Nick's Reviews > Reamde

Reamde by Neal Stephenson
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Sep 24, 2011

really liked it

I thought, when I started reading this book, that Stephenson had turned in a classic Great American Novel. By that I mean that the introduction to the main character (although actually this is a seriously ensemble piece, so it’s probably better to think of him as the spine character – the events in the book could not take place without him, even when – as much of the time – he’s out of the room and has no knowledge of what’s going on) is a perfect, serious statement of a particular moment of American history – the present one. The prose has a ringing certainty, and a compelling portrait emerges of a man in later years, slightly aloof from his extended family, whose life has followed the major threads of his time. This is Stephenson pulling together the strands of his writing. You get powerful depictions of the heartland of America, dynastic storytelling, and a sense of the US as a fractious, complex, fascinating entity; woven into this, though, is a new world of online gold farming and the economics of MMORPGs as they become more populous than many nations.
So I was all set to read a kind of cross between John Steinbeck and William Gibson, and wondering whether this was going to be Stephenson’s “Great Book”.
And then the action started.
And did not stop.
For nearly one thousand pages.
This is not a measured, dynastic thriller stepped in draft-dodging, marijuana, and Warcraft. It is an epic, exhausting, non-stop action flick in book form. It makes Heat and Kill Bill look short, tame, and dull. It has, yes, an ongoing allegiance to history and culture. It does not suddenly abandon the slightly melancholic sense of ageing, or the awareness that what happens now depends in great part on then. But it surely isn’t the book I expected on page 20. Instead, it’s a superbly exciting, cross-cultural adventure with a cast of thousands (well, no, all right, but certainly about ten main characters who are in different parts of the world and rushing towards a final confrontation).
I loved it.
There are niggles, of course. Stepehenson’s Brits are real people when you get to know them, but they have a kind of veneer of showcase tweediness. Although maybe that’s just how the rest of the world experiences Brits. But then there’s a gang of jihadists caught between extremism and sexual violence all the time, and while there’s a vague nod to the notion that the majority of American muslims would consider them insane and nightmarish, it has to be acknowledged that we never meet a muslim character in the course of the action who isn’t a total bastard. That was a bit disappointing, because it’s something I’d really like to see Stephenson do: the journey of an immigrant into the US tapestry is a thing he understands. On the other hand, maybe there was a storyline like that and it had to be cut. There certainly wasn’t room for another two hundred pages in this book – as it is, the thing’s printed on Bible stock.
So: this is a blinding book. Expect a movie. But it’s not the showstopper I imagined it might be when I began – it’s a completely different showstopper. It won’t be the one which is bound in leather and kept on the shelf alongside your original print of Magnificent Ambersons. But you will not be bored, and you will laugh, and you will stay up late to find out what happens next.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 24, 2011 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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paula Nick, you just wrote the review I've been composing in my head for three weeks! Bastard! Or, actually - thanks!


Nick It is a pleasure to infuriate and yet delight you :)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

What Nick said. Totally.


Julien A great review about a better book.


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