Monday, May 25, 2015

Unlikely events involving Neal Stephenson novels

Earlier this year I purchased a new, paperback copy of Neal Stephenson's book Reamde (2011), a slightly science-fictional global thriller that I had fun reading. But when I reached page 726, I found that pages 727-759 were missing from the book; not pulled out, just never bound in.

What made this especially odd was that some years ago I purchased a new, paperback copy of another Neal Stephenson book, Cryptonomicon (1999). I enjoyed that one too, but when I reached page 790, I found that pages 791-822 were missing from it; again, not pulled out, just never bound in. With Cryptonomicon, I went to the public library and read the missing pages there, but I didn't think l I should have to do that twice -- and fortunately, Stephenson's agent graciously sent me a new copy of Reamde that had all of its pages.

One possible explanation for my twice buying incomplete copies of Stephenson's books is that there are a lot of incomplete copies around. I hope that's not true, for the sake of Stephenson and his many other readers. But the second possible explanation (the one his agent confirmed) was that I was (in book-purchasing terms) struck by lightning twice. 

What can be the odds of this? If one out of 10,000 copies of Stephenson's books is incorrectly bound, then the chance of buying two would be about one in 100,000,000. That's really not very likely! But if this could happen, doesn't it seem that I should be due to win the lottery soon? 

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