Reading Day #4

Hoorah! I just finished REAMDE! Since last post that’s pages 953-1044. In total I read 240 pages today, which sounds low for the amount of reading I did, but it is Neal Stephenson and all. And by the end of it I think there were seven major protagonists to keep track of.

A short review of REAMDE by Neal Stephenson follows.

This is by far the closest thing to an action film that Stephenson has come to in terms of plot. The first half or so of the novel is basically a crime/espionage thriller, but with the humorously hyper-modern twist that all of the kidnapping and burglary and everything gets set into motion by a computer virus (called REAMDE) that holds your data ransom. And the ransom can only be paid in in-game currency in a popular MMORPG.

Most of this plot is resolved when the primary protagonist, at this point a captive of ex-KGB who drag her to china in an effort to get their data back, is “rescued” by stumbling unto a jihadist bomb factory in Xiamen. Then the second half of the plot starts out as a giant international chase scene before concluding with a detailed tactical engagement involving something like four small armies. If filmed, this might even be longer than the forty-minute action scene in Mad Max: Fury Road. Which is not a complaint at all.

I guess what Stephenson did the best in this novel all has to do with form and plot, but it didn’t really incorporate any of the themes we’re used to. The lengthy sections describing the internal workings of the MMORPG were very Stephensonian but other than that most of the exposition was focused on the family of survivalists and the bizarre journeys of characters who unfortunately found themselves swept into the plot. This might sound very snooty, but I usually expect there to be at least one or two highly intellectual themes, or at least influences, in Stephenson, and that’s where this book seems to be lacking. And while MMOs are fine, I’d really rather read about pretty much any other tech instead, but I guess I’m just quibbling.

(Apparently his next one, Seveneves, is all about genetic-engineering, so I’m fairly sure I won’t have those disappointments next time around.)

Overall it is still a great book, and despite lacking a few attributes I usually expect from the author, it tickled my brain in most of the other ways I expect from his books. I mentioned earlier today there was that point where all of the chaos he’s made of the plot starts to reveal hidden patterns and all of the characters who’ve been scattered across the globe start showing signs that their random journeys will all end up in the same place and as the reader I feel myself saying “oh jeeze, oh jeeze” and then from that point on every word gets more and more satisfying. And that’s enough of a reason to read it, for me, anyway.

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3 Responses to “Reading Day #4”

  1. heidenkind Says:

    Great review! It almost makes me want to read it (I would if it wasn’t a bazillion pages).

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