As the title - The Mongoliad - suggests mongols play an important role in this book. It’s 1241 and the mongols are on their way to conquer the world. They have already reached Poland. Here’s Neal Stephenson talking about the setup.
The Mongoliad is different from those earlier books in one important aspect. It’s not a book in the classical sense. You cannot buy the finished product printed on paper or as an ebook. It’s published on its own website one chapter each week. And beside Neal Stephenson there are 6 other writers and even more people who are somehow involved in the whole thing.
The Mongoliad is not the first book of its kind. Some years ago Tad Williams tried the same approach with Shadowmarch. Shadowmarch was canceled 2002 after one year because it didn’t attract enough subscribers to pay the bills. It was published as a printed book sometime later.
I think this time around it could work. You don’t need a desktop computer or notebook to read it. You can read it on an iPad or any other of the forthcoming tablets. There’s said to be an iPad app waiting for approval by Apple that will improve the reading experience.
There are also some kinds of social features. You can rate and discuss each chapter with your fellow subscribers and with the writers. There’s also a forum. Those features are rather unimportant for me and till now I haven’t partaken in any of the discussions.
As with classical books, the content is the one and only thing that interests me. The already released four chapters present a gripping and well written story. So I think the 10$ for the yearly subscription fee is well invested money.