Doreen's Reviews > Reamde

Reamde by Neal Stephenson
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Dec 20, 2011

really liked it
Read from December 15 to 20, 2011

Sleep-deprived, but managed to finish this in time to return it to the library tomorrow, woot!

So a little background before I review the book itself. Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age is one of my favorite books, and I thoroughly enjoyed both Snow Crash and Zodiac. But then I read Cryptonomicon over a decade ago, and it repulsed me to the point where I could not bring myself to read another of his books till I saw this lying by the check-out station at my local library. It's ostensibly about an MMORPG -- how could that not interest me? So, impulsively, I took Reamde home with me, and am happy to report that Mr Stephenson and I have now mostly reconciled.

Reamde isn't quite on par with The Diamond Age, but that's partly because the milieus are different. It's easier to paint lofty aims into the far-future setting of TDA. Reamde, on the other hand, is very much set in the present day. It revolves around how a computer game accidentally drags a diverse cast of characters into international espionage and counter-terrorism. It is a fantastic thriller that probably involves more OCD detail regarding MMORPGs and guns than the layman is used to: hopefully, this doesn't deter the average reader from overlooking the daunting page count to engage in what is ultimately a rewarding novel. It was also really, really nice to read an actual, satisfying ending from Mr Stephenson, who is historically bad at writing those. It makes me less leery of approaching the other behemoths he's written in the interim of my quitting him.

Another thing I really enjoyed -- and admired -- was the way Mr Stephenson used coincidence to bring everyone together. Kate Atkinson attempted this (mostly, IMO, to lukewarm success) in her Jackson Brodie novels, but Mr Stephenson makes all the convoluted shenanigans believable (it helps that the international spy thriller genre calls for a higher level of suspension of disbelief, at least for me.) It was also nice to enjoy the banter and in-jokes: I laughed out loud several times. I was very close to giving Reamde 5 stars.

But then this line stuck out and poked me in the eye: "By this point [Sokolov] had seen enough of [Zula and Olivia] to know that they were cooler under pressure, and better to be with in a tight spot, than 999 out of 1000 women."

Really, Mr Stephenson? Because, from my outside view, Zula and Olivia reacted better than 999 out of 1000 people would have. One of the reasons I dislike Cryptonomicon so much was because the women in it weren't interesting or, worse, weren't independent actors. Especially after TDA, that was a tough sell for me. Mr Stephenson remedied that with this book, and I loved him for it... till that line. Imagine if Sokolov had thought of Richard (or Chet! Not that Sokolov ever met Chet, but I digress) that way in the context of older men. It's just gross and unnecessary.

So, overall, a great book. Reading on a deadline was made especially difficult because the loving, almost seductive way he wrote about computer games made me want to put down the book and play Skyrim till my lust was slaked, but I persevered. Recommended, especially for people who enjoy electronic RPGs.
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Reading Progress

12/15/2011 page 25
2.0% "Oh, Mr S, don't you fail me now."
12/17/2011 page 257
25.0% "So when they said "[Manu] plays for the Spurs" I thought Tottenham, dur."

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