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1044 pages, Hardcover
First published September 20, 2011
“Birth and death,” Chet said. “The poles of human existence. We’re like meridians, all beginning and all ending in the same place. We spread out from the beginning and go our separate ways, over seas and mountains and islands and deserts, each telling our own story, as different as they could possibly be. But in the end we all converge and our ends are as much the same as our beginningsNeal Stephenson has taken the notion of a multi-player, on-line video game as the basis for an action novel and has raised it to the next level. The characters in his story each have dangers and goals and must make use of available resources and allies, while avoiding or killing obstructions or enemies. Unlike their in-game counterparts, the novel’s characters only get one life and must struggle to hang onto it against an assortment of unpleasantries, including Russian gangsters, storms at sea, massive urban explosions, petty criminals, predators of the furry, four-footed variety, booby traps, and a charismatic Welsh terrorist of the Al-Qaeda persuasion. They acquire food, clothing and transportation as they find them and make alliances necessary to survive. Stephenson has a lot of fun paralleling developments in the real world with action in the game world. Don’t worry, the former takes up the bulk, and I do mean bulk of this novel. My ARE weighs in at 980 pps. I do not know how vast the final hardcover might be if they change the font size.