Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I am trying to capture the audio equivalent to a page-turner, so I hope you get the idea.
Another great yarn from Stephenson and on that would make a Jackie Chan film plot look slow and uninteresting. I'd like to say it's well paced, but it's not - all furious action, so that the downtime between engagements seems barely to be punctuation.
Again, it has great characterisation. There are some very likable characters, both heroes and villans, and there is as complex a plot as one can reasonably expect. However, I found the pairings and the ending a bit too neat. If I was comparing it to his other works, I'd say the plot is not as clever as Cryptonomicom (hardly suprising, that) and the research is not as awesome (in the true sense of the word) as the Baroque Cycle, but I think it's a very good third place. This still puts it ahead of just about every other book in the same genre out there in my view. Overall I loved it!
As for the performance, I thought Malcolm Hilgartner did a superb job; as good as William Dufris in Crypto', and with as much range and at a rattling good pace.
I highly recommend it, but this time not only for history buffs. It's for the secret agent that lurks within each of us, too.
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.
Neal Stephenson, my favorite speculative fiction writer, is back in form with this one, perhaps because he's back in his own century, and back on his own territory (literally: we are in places with which Stephenson is deeply familiar -- the Pacific Northwest, Manila and the coast of China, as well as the world of massive multiplayer gaming.) His speculations, thus grounded, are more entertaining than usual and focused on a variety of strategies and scams. How can you make real money in an imagined world? How can a terrorist fly out of China without a flight plan or manifest? How does one spend millions of hours writing/playing online games and maintain a slim figure? To which a delighted reader might respond: how do you write a 100-page gun battle that a reader can actually follow? how do you maintain multiple plot lines and dozens of characters without dropping (or drooping) the narrative pace?
Stephenson has invented a genre unique to himself: a big dumb nonstop action thriller packed with provocative ideas and insights, and rich in humor based on characters and their interactions. (Yes, I've read William Gibson, whom I like. But Gibson is the vegan at the feast compared to Stephenson's full-throated omnivore).
There is a large international cast of characters, whom the narrator keeps distinct with reasonably plausible accents that (mostly) don't go overboard.
Stephenson is a great storyteller, and like most of his books (I'm a committed fan) this one is a great romp. However, what sets him aside from the other prolific storytellers who reliably produce good, long novels is that is books tend to have some real intellectual substance, even when they don't take themselves too seriously. Such substance is missing from Reamde. I know that Anathem, my personal favorite, is not to everyone's taste--but even Snow Crash, Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon all played with big ideas in a compelling and stimulating way. Reamde has great characters, fast-paced action, and surprising twists and turns--but the ideas are a bit thin on the ground.
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.
Something must be wrong with this audiobook. Part of the book repeat itself. In different chapters. If the author intended this then it's a terrible book. Otherwise the audiobook itself is badly made. The repeating chapters threw me off an otherwise decent story.
I loved this book and Neil Stephenson, however, I do not love all of his books. Recently, I have had frustrations with Anathem and the books he has written with other authors. I much prefer it when he is the sole author. This is not science fiction but it is much more in line with Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon in detail of knowledge and style. Stephenson does a fabulous job in communicating and understanding the gaming world (not that I am an expert but those I know and other reviewers have stated it is).
Malcolm Hilgartner does a wonderful job with the narration. He did well with the accents, and in my opinion did very well doing female voices.
If you like Stephenson and if you enjoy a suspense novel you will enjoy this book. It was a relief to read this book. I was hesitant after Anathem and Mongoloid, as I mentioned above. If you are hestitant, like I was, don't skip Reamde. It really is great.
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
Remarkable characters, a unique storyline, fast paced plot and top notch narration make this an easy 5 star novel. Did I mention its well written?
This is a long, complicated tale involving an in depth view of gaming, spies, gangsters, CIA ops, gun nuts, beautiful women, overweight men, and I could go on without exaggeration. As incredible and unlikely it seems that such a story could actually occur to one group of people inside of a month's time period, Stephenson's storytelling makes it work. His characters are so engrossing, believable and likable I could not stop listening.
Even though its not fantasy or horror, it reminds of Stephen King's The Stand, Under the Dome and Dumas Key. These great books and Remde share the same, multi layer storyline, an extremely large cast of characters and unforgettable heroes with truly evil adversaries. All have an excellent pace, which is important considering the length of the book.
I am fairly certain I haven't heard this guy before, which is a shame considering I've listened to over 500 novels. He is amazing. His accents are spot on and each character is easily discernible.
I loved the CIA character from Boston. He brought humor into the story.
Reamde is the massive new tome from Neal Stephenson. Unlike most of his other novels, this is a more traditional modern-day thriller, albeit chock full of his own brand of humor and techie geek references.
Just make sure you're ready to settle down for a long haul. This book is over 1000 pages, over 38 hours on audio.
It's not that so much happens in the book, but rather that Stephenson describes everything, often from the perspectives of multiple characters, jumping back to recap some things from their viewpoint. There IS a large cast of characters too, by the end. The advantage is that you really feel like these characters are old friends after spending so much time with them. On the downside, however, I think the characters still don't feel as deep and fully realized as they should be.
The story stays interesting with Stephenson's dry, often geeky humor. The writing is pretty solid as well, and the story is constantly taking unexpected small turns. Hilarious at times, it involves a double kidnapping of the main character Zula, who is first taken by Russian mobsters, who head out to take revenge on the designer of the computer virus Reamde, only to stumble upon a cell of Al Qaida terrorists, who kidnap Zula again.
This is all outrageous and sometimes humorous, sometimes tense. You can tell Stephenson knows a lot of stuff about what he's writing, from all things tech to subtle cultural references and traits. He must surely have traveled to these locations in order to describe them so fully, places such as Xiamen, China; Manila, Philippines; Prohibition Creek, Idaho.
Someone else said that this book is pieces of action followed by long infodumps, and that about sums it up. This pattern seems to repeat endlessly from beginning to end, until you really expect it. Other things I saw are weaknesses: some strange Deus Ex Machina moments, which shouldn't have been needed in a book of this size; and the fact that the title of Reamde doesn't seem to be THAT central to the book. To the first half, certainly. But later on it's clear the story is about stopping the terrorists rather than the meager threat posed by the computer virus.
I think the audio book added a lot to the experience, as the narrator did a lot of different characters and accents well (not perfectly, but passably), and inflected just the right amount of sarcasm to the humorous sections.
If you're looking for a LONG thriller, are into gaming and/or MMORPGs, you will probably enjoy this book.
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