Enjoyable Near Future Action
Any novel by Neal is a big thing for me ever since Snow Crash and Diamond Age. REAMDE was no exception. It takes place in the near future and it is your basic action story about a billionaire MMO inventor, his spunky niece, a Hungarian hacker, a Chinese gold farmer, a former Soviet special forces operative, an unlikely British undercover terrorist hunter and a big-footed mountain girl. All great characters which are something you have learned to expect from Neal Stephenson.
The science fiction parts are more short extensions of our current world with the possible exception of T’Rain, the game that made Richard a billionaire. But it is the fantastic well-developed everyday world and the characters that makes the book. This near future world really comes alive in Neal’s writing.
A large part of it is the characters, including the villain of the story. My personal favorite is Zula, Richard niece that takes being kidnapped by the Russian mob and Terrorists with the inner strength you want to see in a heroine. Sokolov the Russian security consultant is another. All the characters are really well-developed and easy to like with the exception of the villain, he just makes sense.
The story takes us all across the world from rural America and Canada to a milling city in Southeastern China and back again. Much like in his other books the many plotlines and characters split up and catch up again and again until they reunite in the last climactic shoot out.
Neal builds on current affairs like terrorism, the success of World of Warcraft, gold farmers, cyber viruses and crime to weave this long tail (it is 1042 pages) and he does it really well. I really enjoyed REAMDE and I warmly recommend it. It is more human interest and action than science fiction though like most of Neal Stephenson’s latest books.
Across the globe, millions of computer screens flicker with the artfully coded world of T’Rain – an addictive internet role-playing game of fantasy and adventure. But backstreet hackers in China have just unleashed a contagious virus called Reamde, and as it rampages through the gaming world spreading from player to player – holding hard drives hostage in the process – the computer of one powerful and dangerous man is infected, causing the carefully mediated violence of the on-line world to spill over into reality. A fast-talking, internet-addicted mafia accountant is brutally silenced by his Russian employers, and Zula – a talented young T’Rain computer programmer – is abducted and bundled on to a private jet. As she is flown across the skies in the company of the terrified boyfriend she broke up with hours before, and a brilliant Hungarian hacker who may be her only hope, she finds herself sucked into a whirl of Chinese Secret Service agents and gun-toting American Survivalists; the Russian criminal underground and an al-Qaeda cell led by a charismatic Welshman; each a strand of a connected world that devastatingly converges in T’Rain. An inimitable and compelling thriller that careers from British Columbia to South-West China via Russia and the fantasy world of T’Rain, Reamde is an irresistible epic from the unique imagination of one of today’s most individual writers.