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)
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
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.
"A whole lot of entertaining nothing"
It may be a "techno thriller", but only just -- the technology in question feels mostly like a MacGuffin to motivate a chase around the globe; the possibilities and dangers of technology remain largely unexplored, but while the book fails to inspire or enlighten, it remains entertaining throughout. "It's not a must-read, it's a can-read."
Recommend to anyone who is looking for a lot of book for their credit and who is willing to accept a somewhat run-of-the-mill thriller. Reader is competent.
"A thrilling adventure"
This is an excellent story with wonderfully delivered narrative that made me want to keep listening. Neal Stephenson always writes with great depth and breadth and this was the first time I had listened to an audio version of one of his books. But it did not disappoint in any way and I enjoyed the delivery by Malcolm Hiltgartner.
Reamde covers many subjects and develops so many characters, you end up rooting for them all. It's difficult to assign a preference to any of the cliffhangers and indeed many of them take a while to resolve in the narrative. The plot does not falter at any point despite the length of the book.
I enjoyed them all. Some level of ingenuity was required to escape each problem scenario and where it seemed hopeless there would be a solution. Not every situation resolved happily though. There was balance.
The role of the cougar.
There was no wasted narrative in this story. Everything matters.
"Details make the story"
Since snow crash Neil Stephenson has been one of my favorite authors with Cryptonomicon being, to my mind, his stand out book. While “Read me” isn’t as good as Cryptonomicon it is still well worth a read. I found the opening third slightly confusing, but after this I couldn’t stop listening.
A long book with a very geeky feel, it may not appeal to all, but i loved it.
The narration was quite neutral and did not detract from the book.
"Good clean fun - with guns"
I bought this because it was on special offer. I really didn't know what to expect but thought it worth a try.
The story rattles away at breakneck speed. Lose your concentration for a second and you're on a different continent.
For all the detail on computer games at the beginning, this is an old-fashioned adventure story and none the worse for that. Not a great deal of character development but a lot of action. In it's own way it's rather good and I have to confess that I rather enjoyed it although not my usual sort of listen. I was however, not so happy about all the guns. At times it felt like a love letter to the firearm.
"Started so well and then became tedious"
Yes because I enjoy (usually) Neal's book's and I thought it was well narrated. The story started really well and showed much promise. It is just that the ending was a bit of a let down in my opinion and I started to loose interest.
No as right up until the last quarter of the book I was enjoying it.
The description of the virtual game world and how it affected peoples lives. Could this really be the future.
Yes - by no means a bad book just not as good as I hoped.
I thought the narration was excellent.
"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.
"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
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