Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: "Reamde" by Neal Stephenson

I just finished Neal Stephenson's latest novel "Reamde". At 1056 pages this is a monster of a tome to pickup, so it might be a bit much for a "beach read" but overall an enjoyable book.  See description below.

Description from Amazon.com:

Neal Stephenson, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Anathem, returns to the terrain of his groundbreaking novels Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon to deliver a high-intensity, high-stakes, action-packed adventure thriller in which a tech entrepreneur gets caught in the very real crossfire of his own online war game.

In 1972, Richard Forthrast, the black sheep of an Iowa farming clan, fled to the mountains of British Columbia to avoid the draft. A skilled hunting guide, he eventually amassed a fortune by smuggling marijuana across the border between Canada and Idaho. As the years passed, Richard went straight and returned to the States after the U.S. government granted amnesty to draft dodgers. He parlayed his wealth into an empire and developed a remote resort in which he lives. He also created T’Rain, a multibillion-dollar, massively multiplayer online role-playing game with millions of fans around the world.

But T’Rain’s success has also made it a target. Hackers have struck gold by unleashing REAMDE, a virus that encrypts all of a player’s electronic files and holds them for ransom. They have also unwittingly triggered a deadly war beyond the boundaries of the game’s virtual universe—and Richard is at ground zero.

Racing around the globe from the Pacific Northwest to China to the wilds of northern Idaho and points in between, Reamde is a swift-paced thriller that traverses worlds virtual and real. Filled with unexpected twists and turns in which unforgettable villains and unlikely heroes face off in a battle for survival, it is a brilliant refraction of the twenty-first century, from the global war on terror to social media, computer hackers to mobsters, entrepreneurs to religious fundamentalists. Above all, Reamde is an enthralling human story—an entertaining and epic page-turner from the extraordinary Neal Stephenson.
Neal Stephenson happens to be one of my favorite authors and he rarely disappoints. "Reamde" follows a similar style to some of Stephenson's earlier works(Interface, Zodiac, The Big U) as in he shied away from the "tech" and "science"  that fills books such as "Cryptonomicon" and the "Baroque Cycle." Yet, like many of his books "Reamde" is filled cover to cover with nerdy and insane over the top action, written is a style that makes Russian mobsters, jihadists, chinese hackers, and american gun nuts seem like the norm.

My only real complaint about this book is that believe it or not, I think story could have been longer. I don't want to give anything away so I wont give specifics, but another 200-300 pages about events in the world of 
T’Rain world running parallel to the real world events would have fit in nicely.  Also more it felt as if one of the antagonist groups in the story got left out at the end.

Overall I really enjoyed reading "Reamde". I admit that I  might be biased as I do have every Stephenson book currently in print and try to read them all every other year or so, but if you are new to Neal Stephenson and enjoy thrillers then this might be for you.  If you are already a fan of his books then you will probably think this is not one of his best works, but I still recommend reading it.

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