Reamde by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In this massive techno-thriller, wealthy tech entrepreneur Richard Forthrast is the creator of the hugely successful massively multiplayer online role playing game T’Rain, which plays a central role in the plot. Although Richard is the protagonist, much of the novel revolves around his niece Zula, an adopted Eritrean refugee. Reamde is a virus that spreads through the game, and leads to Zula and Richard getting tangled up with Russian mobsters, Muslim terrorists, and MI6 spies, while moving from country to country. Along the way, they pick up a rag-tag group of helpers. It culminates in a big showdown in Southern BC and Northern Idaho, where the terrorists are trying to sneak into the US, neatly tying off numerous plot threads in a bittersweet ending.
I love Stephenson’s writing. Phrases like “If there was such a thing as a mind’s eye, then his mind’s mouth had started talking”, “Small-town girls with raccoon eye makeup”, and “the timeless awkwardness of the suitor embedded deep in enemy territory” had me laughing all through. Richard’s ex-girlfriends still nagging him in his mind are considered Muses, or perhaps Furies, and become the Furious Muses, who help guide him throughout the book.
There are times when he goes overboard with obscure words, but these are in keeping with the medieval fantasy theme of T’Rain. At most this was a minor distraction. There are some fairly lengthy asides on the technology as well, but I think these would be helpful for someone who isn’t familiar with the concepts discussed. Someone who already understands these can skim over these parts.
I have to say that the handling of technology in this novel is the most realistic I’ve read in some time. And although the tech is central to the story, it’s not science fiction. There’s nothing in there that could not take place today.
The main characters are really brought to life, with good character arcs for many of them. I found myself really caring about what was happening to them, which kept me turning pages, and got me a little choked up at the end. It’s a hard book to put down, but way too big to finish in one sitting.
I highly recommend this book for lovers of techno-thrillers.
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