Ryan's Reviews > Reamde

Reamde by Neal Stephenson
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Sep 21, 11

Read from August 29 to September 06, 2011

It's important for writers to recognize their strengths. With Reamde, it's clear that Neal Stephenson has embraced his: the infodump.

Reamde operates in two gears: infodump and action, which makes for a potent combination. This fusion works because Stephenson has written a thriller. At first, I was surprised, but then I realized that "The Baroque Cycle" was also a thriller, just one set in an unusual period for the genre. Regardless, the infodump and the plot are what the thriller's all about.

With Reamde, Stephenson returns to contemporary America, discussing things like the setting of wind shield wipers on cars in Seattle, bears roaming the Rockies, and Walmart. However, it doesn't take long (just 300/ 1000 pages) for him to get restless with America. Before we know it, his hero's niece, Zula, is kidnapped and flown to China, where we are given infodumps related to Xiamen's architecture, the culture of the Russian mafia, and even international terrorism.

And don't forget about the spies. There are three of them, and all of them come with their own highly detailed back story. Still, if anyone can make a digression into spy school, begun in the middle of a fire fight, interesting enough that readers will stay tuned for thirty pages rather than skipping ahead to see what happens in the firefight, it's Neal Stephenson.

When we consider that we live in an age where we must be "concise" and "focused" in our writing, I find Stephenson's digressions especially striking. For example, Stephenson quite comfortably explains how a MMORPG was marketed. Does it have anything to do with the plot? Perhaps. Could it be skipped? Almost certainly. Nevertheless, for Stephenson's fans, these digressions are the hook that keeps readers turning pages, rather than the plot.

And it is this reversal that makes Reamde a standout amongst thrillers. Stephenson's achievement here is that he so easily demonstrates that a great thriller can be measured by the depth of its infodumps, rather than the just pace of its plot.
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Reading Progress

08/29/2011 page 120
11.0% "And I thought Grossman, Abercrombie, or Martin would take best SFF novel of the year. Of course, I'm only 10% in, but wow!" 3 comments

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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Stefan I'd sure love an ARC of this one :/


Ryan Stefan wrote: "I'd sure love an ARC of this one :/"

Just cleared page 400 and it's still pretty solid.


Kat  Hooper Brilliance Audio is producing this one, so I might listen to it on audio.


Lori (Hellian) So jealous! :D Very glad you're liking it.


Lori (Hellian) Picked this up today at Costco, can't wait.


message 6: by Randy (new)

Randy Info dump? Hah! Now that's an understatement...hummm, well Stephenson is frustrating the hell out of me mid way through Cryptomomicon...his WWII angle fascinates me to no end but the modern one drives me to rage...

Snow Crash starts slow but when he brings in the Sumerian history...I'm loving it enough now to finish it by the weekend!


Ryan Randy wrote: "Info dump? Hah! Now that's an understatement...hummm, well Stephenson is frustrating the hell out of me mid way through Cryptomomicon...his WWII angle fascinates me to no end but the modern one drives me to rage..."

What's that expression? "Live by the infodump, die by the infodump?"


Hawk I love this review because you've (perhaps unintentionally) imitated Stephenson's writing style.


Ryan Hawk wrote: "I love this review because you've (perhaps unintentionally) imitated Stephenson's writing style."

Unintentional, but I'm not surprised since he's such a brilliant writer.


message 10: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan Lori wrote: "Picked this up today at Costco, can't wait."

I hope you're going to start reading this soon.


message 11: by Hawk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hawk Ryan wrote: "Hawk wrote: "I love this review because you've (perhaps unintentionally) imitated Stephenson's writing style."

Unintentional, but I'm not surprised since he's such a brilliant writer."


Agreed entirely.


Katie Your review detailed exactly how I feel about this book. It was great, the infodump was awesome, and there was just enough action.


message 13: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan Mary Kathryn wrote: "Your review detailed exactly how I feel about this book."

That's awesome.

I think Reamde is one of the best of 2011.


Belinda Just finished it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved Cryptonomicon more though. I always look forward to learning from his writing.


message 15: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan Belinda wrote: "Just finished it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved Cryptonomicon more though. I always look forward to learning from his writing."

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I still haven't read Cryptonomicon. I'm hoping to get to it by summer.


message 16: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Read Cryptiminicon twice IMOone of best novels of the 21st century. On page 130 of Reamde and loving it.


Melissa So sad, but I liked your review more than REAMDE. I'll re-read Anathem and get my Stephenson groove back...


message 18: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan Melissa wrote: "So sad, but I liked your review more than REAMDE. I'll re-read Anathem and get my Stephenson groove back."

Anathem is definitely worth a re-read. I think I'd read it after Reamde. It took me three tries to get through the first 200 pages, but once I made it, it was just as good as I'd heard.


message 19: by Hanna (new) - rated it 1 star

Hanna Infodump is right. Yawn.


Marybeth huh... never thought of it as info-dumping before, but I guess in the fantasy I usually read it's just all called world building. His info seems slightly more useful ;) Really enjoyed your review.


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