It is rare for a novel to be genuinely funny and truly touching, and to also to raise significant philosophical questions ... structurally elegant, with entire sections made up of whole sentences, then a break ... Pathos, comedy, satire (there is no moon in Jared’s time since Elon Musk blew it up), a car-chase, The Great American Zero Sum game, daftness, a nefarious nemesis, what it means to be human (memory? emotion? reason? always making the wrong decisions?), a ghost section, parodies, anger, and a shining sense of the novel being ultimately a machine that makes humans a little more human if possible. It is probably too ebullient to be taken seriously for prizes ... You shall read this with unadulterated pleasure. It is the closest thing I’ve read in a long time to Terry Pratchett.
... laugh-out-loud-funny ... [Stephenson's] approach is absurdist, outrageous, irreverent and satirical, full of pratfalls, embarrassment, high jinks and broad caricatures. And yet, by the end of Jared’s adventures, readers will find themselves left with more or less the same sentiments that Anderson engendered: an appreciation for the mutuality of all sentient life, and for the universal desire to be acknowledged and appreciated, whether one is birthed from factory or hospital ... Stephenson contrives a captivating voice for his hero ... In Stephenson, Vonnegut may have his first true protege. From the use of repeated verbal tags and the inclusion of diagrams and charts, to the attitude of cynicism and despair about the human condition masquerading as devil-may-care frivolity (or is that the other way around?), Stephenson brings his best Breakfast of Champions game to the table ... Your mileage may vary with this style of somewhat precious storytelling, but I found Stephenson’s deployment of these verbal tics to be effective, clever and not overdone. They contribute immensely to Jared’s charming self-portrait and often evoke laughter with their precise placement ... the long stretch in Los Angeles is what truly elevates the novel to its heights ... Besides echoing such masters of comedic science fiction as Ron Goulart, John Sladek and Tom Disch, Stephenson pays tribute to no one more than Voltaire. For Jared is no less than Candide in bot clothing, a perpetually hopeful soul endlessly 'bamboozled; by this best of all possible worlds.
Jared’s sad yet chipper register sets a breezy tone against a semi-satirical dystopian backdrop, never dwelling too long on the Great Crash that downed all the world’s aeroplanes, or the nuclear exchange that destroyed North Korea and New Zealand, or Elon Musk’s accidental incineration of the moon. There’s a does-not-compute strain of comedy to his observations on the habits of our species and a melancholy heft to his more sombre insights ... What comes across most strongly is a love of popular movies and a deeply felt reflection on what they tell us about ourselves. Maybe Stephenson’s idea was to bypass the frustrations of pitching and selling scripts with a novel so obviously adaptable as to shift him to the top of the pile. In which case, job done ... But even before we enjoy it on screen, we can appreciate his mastery of the formulas and stratagems by which character and plot can mine us for empathy – the benevolent exploitation that all good stories rely upon. There may be something too cute about Jared for some, and this reader did not care for his constant exclamation marks, but only the truly heartless would deny the art at work here, or the attendant swell of pride.