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)
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.
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.
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 focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
I guess this book is a pretty standard thriller, which is fine, but did not impress me. It is NOT science fiction. The narration was well done, handling the myriad of characters well, although it may have been, understandably, uninspired. I was annoyed by the utter stupidity of the characters, who act in ways that made no sense at all, yet were convenient for the author. I was annoyed by the wildly unbelievably string of events necessary to move the story. Although there was a lot of action, I found most of the action uninteresting because it was so implausible I didn???t really care. There were a couple of scenes I found exciting, a couple of lines that were funny, and a very few scenes with appealing language and evocative imagery, but far less than I need to really enjoy a novel. Finally I found the novel lacked a spirit that transcended the story. This is a standard thriller with a few geek twists, but I always hope for more than standard.
Tell us about yourself!
I was eagerly awaiting this story & zipped right through it as soon as it arrived. LOVED it- my favorite since Cryptonomicon.
The story is classic Stephenson, and the characters are just crazy. There are a bunch of folks you end up following around and of course their backstories are all just bonkers but awesome. I was in awe how he brought everyone together at the end for the big showdown. Yes, it's a 100 page gun battle. A totally crazy, somewhat hilarious, pure Stephenson ending. Go listen! I was so sad to have this end, eagerly awaiting his next story.
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
I listened to REAMDE early in 2013. It is a long and complex novel that deals with issues from draft evasion to computer viruses. The genre is contemporary sci-fi. REAAMDE is the name of a very mean computer virus which makes files unavailable until the person who owns the computer pays a ransom. (Such viruses do now exist.) The question for the potential purchaser of this novel is whether this fascinating story is worth the 38.5 hours of listening time. Narration is superb. My answer is yes.
As other reviews have noted, there are several passages which are duplicated out of sequence and spoil any suspense that the author was trying to create. Why won't audible fix the file?
"Good book, shame about the narration"
Enjoyable story with some interesting characters. Nice tongue in cheek critique of globalisation and the digital age. Unfortunately the narrator was very poor. Nearly gave up as his attempts at anything other than a broad American accent were so terrible. Would recommend reading this rather than listening to it as a result.
"Quality and quantity - can't go wrong."
Epically convoluted adventure
This stunning quest for gold and revenge manages to cross half the real world and a fantasy one too. Non stop plot that never looses the thread.
Hillgarten's reading lights up the characters, and even though his Russian/Hungarian accents verge through Mexico and Pakistan, his English accent is so POSH it's almost comic, and his Welsh is um.... he's obviously never heard a Welsh accent, he keeps the pace going so that one wants to just keep listening.
This could not be made into a film. Maybe a series of films. There is just too much stuff.
I'll be looking for more by both the author and the narrator. Very good listening.
"detailed but just boring"
it just fails and falls flat. it goes nowhere and says nothing. it describes and didn't explore. anathem takes you there, cryptonomicon makes you understand... this just bores you.
"Suspension of disbelief required!"
I managed to stick this out for 12 of the 30+ hours required before I finally decided to stop subjecting myself to a nonsensical plot and needlessly descriptive prose. About an hour in the story starts to hang together on a series of irrational actions which I had hoped would later be explained as part of some elaborate scheme however this was not to be the case. Characters act in ridiculous manners with the flimsiest of plot devices used to push the activity from one scene to the next all the while taking hundreds of words to describe what should have been conveyed in a couple of sentences. The author appears to have a loyal following with some other works attaining praise but this is a clear miss for me.
"great fun but a bit too long"
I felt that some sub plots were over developed and didn't really add to overall narrative other than by weight
very well read apart from a couple of dodgy accents - the Scottish one was particularly irritating but thankfully not a major character
I would go for another book with same author and narrator though but probably I'll wait for a suitably long business trip
"so long and so good!"
Adventure and action thriller. Full of people I want to know about. As someone who doesn't MMO, but is player adjacent, it made sense for me and had enough of the right kind of detail to be loveable. Much story. Such Wow. I was very happy with the ending.
Finally a Stephenson book with an actual ending!
I was a bit hesitant at first about an American narrator (I'm British, so it's odd for me to hear a whole book in American), but Malcolm Hillgartner was excellent. Granted, his Scottish accent sounded Irish and his Welsh accent sounded more British than the British guy, but he's a great reader and those accents are minimal in the story and forgivable for how good he was in all other respects.
In terms of the story itself – what a great yarn. Long, complex, balanced, knowledgeable, humourous in places and, as above, actually has a great ending, unlike other Stephenson books I could name *cough* Diamond Age, Snow Crash *cough*
"great story, well worth the journey."
great story, great journey , good characters and plot line well worth a read. a bonus to any sci-fi fan
"Great story, terrible accents"
This is a great story on the whole, surprisingly exciting and fun for a story with so much infodumping, has a great array of characters from different backgrounds. Mostly good narration apart from terrible, bordering on offensive (I'm thinking of the Irish accent here) accents.
"Neal Stephenson does 24"
Frankly, I love this one. I've listened to it twice now, and upon reaching the end was tempted to go back for a third time. I'll probably end up listening to it once a year.
Pretty much every character in a Neal Stephenson book is clever and interesting, and Reamde is no exception. It's a refreshing change from most thrillers, where you find yourself in a state of perpetual frustration with the protagonists (I was once bitten on the shin by a Lee Child novel).
This even ups the ante on James Bond's globe trotting by trotting on several globes at once. The characters range from practically everywhere, and Malcolm Hillgartner does an excellent job. Unlike the Seveneves narrator, he wisely demurs from attempting a welsh accent. In fact, he imbues proceedings with a frenetic pace, and his delivery of Stephenson's frequently witty prose is top notch. He even pronounces Linux correctly.
If you are of a, shall we say, even slightly geeky persuasion, this is manna from heaven.
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