PaperBackSwap Blog

Science Fiction Review – The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O

THE RISE AND FALL OF D.O.DO. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


“My name is Melisande Stokes and this is my story. I am writing in July 1851 (Common Era, or – let’s face it – Anno Domini) in the guest chamber of a middle-class home in Kensington, London, England. But I am not a native of this place or time. In fact, I am quite desperate to get out of here. “

So begins THE RISE AND FALL OF D.O.DO., in which Stephenson and Galland happily mix time travel, multiple universes, witchcraft, and government bureaucracy. Melisande is an underpaid and unappreciated lecturer at Harvard University, with a doctorate in ancient languages. After a seemingly accidental meeting, she’s recruited by nice guy Tristan to work for a shadowy government agency, translating documents that all have a mention of magic. To her surprise, there are a lot. In our present, there is of course no magic. But apparently there used to be witches doing magic, and it was just another part of life. Why isn’t there magic in the present day? By working up a timeline, they realize that magic disappeared in tandem with the rise of technology, and more precisely, photography.

Before too long, they’ve got a quantum physicist who might have invented a machine in which magic could exist, if only there were a person who knew how…and voila, here’s Erszabet, a 200 year old witch who says Mel not only told her to live that long, but when to meet.  Mel has no clue how this happened, but of course we readers have figured out that part thanks to the beginning.

The discovery that Erszabet can send people back in time leads to a scheme to fund the project by going back and finding a very rare book, putting it where it can be found 200 years later, and selling it. What could go wrong? Weelll… every action has a reaction, and there are indeed a lot of witches in the past.  Many of them are curious about what these future people want, and some have their own ideas about what might be best for the future.

The first part, while it’s all being set up, is pretty amusing.  Lots of stuff about time travel paradoxes and their unintended consequences. But this isn’t called “The Rise and Fall of DODO” for nothing, because we’re going to get a lot – and I mean a lot – of information about how it grows. Even shadowy military organizations have bureaucracy plus a massive amount of office politics, not to mention petty office jealousies and backbiting. While much of the book is told from Mel’s POV, there are excerpts of email communications, policy notices, text messages and more.  There are excerpts from other characters’ journals (don’t miss The Lay of WalMart). While amusing, it does slow things down; but enjoy the journey as it all contributes to the eventual fall. At any rate, after 600 pages the reader is still wondering what happened to strand Mel in 1851. Fear not, you’re almost there.  In the last act things start happening with a vengeance. So many conspiracies! It’s a 3 ring circus with witches everywhere, people whipping back and forth through the centuries, and treachery at every turn. Is Mel going to get back? Are the bad witches going to triumph after all? No spoilers here.

There is a sequel written solo by Nicole Galland, but this one makes a fine stand-alone if you don’t want to go farther.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply