Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: "Reamde" by Neal Stephenson

As I did last year, I started out the year by reading the longest book I planned to read, just to get it out of the way, and after reading Neal Stephenson’s large 1042 page novel Reamde, I’m having second thoughts about doing the same thing next year. While most of what Stephenson writes would be placed in the Science Fiction section of any book store, this book is more of a thriller, so his placement there, I thought at first, was simply because of his reputation, but he does have a certain style and structure that appeals to such an audience, which is why I found this book to be dreadfully dull at parts and ineffective in others, with a few really cool scenes peppered in there, as well as some funny ones. The plot is quite convoluted, involving a successful draft dodge named Richard, who, after leaving the country to avoid Vietnam, becomes a weed runner and opens up a popular ski resort. He also creates an RPG game which feels like a cross between the Sims and WOW (I don’t play games, can’t you tell). Called T’Rain, this complex game, whose code is written partially by Science Fiction authors with strange habits, soon becomes the victim of an elaborate hack which forces players to give up their game money at digital gunpoint. This also involves Zula; Richard’s adopted niece, as well as Zula’s dopey boyfriend Peter, the Russian Mob and suicidal jihadists by accident. Reading this, I was reminded of David Foster Wallace’s fiction, with its long explanations and obsessions transcribed, but here; it lacks that charm and just comes off as bloated, especially during the final, crucial 100 pages. But I did laugh some time, like the opening family reunion, any time Peter screws up and one scene, near the middle, where Zula fends off an attacker using pieces of a broken compact disc, was really suspenseful. This a smart novel, one intricately constructed and put forth with passion, but it’s meaning and its quality are lost on me.  
Rating: 3/5

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