A great story - I loved it as it rollercoastered through a contemporary interconnected world. Complex plot with plenty of detail, but also fluid enough to easily draw the listener along at a breakneck pace.
I was a bit put off by Stephenson after Cryptonomicon, but he more than makes up for it in REAMDE. The characters are cerebral and distinct, each with their own quirks that come out brilliantly in the dialog.
The plot is continuously shifting, and each turn is punctuated by the resilience of the book's primary protagonist. No slow muddled storyline (which was my biggest gripe with Crypto) in REAMDE. Also, Stephenson show off his real 'nerd cred', which is as always technically accurate and non-embellished.
The narration is second to none. Hillgartner pulls off Russian, English, and CHinese accents with authenticity, and he often does it in the same breath.
There's a recent, but small trend in Science Fiction: stories set in present day. No aliens, or space ships. No time travel. No speculation about "the future".
This new breed of SF novel deals with the here and now. The assumption here is that technology is changing our lives so quickly, that the traditional themes and explorations of SciFi can take place without changing the setting. Our current society is alien enough!
William Gibson's Pattern Recognition was an SF book famously set "5 years in the past" and managed to be cutting edge while dealing with the culture and technology of the mid 1990s.
ReamDe can be seen as that type of book.
The basic plot: unknown criminals and/or terrorists write a tiny little virus meant to operate in the virtual world of an online, multi-player game. This has unforeseen consequences on people who live their lives in the real world. We follow the action as the chaos spreads across the entire world. Both our world, and the virtual world.
ReamDe is definitely a thriller. The sense of danger is real, and exciting. Still, there is humor, mostly based on the idea that huge world shaping events are mostly triggered by a collection of accidents, coincidences, and decisions made by key persons; and that it all could have been avoided if anyone involved had a view of the bigger picture.
It's also a whodunnit, and not even the "villains" know exactly what they've actually done.
Like all Neal Stephenson books, the devil is in the details. The obsessive/compulsive detail of Geeks and their tech.
In this world hackers are "computer geeks", billionaires are "money geeks" and spys and assasins are "gun and combat geeks". Stephenson seems to make the point that the only difference is what they've happened to focus on.
Compared to Stephenson's other books, Reamde is a summer blockbuster action ride. Like something Michael Bay would produce... if he had a background in math and computer science.
Of course this is a Neal Stephenson book, so it's still packed with plenty of tech, philosophy, and politocal commentary for the academic types, and hipster science nerds that are probably his main audience.
Some great characters and an interesting story line extended a bit beyond optimum but worth the credit and a satisfying thriller none the less. It could have been trimmed a bit but that's a quibble that cost it one star IMHO. It's quite unlike the more dynamic Snow Crash still it shows Stephenson's range and he is quite at home with this rather convoluted series of crisis inducing mistakes.
I read. I blog. I cook.
On the topic of fiction novels where a large part of a book is set within a computer game, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Reamde by Neal Stephenson come to mind readily. As opposed to the (near) futuristic dystopia in which Ready Player One is set, the backdrop to Reamde is a very realistic present. The lion’s share of Ready Player One takes place within the virtual reality of a computer quest-like game. In Reamde, the percentage of the story that takes place within the World-of-Warcraft-like game called T’Rain is significantly smaller. From here the differences between the two books just grows wider. In the end, it is greatly unfair to even try to compare the two books.
It is difficult for me to pen down just how much I enjoyed the Audible audiobook version of Reamde. It may just be the most entertaining and gratifying Techno-Thriller I have ever read/listened to. As this is the first book by Mr. Stephenson I have had the pleasure to consume, I can only really comment on this book as it is, having no reference in terms of his other books.
Despite being classified as a Techno-Thriller, the narration is unbelievably funny at times. There is one scene involving the Fantasy writers of the background to T’Rain referred to the ‘Apostropocalypse’ which had me crying with laughter.
The book is also about girl-power. Zula Forthrast is one of the most quick-witted protagonists one can hope to encounter in a book. The supporting characters of Olivia Halifax-Lin and Xian Yuxia positively delights.
The male characters, more specifically the “good guys” (sometimes the lines between good guys & bad guys gets a bit blurry, especially in the case of Solokov) are easy to relate to, with all their heroism and all of their fallibilities.
The book is long, VERY detailed and yet very fast-paced. I listened to it on the plane, in the car, in bed before I go to sleep, first thing when I woke up, whilst I washed dishes etc.
The matter of fact tone of the narration by Malcolm Hillgartner suits the story fantastically. His accents runs from good (British) to bad (Scottish) but it is much better than I can do and still gets 100% for effort.
His portrayal of Donald "D-Sqared" Donaldson
The start of this book was really slow. So slow, I almost gave up on it. But I'm really glad I didn't as it was ultimately a can't-put-it-down listen. I had to laugh at some of the more outrageous plot elements, but it was kind of like a James Bond film in that it's a good idea to just suspect your disbelief at the ridiculous. It wasn't a question of whether the good guys would win or not, but who would get the last shot (and which "red shirts" would bite the dust). It was exciting and fun and features the trademark strong female characters that are prominent in Stephenson's writing. Recommended.
Ok, I love long stories. However, this one went on way too long for the plot. I kept finding myself drifting off only to realize I hadn't actually missed anything integral to character or plot development. There was lots of back story to justify future actions that I really don't think added anything to the story. And lots of meandering around or waiting for things to happen.... and not in a Tolkien "the journey is the story" way.
Having said that, the book does have interesting twists and well written characters that definitely draw you in. From the synopsis I was expecting something more sci-fi, but the story has more of an espionage/terrorist bent.
The narrator is ok, but I agree with others about his deficiency in portraying accents. He used a generic British accent instead of a Welsh one for one of the main characters. The Hungarian accent was atrocious & Russian accents were cartoonish. Thankfully, he didn't even attempt Chinese accents.
In the end, I suggest you give it a try. Although it's not my cup of tea, it didn't suck.
The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity. --Robert Anthony Contentment is, after all, simply refined indolence. --Thomas C.
I've enjoyed most of Neal Stephenson's books, but this one was my favorite of his recent ones. Anathem was good but dragged quite a bit and I never really got drawn into the characters. Crytonomicon was the last book of his that I really, really enjoyed, so I am happy to see a return to form here.
The story is sprawling and relentless and deeply enjoyable! I ended up staying up all night to finish it once I was nearing the last fourth. The characters pull you in and you can't help but grow to love them as they take off on their crazy adventure. Super enjoyable crazy adventure that seems just like the last half of Snow Crash but even more over the top.
One of my favorite scenes is when a few of the characters hit up a Cabelas to stock up on gear- their take on the store, and what they purchased and why is really funny.
A criticism you could easily make here is that coincidences pile on coincidences. Yes - this happens. Go with it. Stephenson ties it all up at the end, and it does work out.
Unlike many of his books, this is not a deep meditation on LIFE or CODE or LANGUAGE -at the same time, this book is not really shallow. He's moved from deep themes explorartion to character driven stories & this one is a fine novel that you will really enjoy.
The story was quite interesting, a novel combination of subjects, with some funny and interesting insights. Story was well read too. However, I think the book would have been much better at half the length, there is too much irrelevant detail, it detracts from the pace of the story. When the story reaches a certain level of tension, you don't want to hear about things that don't matter.
Prepare to clear you schedule for when you want to listen to the last five hours of the book. I literally couldn't stop listening to it and only slept two hours before getting up and going to class, but it was well worth it! My first Neal Stephenson book, and will be checking out more soon.