No other author embeds characters in an authentically contemporary Web of technological connections the way Stephenson does. His characters text and tweet and play massively multiplayer games. When they check their e-mail, they do it on their phones, not their computers; when they make phone calls, they do it on their computers via Skype, not their phones. You can see why other writers let this stuff slide.
You have to come up with new kinds of stories in a networked world.
Not that we don't have problems now, God knows, but when you take our modern technological predicament seriously, you realize that those old problems have to be rerouted, and that the stories have to change shape accordingly. They start to become less about missed connections and more about overconnectedness. They start to look like Reamde. Reamde is Stephenson's 10th novel not counting his occasional collaborations and the unclassifiable online fiction project The Mongoliad , and he has yet to write an uninteresting one.
In Reamde we find him slimming down to middleweight after five straight heavyweight bouts: the cryptographical epic Cryptonomicon , the 2,page three-novel Baroque Cycle and then Anathem , a philosophical novel set on an alt-universe earth where monasteries are consecrated to higher mathematics.
Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Stephenson reserves a special kind of scorn for Jones because he's a middle-class kid from Wales with a decent education who is basically slumming it in the world of Islamic terrorism. Jones had many choices in life — unlike most of his compatriots, who come from lives of impoverished desperation — and we're made to feel that this makes it especially heinous that he's chosen to devote himself to mass murder.
The idea that our choices make us good or bad is one of the most satisfying themes of this novel. We have characters who come from all kinds of backgrounds, from the world of petty cyber crime to the gleaming halls of MI6, and they all have opportunities to be good or bad — depending on how they deal with the life and death situations they find themselves in.
Unlikely alliances are formed between geeks and soldiers, and between typical Americans and typical Chinese. At the heart of the novel is a race against time, with Richard Forthrast and representatives from various government agencies working together often unwittingly to stop Jones and rescue Zula. But I would argue that the race is almost beside the point. The pleasure in reading this book is all about the narrative curlicues and byways, taking long tours through stories about how two famous, eccentric fantasy writers wrote the back story for T'Rain, or hearing a silly exegesis from Richard about a Seattle neighborhood full of what he calls "cerulean collar workers," who started out as hipsters but grew so poor with the economic downturn that they turned into the blue collar folk they once imitated ironically with their trucker hats and flannel shirts.
Stephenson also devotes long sections to the back stories on all the characters he introduces, so that we understand them as the sum of social circumstances and conscious choices. Zula, for example, began life as an Eritrean refugee but was adopted by Richard's family. She's gone from endangered political outcast to nice midwestern girl in one lifetime — and it's probably the combination of all her experiences that helps her cope with an ordeal that goes beyond extreme. And she's not the only person in the novel with an intriguingly complicated background.
As we get deeper into the story, we also come to realize that some of the characters we think of as cold-blooded killers are actually decent men and women trying to make the best of a terrible situation. The joy in this book comes from the deft way that Stephenson draws connections between people and events, telling a story that is both intensely granular and simple at the same time. We've got Zula and Jones on opposite ends of an ethical spectrum, and also characters at every point in between.
There are definitely some missteps in Reamde , many of which come down to the fact that Stephenson just writes way too long. This book works as an epic, but there are still some scenes that stretch to the point of absurdity and become repetitive. At its very worst, Reamde can devolve into sounding like a particularly well-written Wikipedia entry. But if you, like me, often get lost in Wikipedia entries, this isn't really all that bad. Stephenson also has a problem that crops up occasionally when he wants to reassure us that he doesn't buy into all that PC flimflam even though his book is full of heroic women and people of color.
In fact, stretching this story out into twice the length necessary just made half of it skim-worthy and tedious. The ending didn't even really have one of those really great pay-offs that make crime novels worth it. I just haven't seen it since. This is really more of a two star book using my rating system, but a few things redeemed it slightly such as the female characters. I blogged an even longer review here. Aug 19, Julio Genao rated it really liked it.
Remind me never to read reviews written by my most ardent "fans. If you want a smart, contemporary, geeky, international action thriller written by someone who just spent 10 years writing an epic about the connections between the tech of the 17th century and the tech of the 21st—in longhand, on, like, parchment, with a fountain pen, the showboating bastard—then read this. It's fun. And Remind me never to read reviews written by my most ardent "fans.
And funny. And damned good. If you want something else, put this down, walk away, and go on witcha bad self. Never you worry—there's bound to be a new Patterson out by Tuesday. That is all. View all 42 comments. Nov 09, Graham Crawford rated it liked it. I love Neil Stephenson most of the time , and I loved this book - most of the time. When He's good he's brilliant, but when he's bad he's mind numbingly dull. For my taste it screams this too loudly. Once we are back in Ameri I love Neil Stephenson most of the time , and I loved this book - most of the time.
Gun porn. Not very smart - airport stuff. And the cringe worthy romance epilogue where everyone gets hitched and attends Thanksgiving dinner I was quite concerned by the politics. Stephenson normally is quite insightful, but choosing to write about a Moslem terrorist threat in this manner demonstrates a middle American naivety he hasn't shown before. Is this what he really thinks, or is it just what he thinks will get him a movie deal? If he wanted to play the terrorism card it needed to be a LOT smarter than prayer rugs and gaff tape.
The entire terrorism thread hinges on the deus ex machina of a wrong room number. Of course the book would have been much shorter without this silly complication, but it would have been a far better one if he had stuck with the Chinese hackers - and explored the "great firewall of China" themes more thoroughly. View all 9 comments. I thought, when I started reading this book, that Stephenson had turned in a classic Great American Novel. The prose has a ringing certainty, and a compelling portrait emerges of a man in later years, slightly aloof from his extended family, whose life has followed the major threads of his time.
This is Stephenson pulling together the strands of his writing. You get powerful depictions of the heartland of America, dynastic storytelling, and a sense of the US as a fractious, complex, fascinating entity; woven into this, though, is a new world of online gold farming and the economics of MMORPGs as they become more populous than many nations. And then the action started.
And did not stop. For nearly one thousand pages. This is not a measured, dynastic thriller stepped in draft-dodging, marijuana, and Warcraft. It is an epic, exhausting, non-stop action flick in book form. It makes Heat and Kill Bill look short, tame, and dull. It has, yes, an ongoing allegiance to history and culture. It does not suddenly abandon the slightly melancholic sense of ageing, or the awareness that what happens now depends in great part on then. I loved it. There are niggles, of course. On the other hand, maybe there was a storyline like that and it had to be cut.
So: this is a blinding book. Expect a movie. But you will not be bored, and you will laugh, and you will stay up late to find out what happens next. View all 4 comments. Dec 31, Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing. Because we were traveling down to the in-laws house, a 12 hour trip to the ship channel in Texas, I checked out a library copy. With this size of book it is easy to break the spine while reading it and this is a book that actually forces the reader to abuse it to actually read the book.
In retrospect, though I was glad I didn't have to torture my own copy of the book, it would be a wise investment to purchase this book on your kindle, iPad, nook etc. This is a book made to be read digitally. My mother-in-law who was diligently marking my progress in the book would come in at different times of the day to find me slouched in a chair with this book perched in various positions to relieve my hands, arms and back. I still have a stubborn knot in the muscle under my scapula. She would say, "You really aren't making much progress in that book.
I'd get to the end of a day of power reading and find my bookmark still on the South side of the center of the book. It did not seem I was really making any progress and what made it all the more interesting was I didn't care. I was willing to spend as much time as Stephenson would give me with Richard Forthrast the founder of the online game T'Rain and self proclaimed black sheep of the Forthrast clan; Zula Forthrast, the niece of Richard and the main catalyst for the plot of the novel; Sokolov, the Russian Spetsnaz trained mercenary; Csonger, the Hungarian computer hacker; Marlon, the Chinese hacker that hatched a brilliant plan to steal millions of dollars from T'Rain; Olivia, the British MI6 agent; Yuxia, the Chinese facilitator that gets caught up in much more than she expected when she offered to help; Seamus, the American CIA operative; and our ultimate bad guy, Abdallah Jones, international terrorist.
Except for Richard and Zula none of these characters knew each other before the beginning of this international endeavor to find a terrorist. In the course of the book Stephenson weaves the plot around these people and draws them all into the same goal of stopping Abdallah Jones. I was right there with them, totally taken up with the plot, feeling my body tense with each burst of gunfire, sometimes despairing that the band of international gypsies could ever catch up with Jones in time.
I was glad that I had the time to read pages at a go. I think reading this book 20 pages a day might have driven me crazy. This is a brilliantly composed thriller, smart, compelling, overwhelming, and ultimately satisfying. Time well spent. Highly recommended!!! View all 12 comments. But outside of these real life locations there is a good deal going on within the confines of a multiplayer online role-playing game that has much in common with World of Warcraft.
At the start, we view a reunion of the Forthrast family, where we get to meet a number of people who are to play a significant role in this story. It seems that the aim is to extort in-game gold which can be exchanged for real money in exchange for a key to decrypt their files. Things then start to get crazy — very quickly. Spoilers may be present. Is it Reamde? Read Me? Just working out the title can be a complication in itself. I measured it!
Reamde is a contemporary novel that harkens back to the much-liked Snow Crash. Just what the fan ordered, then. Peter is a computer security operative who gets himself into a sticky situation by selling on confidential data to the Russians, who are using Mafia capital to make more money. They track down the hackers but unwittingly uncover an Al-Qaeda cell living on the apartment floor above the hackers, led by Welsh Muslim, Abdullah Jones. The ensuing destruction of the building leads to the involvement of the British MI6 who were observing the terrorist cell.
Her co-captives, cyberhacker Marlon and Hungarian computer programmer Csongor, now with Chinese guide Yuxia, are in pursuit. In outline, this sounds bizarre. However, what Stephenson does is give you this in so much detail that it seems both logical and understandable. It takes a while to develop and readers may find the beginning a little slow. The details can be incredibly complicated and diverse, varying from details on guns, terrorist cells, MMPORG computer game development, to even street layouts and shops in Taiwan! This may not engage you straight away, but they are there for a purpose, if a convoluted one.
With such detail, it can take a little while pages or so! However after overcoming that initial feeling of being dropped into something complicated, by pages in I was hooked. The ending is reminiscent of a big movie shootout, with Richard Forthrast and his extended family fighting big for high stakes.
I suspect for some it will be too long, too complex, too slow. View all 7 comments. Sep 24, Heidi The Reader rated it really liked it Shelves: fantasy-and-sci-fi.
A former drug smuggler turned mostly straight-laced business man owns a multi-million dollar computer game, a refugee from Eritrea, a Hungarian computer hacker, a computer engineer, a further cast of international characters and the Russia mob all feature largely in Reamde. It is a science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, but more than that. This book will teach you about how flight paths are planned, how to properly check the safety on a firearm, and how the best laid plans of mice and men of A former drug smuggler turned mostly straight-laced business man owns a multi-million dollar computer game, a refugee from Eritrea, a Hungarian computer hacker, a computer engineer, a further cast of international characters and the Russia mob all feature largely in Reamde.
This book will teach you about how flight paths are planned, how to properly check the safety on a firearm, and how the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. They had not introduced themselves, or shaken hands, just sized each other up and confirmed with nods that they were who they were.
Stephenson gives almost every character a full-fleshed out backstory and motivations. Sometimes he allows you into their mind to experience each nagging insecurity or existential crisis they may have. He's big into writing about body language, setting, and giving readers context on cultures or situations that she may not understand. For example, the addictive quality of gaming for the non-gaming crowd: "She'd been awake for twenty-four hours.
There was something deeply wrong about the situation, and the only thing that had kept her from simply running out the door of the building and flagging down the first car she saw and asking them to call was the addictive quality of the game itself, her own ability to pull herself out of the make-believe narrative that she and Wallace had found themselves in.
Or making plans. Stephenson also enjoys writing about his characters concocting plans: "It is a classic Dilbert situation where the technical objectives are being set by management who are technically clueless and driven by these, I don't know, inscrutable motives. Do what those guys in the high-tech companies do.
Reamde by Neal Stephenson – review
Look busy. File progress reports. And it is a long read. My ebook clocked in around pages. So, definitely not for the impatient reader. I found myself wanting more to happen and less agonizing by the characters.
That being said, if you invest the time in it, the last dozen or so chapters of Reamde are incredibly satisfying. You know the characters, you've been with them through all sorts of insane situations, and when Stephenson starts bringing them all together in the most unlikely and unexpected ways But you have to make it that far first. I'm not explaining this book and its attributes very well, but it may be one of those books you just have to experience for yourself. I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend and was not disappointed. But I don't think I'm going to immediately go running for the next Stephenson epic.
Or maybe I will Dec 24, Davis rated it it was ok. By the time I was about three-fourths of the way through, I found myself wondering why Stephenson had bothered to write this book. In Reamde Stephenson clearly stepped far By the time I was about three-fourths of the way through, I found myself wondering why Stephenson had bothered to write this book.
In Reamde Stephenson clearly stepped far outside his expertise to tell us a story about And while we're discussing the climax, I cannot help but note that this part of the novel would have benefited from editing out about pages of detailed information regarding the trajectory of each of the many bullets that flew through this scene. The intense level of unnecessary and uninteresting detail that characterized the long-overdue gun battle suggested not so much rich storytelling as choreography for a generic action film.
This isn't to say that the story was a complete failure. Stephenson spent the first half of the novel setting a compelling scene: the world of T'Rain seemed lovingly crafted, and he spent time developing characters who promised to be compelling even some of the villains. The protagonists quickly lost all sense of individual character once the action really started rolling, until their thought patterns and skill sets were nearly indistinguishable by the end did everyone know how to handle a gun?
The main antagonist developed from a seemingly complex character into a cardboard cutout villain. Detail is thin and unconvincing on some topics such as spycraft , and detailed to the point of tedium on others. And all this in service of a generic story about guns and terrorists. As a long-time fan, I turn to Stephenson's works because his background allows him to tell stories that few other authors would possess the understanding to craft convincingly — who else could have written The Baroque Cycle, Cryptonomicon , Anathem? But with Reamde , he's given us a story that any of a dozen thriller authors probably could have written — and written better.
Nov 05, Skott Klebe rated it did not like it. REAMDE reads as though he started to write an interesting novel about massively multiplayer online gaming business and frauds, and inadvertently stumbled into writing an irritatingly conventional thriller novel about Islamic terrorists when the MMPORG novel turned out not to have enough action in it. Cardboard villains seen up close to be mere dark-skinned cartoons of inexplicable evil, heroic northwestern REAMDE reads as though he started to write an interesting novel about massively multiplayer online gaming business and frauds, and inadvertently stumbled into writing an irritatingly conventional thriller novel about Islamic terrorists when the MMPORG novel turned out not to have enough action in it.
Cardboard villains seen up close to be mere dark-skinned cartoons of inexplicable evil, heroic northwestern recluses enforcing their own law in heavily armed compounds-- at its worst, REAMDE reads like a cross between Farnham's Freehold and a rightwing warblogger's fever dream. At its best, though, it is more than that. Its passages about the business around gaming read like the Neal Stephenson I expected.
Those moments are too far apart, though, and don't last long enough. With Snow Crash, Stephenson inspired legions of developers to try to create the virtual worlds that in some cases became the games REAMDE discusses; in Diamond Age he so thoroughly exploited the fictional possibilities of nanotech that hardly anyone has dared write about it since.
Cryptonomicon deftly interwove dead-on satire of Silicon Valley's intersection with global commerce and the heartfelt desperate survival struggles that color our memories of World War II. The Baroque Cycle is one of the most ambitious attempts to understand the modern world through the lens of the past that I've ever read, yet the travails and triumphs of its characters consistently drive me to tears. Anathem, a mature, deep story and one of the finest extraterrestrial-culture novels ever, was robbed of the Hugo the year it came out. This book isn't worthy of the rest of Stephenson's career.
A footnote: It also makes me sad that Stephenson assumes it to be plausible that there might be innumerable Arab jihadist living in the United States and Canada waiting to be summoned into action at a moment's notice. Innumerable, as in, so many that he doesn't bother to count them, let along name them or give most of them distinguishing characteristics. Oct 15, Bill rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction , lit-fiction , View all 5 comments.
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- Space Photos of the Week: Cassini's Sojourn Around Saturn.
Great book!! Not my usual fair at all. This was a thriller with online gaming undertones. I actually learned quite a bit about the role playing games.
Neal Stephenson - Reamde
Interesting tangents. Characterization was very good. You understood what was in the minds of everyone except the jihadists. How could the author or anyone sane possibly know what goes on in the minds of jihadist This novel had everything I like. Strong characters both male and female, humor and lots of it particularly around T'Rai Great book!! Strong characters both male and female, humor and lots of it particularly around T'Rain , irony; even the ending was somewhat tongue in cheek.
The other reviews are very true, Stephenson embraces the info dump An around the world tour featuring Russian mobsters, Canadian mines, Chinese hackers, British spies, an African orphan, al Quaeda-esque terrorists, the entire realm of T'Rain, and a pesky computer virus. This was actually an upbeat novel with almost all of the good guys surviving and the bad guys getting their comeuppance.
A little too tidy in the end which is what I attribute to cheekiness or could Stephenson be a hopeless optimist at heart? I only had two issues with this book. One is that the female characterization in particular is a little weak. Specifically, all three of the main female characters are basically the same person.
All are plucky, smart, brave and capable. The only real distinguishing characteristic is their varying levels of sexual permissiveness. But if you are only going to have one type of female character, this is a good one.
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