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 21st 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 pause-resister from the extraordinary Neal Stephenson.
©2011 Neal Stephenson (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
“Stephenson...delivers a sprawling thriller that shows him in complete control of his story.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Noir futurist Stephenson returns to cyberia with this fast-moving though sprawling techno-thriller...Who’ll prevail? We don’t know till the very end, thanks to Stephenson’s knife-sharp skills as a storyteller. An intriguing yarn—most geeky, and full of satisfying mayhem.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“Sometimes when you’re reading Neal Stephenson, he doesn’t just seem like one of the best novelists writing in English right now; he seems like the only one.” (Lev Grossman, Time)
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.
Driving over 100,000 mile a year since 1983, I got hooked on audible books on tape 30 years back. I now listen from my bicycle 2 hours a day
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 picked up Reamde because the Audible blurb for this story involved an online game world, hackers, and a virus and it seemed like an interesting topic for a novel. That premise is just the tip of the iceberg and this tale veers all over the place. The main characters wind up all over the globe, and the online world of T'Rain, as spies, terrorists, smugglers, and the Russian mafia all get entangled into the plot. Every step of the way Stephenson ups the ante and the plot almost seems to run out of control.
Reamde moved along nicely but it was always just on the wrong side of being believable for me. The relationships formed by some of the characters were just too strong too quickly and the mechanics of the online gaming world of T'Rain were also just a little bit off. If you aren't an online gamer the latter may not be of concern to you at all; however, if you are picking this up because of the online game connection then you should know that it is only a small part of a much larger story. It is not as central to the tale as it was in "Ready Player One".
Reamde can be a fun thrill ride that will head in directions that aren't obvious but only pick it up if you are willing to embrace a chain of highly unlikely occurrences. Malcolm Hillgartner does a decent job of narrating although he deals with a lot of different accents to various degrees of success.
I am an entertainer...so I spend a lot of time on the road. I take my audio seriously. I appreciate great writing and outstanding narration.
I was expecting to read a novel about Silicon Valley. I really wanted to go there in this book...but there's none of that. There IS a lot of other stuff: terrorists, cyber terrorism, guns, engaging characters and a story that you will (at least ONCE) sit in the car in the driveway to hear what happens next.
The remarkable thing is that -- despite all these hefty hours -- not a whole lot happens.
This is essentially one long chase.
But the time passes by very quickly. A very good read.
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.
Say something about Yusef. Uh...he was a great horn player?
1 Too many numbered and lettered lists
2. occasional middle-aged man phrases, even when it's not Richard (no, I don't have to provide examples)
3. if it's going to be this long (which I like - in this case, the length and detail almost feel like an attribute of the plot and the worlds it describes, and it doesn't hurt that I'm listening on a 3 week business jaunt with two weekend breaks) and it's going to rely on a combination of preposterous but entertaining coincidences, sometimes the speculation by the characters ought to be more off the mark; everyone is just too dang smart.
4. Seamus - Mr. Hilgartner needs to dramatically improve his Boston (southie says the narrator) accent. It would have been much less distracting to simply speak basic American English.
5. Too much love for firearms. I mean, it sounds like Mr. Stephenson loves them. I like nice guns too but the net effect is that almost everyone in the book, at least characters who get more than cursory descriptions, are in love with guns.
6. I forget.
I'm a designer (interiors and graphics) with an English degree. I recovered my love of reading after a disastrous bout with grad school.
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.
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.
I'm actually a day old tart, filled with maple custard. Perhaps, this reads as a rational introduction to others, and you are deliberately misreading it, because, come on, maple custard.
I can't imagine all the research that went behind writing Stephenson's Reamde, but it's an incredible looping ride. It takes it's time, it could definitely be classified as an 'epic' fiction, as Stephenson uses deliberate extrapolation and minute details to explain some of the more unlikely scenarios in the novel. There are many scenes that are made, in my opinion, unmanageably realistic, especially toward the end, which drags the story on.
It hit close to home when one of the characters are revealed as a child of Sudan. One of my best friends growing up turned out to be adopted from Sudan, and I never knew until he gave a speech for a community college I attended, years later. He lost his entire family, and the details of his march aren't my business to share, but he never mentioned it, he did his best to move on, and made the most of his life, which is a really cheesy and harsh thing to say. When you dwell on your problems, you're only inviting them to continue to hurt you. A lot of North American kids could learn a valuable lesson from him, and from Zula.
I almost wanted to say Stephenson tried to write the Richard Forthrast as a genius level asperger spectrum, but it's actually really doubtful. The way he organizes his life, and his detachment from reality was probably written this way to detail the repercussions on his personality from years of experience with T'Rain, and from managing a huge industry at it's foundation level.
Overall it's truly a great story, and I've listened to it twice since I bought it, although I usually don't repeat huge novels unless I'm reaaally head over heels for them. I don't recommend trying to quote any of the anthropological fiction-facts without at least a Wikipedia trek.
A lot of the research behind Reamde is sound, such as flying low to get under the radar, and wangbas. Some of the research may be true, but is more opinionated, such as the differences between Go and Chess. But, all of it together gives you a small glimpse into what it may be like to grow up in another country, and the culture shock even open minded youths come across when removed from their accustomed environment. The circumstances that carry the story are as likely as winning the lottery, several times, in the same year, and the plot at times gets hair thin, but with Stephenson's deliberation, it's easy to accept the looping piecemeal situations as a more likely scenario then some of the easy answer fast fire action novels.
This book is sticky, and the humanitarian lessons will keep with you long after the epilogue. It's entertaining and masterfully written, and to be honest it was a relief getting a break from novels where the hero uses his arsenal of one-liners to punctuate explosions.
"i nearly didn't make it"
This is a good story with some great concepts & characters but it could have been brilliant. It just goes on too long, i never thought i'd be recommending an abridged version.
The narration is good, i hope he was paid by the minute.
No need for a follow up, i just need to know Eggdog made it home.
"Twisty Tech Thriller"
Not quite up to the standard of Cryptonomicon, but it weaves multiple viewpoints in the story arc in an engaging way. In ten years time, some of the technology described will seem old fashioned (and of course it will be), but it's the usual mix of well researched detail and plausible very-near-future speculation from Stephenson.
It doesn't make the mistake of speculating *too* far into the future; everything described *could* be done now, so coming back to it at a later date, or picking it up in 5 years time may feel slightly nostalgic, but it will dodge sounding dated and inaccurate.
A wide range of likeable and thoroughly unlikeable characters thrown into challenging and increasingly tense situations.
I enjoyed Malcolm Hillgartner's performance; the accents are a bit variable in places - you may pause for a second or so to tune into the character - but all-in-all pretty effortless to listen to, clear, and well paced.
Reamde is one of those stories that sound good from the cover but then gets better and better. It does a fantastic job of creating likeable characters throughout and perfectly combines the geeky world of MMORPGs and the fast pacing of a thriller.
Malcolm Hillgartner does a great job of story telling and has the better range of voices that I've heard in a while. Fantastic listen and I've recommended it to a lot of people and bought paper copies for Christmas presents.
"Rip roaring good tale, but.."
This is a great book to switch your brain off to an just enjoy. It killed many hours on my commute which is just what I wanted it to do.
As the blurb says the story takes us from country to country (even to a cyber country) following the trials and tribulations of Zula (main character) a bunch of Russian Mafioso and then a group of Jihadists. If you can get past the Alexander the Meerkat, Russian accents and the slightly too coincidental story line then you will surely enjoy the book.
My only gripe is that the author went to great lengths to explain how the coincidences occurred. It was almost as if he knew some things we too unbelievable so he tried to rationalise and explain everything. It got a bit tiresome toward the end of the book. Still a great listen though.
"A good romp with some interesting ideas"
The sometimes outlanding plot made Reamde sometimes hilariously over the top.
The abundance of characters, fairly well sketched, added to the entertainment of the book. The romantic match-ups in the end were a bit corny but added to the sense of fun. Of the second-order characters I enjoyed the MI5 girl.
This is not a book to listen to in one sitting. It is a book to go back to day after day like the saga that it is.
The explanation and descriptions of the Game world were sometimes too long, though the Game world itself was a creative aspect of the book.
Stephenson is an absolute master at this. The way he develops the storyline, plucks up his characters and choreographs them round the world for the final showdown makes for a terrific book
I believe that this book is the one I've enjoyed most from Audible - and that's quite a lot to say! It's perfectly narrated, distinguishing characters through the use of many different voices and several accents and the story is thoroughly enjoyable, with a fair amount of mafia, video games, Chinese hackers and firearms.
The pace is addictive, the plot is rich and thrilling and the characters are well-formed and interesting. It's not sci-fi per se, it's not steampunk, even if some really high tech is involved, as you may expect from other works by Stephenson, but a great action novel.
"Fast-paced, ultimately satisfying!"
Set in the present day, Reamde takes the listener on a wild ride across both virtual and real world locations. Combining classic Stephenson super-clever spins on current and near-future technologies with "Bourne Supremacy" level action, this one's all killer and no filler.
It's got a sense of humour and real heart but does not pull punches in terms of characters or situational development.
"Reamde : Staying alive is more than a game"
It's got the length of "Cryptonomicon" with the pace of "Snow Crash" - highly recommend for all Stephenson fans.
"Would have been better as two different books"
There are a couple of very different streams to this book, which I won't go into rather than provide a spoiler. Each could have made an excellent book in its own right, but together we are left missing something.
"Stephenson strikes gold!"
I should probably start this review by stating that Snow Crash is one of my favourite novels, but I haven't read anything by Stephenson since that came out 20 years ago.
This book is so good in so many ways.
It is long enough to let the story fully develop and not leave you wanting more.
Much in the manner of Snow Crash, all the plot strands come together to make a very satisfying finale.
It manages to be both serious and funny at the same time.
It is worth remembering that if this had been written 20 years ago it would have been classed as SF, now it fits into the techno thriller genre and does so very well indeed.
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