Book Review: Reamde

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 4/5 stars

Neal Stephenson’s “Reamde” is a globe spanning adventure filled with fascinating characters and gobs of general mayhem.  If you like Stephenson’s other books, you are sure to enjoy this one as well.  It contains MMORPGs, Russian mobsters, Chinese hackers, global jihadists, MI6 agents, CIA operatives, and the highly eclectic Forthrast family.  It is intended for immature audiences.

Welcome to the Forthrast family reunion.  It’s a typical large midwestern clan whose members include:: Richard, the draft dodging, wilderness guiding, drug smuggling, ski lodge owning, MMORPG creating gazillionaire black sheep of the family.  Zula, the adopted Eritrean refugee who brought her boyfriend Peter, a self-involved hacker.  John, the double amputee Vietnam vet.  Jake, the self-labeled Christian isolationist nut case.

We then switch gears into 100 pages or so of descriptions on how Richard’s massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), T’rain, came to be.  I don’t want to say it’s useless because it’s really terrific reading.  Let’s just say it’s inconsequential to the plot.  I have a feeling that Neal Stephenson really wanted to write primarily about the MMORPG, but could not come up with an entertaining storyline so he threw its history in as a mini ego project.  This is the part that made me write my “I hate you Neal Stephenson” screed.

Peter hasn’t been a good boy.  He is trying to sell stolen credit cards to Russian mobsters.  This causes problems when a virus that encrypts everything is introduced to the mobster’s file system which they think Peter is to blame for.  Zula is an unfortunate victim to all this since she happens to be at Peter’s house when the mobsters come to look for him.

The virus turns out to be a shakedown for money tied to the MMORPG T’rain that was developed by unknown Chinese hackers.  The mobsters haul poor Zula and Peter to China to help them find these hackers and deliver swift justice upon them.  The hackers end up being in a run down apartment building and when the Russians end up storming the floor above the hackers thanks to some subterfuge by Zula, it turns out that the floor is occupied by a jihadist cell.

That’s just a glimpse of how crazy this book is.  I think that takes you to about half way through the book.  It is a whole lot of fun.  There are more than a few eye rolling exposition moments that kind of take away from the experience, but all in all, it’s a roller coaster ride experience with your normal Neal Stephenson crazy cast of characters in exotic locations with lots of science thrown in for good measure.