler. Still, I stuck with it til the bitter end.

Overall rating: 3.80 stars.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Bauart
  • 2019-06-20

What Did I Just Listen To?

The premise of "Fall" is great. It's advertised as a fascinating near-future science-fiction novel by an established well-known author (Stephenson) about brain-scanning and life after death... Cool! I was all in! So much potential!

What was NOT mentioned in the book's blurb was that the brain-scanning and rebooting of a human after their death is just a setup for a quasi-religious teen-gamer story about magic fairy-tale creatures akin to trolls, gremlins, angels, and demons. Half or more of the book is just a silly quest to find a giant metal key to open a gateway for the return of "Egdod" (Dodge spelled backwards.... get it?), and a BIG chunk of that is a re-imagined Adam and Eve story (which comes to a clumsy and fuzzy conclusion).

The biggest disappointment of "Fall" is that when you're rebooted up after death, you can no longer recall who you are. Your old "meat-space" identity is (mostly) gone. So as the reader you're left confused as to why Stephenson even bothered with each characters LONG back-story? If I arrive in a new world after death thinking I'm a magical flying demigod, what is the point going into extreme painful detail about who I used to be? The characters didn't even know who they were, so I as a reader really had zero reason to care who they just became.

There are so many dead-ends and pointless side stories in this epic it becomes frustrating trying to keep up, and ultimately meaningless since most of it is needless extrapolation.

132 of 144 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Adam Mince
  • 2019-06-16

Nothing At Stake

This story has no momentum. Heavy on concept, very light on plot, nil on character development. This story's predecessor, Reamde, was a page turning plot-fueled juggernaut full of fun characters, given beautiful voice by the same Malcolm H. Fall's cast is much the same as Reamde's but these once familiar and likeable characters feel more like fence posts than people, now.

If this novel were a photograph its compelling subject would be off-center and partially cropped out of frame. You'll find good ideas and beautiful prose that you want more of, but you'll be left hungry and buried beneath the superfluous stuff that comprises first sixty percent of the book or so. The reason the superfluous stuff feels the way it does is because the story's premise is anchored in a future time, and extends into a much later and more alien future time. It comes across as a huge amount of speculation about the coupling of future tech and future society and, while the speculation is sharply imaginitive and compelling, it just can't drive a novel forward on its own. The pacing of the story is awkward too, shifting from hard exposition into a much more poetic and metaphysical form of telling, roughly halfway through.

Like a plain turkey sandwich with sweet PB&J in the middle instead of more processed meat, this novel could have benefitted greatly from an earlier decision about what kind of book it was really supposed to be.

If you haven't read Reamde yet, maybe you'll like this title? Maybe. It makes me wish that Audible allowed returns or exchanges in warranted cases, though.

52 of 57 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Brenda
  • 2019-06-16

Two many disconnected themes and threads

Problematic all around:

- There was zero need to re-use characters from Reamde into this
- Abandoned early theme of fake news and personalized feeds - no need to even have it
- There was no purpose for the conflict between the D and L given both could have independent worlds
- No real concern that virtually nobody who went into simulation land to live forever had any real connection to their former selves, thus were just as good as dead anyway
- Yeah... it went downhill from there

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Missy Slim
  • 2019-06-23

Least Favorite Audio Book of All Time

Agree with other reviewers, first 3rd was okay. At the point where Dodge is reintroduced, the book hits a brick wall. Then, for many many many hours, it repeatedly hits that brick wall. There are very few audio books I've truly hated as much as this one - now added to the top of my list of Least Favorites.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Matthew
  • 2019-06-21

No editor was allowed a say in this....

I do not recommend this book. I’d love to, oh so much how I would love to, but I can’t.

Stephenson is an all-time favorite author of mine, so I give him a lot of leeway, and it’s probably why I got to the halfway point in this book instead of quitting earlier. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish this book. The reason? I’m fairly sure that no editor got any say in this. First of all there is no cohesive story or plot. Second, the passages just go on and on with no real purpose and without adding anything. Third, there is a time skip that is similar to if in Seveneves it went from the moon exploding on the first page to Part 3 with no explanation of how or why. So out of nowhere there is this whole new scenario that is completely different from the preceding two parts, but then it is dropped and never comes into play! It felt like it existed only so Stephenson could be preachy about his views, and I agree with those views and I thought it was too preachy!

So no, once again, I cannot recommend this book. The characters at their best are nothing but one dimensional cutouts, the worlds could be interesting, but they are hardly explored beyond surface level or just retelling 3rd grade history or theology. And everything just drags on and on repetitiously without purpose or pay off like his previous books would have.

I mean dangit, I was REALLY looking forward to this book.

31 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • mrevolved
  • 2019-06-16

Glad it’s over

First third was interesting and presented some challenging concepts about consciousness. After the first third the storyline got silly and difficult to follow.

31 of 34 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Corey
  • 2019-06-20

This is the worst book that has ever been written

I never leave reviews but I have seen too many positive ones here and I can not imagine a single person enjoying this novel. I love Stephenson. I loved Seveneves. I loved Snow Crash. This book is no Snow Crash.

The plot, such as it is, involves the creation of simu... you know what? It doesn’t matter. This is the worst book I’ve ever read. Half of it takes place in the near future, half of it takes place in a simulation that attempts to deconstruct the Bible but with less story and the most ham-fisted writing you can imagine. Neither half has any novel ideas or novel takes on existing ideas. Neither half has characters worth caring about. Neither half is particularly well written. Both halves are equally ponderous and pointless.

I am not kidding here, you may find yourself engaged by the first seven hours or so, but rest assured that all of those characters will disappear and most of the action will take place out of the narrative and be recounted later (or not).

Maybe you think you’ll be interested in the fantasy part of the novel? You won’t be. It’s like a knockoff of a knockoff of a Piers Anthony book that got translated from English to Korean to German then back to English. The main characters have names like Egdod (Dodge spelled backwards GET IT?) and Thingor (he makes things GET IT?)

I can’t believe anyone gave this garbage five stars. I’m actually angry at the people who did because they are so comically, objectively wrong. It is not a matter of opinion this book is just bad. At no point during the literal work week that I spent listening to this did it approach anything resembling a coherent story. I award it no points, may the lord have mercy on its soul.

44 of 49 people found this review helpful