Book Review: Reamde

Title: Reamde
Author: Neal Stephenson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: techno-thriller
Length: 1056 pages (behemoth-sized)
Series: None
Rating: 4.5 tweaks out of 5

This was my first book by Neal Stephenson and my first example of a techno-thriller. To begin with … I loved it.

Reamde took a lot of work to get into, but it was well worth the effort. Stephenson is like a mason of writing, laying down layer after layer of information that, though seemingly unconnected to the plot, eventually became pertinent. These layers, each of them described in extensive and vivid detail, gave me a lot to chew on while reading the first few chapters, until the real meat of the plot began.

With masterful skill, Stephenson wove together several different threads, starting with Richard and Zula Forthrast. Richard is the billionaire founder of a massive multiplayer online role playing game loosely based on World of Warcraft, called T’Rain. In Reamde, currency can pass from the world of T’Rain to the real world and back again. Remember this, it becomes important later on. Now, I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just leave you with a list of the many, many characters you’ll encounter in this cat’s cradle of a narrative.

Zula’s boyfriend, Peter, is the catalyst, launching Zula into a whirlwind adventure that crosses the globe. She is kidnapped by the Russian mob, befriends a Chinese woman, tracks down a Chinese group of young hackers with the help of a Hungarian hacker, meets and earns the respect of a former Spetsnaz mercenary, is helped along by an agent of the MI6 and an American military captain, and enters a firefight with a Welsh Jihadist at the homestead of a survivalist family in the forests of Washington State.

Oh yes, and there are guns, guns, guns, and enough technological information to make you think you could cut it as a hacker yourself (believe me, I tried).

Have I caught your interest yet?

The plot is a rollercoaster built on a scaffolding of intricately described scenes, actions, and characters. As a reader, you’ll be swept away on adventures that toe the line of ridiculous, but manage to stay safely on the side of plausible. Stephenson’s skills come through here; the amount of detail he includes makes it difficult not to believe that these people and situations aren’t real. I found myself wanting to travel to the locations that Stephenson’s characters ran and fought their way through.

Unfortunately, Stephenson’s strength could be viewed as a weakness. The immense level of detail can be overwhelming and can distract from plot and character development. Despite being over a thousand pages long, only ten days pass in the world of Reamde, making it a dense story. Think the density of dark matter. Depending on your preferences, you may dislike this immersive quality of Reamde. This is no quick “beach read.” However, if you want a story that will tackle you to the ground and toss you into a vivid technological world, then this is the one for you.

Author Bio:

Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American author and game designer known for his works of speculative fiction.

His novels have been variously categorized as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and “postcyberpunk.” Other labels, such as “baroque,” often appear.

Stephenson explores subjects such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired.



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