Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Read June 20-Aug 23, 2020
I can’t say I’ve read a 1000 page book and been entertained the whole time before.
But for some reason, obviously to the credit of the author, this book, which comes in at 1044 pages, kept me interested the whole way through. At no point did it lag, nor did the pacing slow down, for me at least.
Neal Stephenson’s Reamde is definitely a thriller, and while it’s also classified as science fiction, I’d say barely just, if you squint. It involves a video game that doesn’t exist, but otherwise, it seems very current-technology-era, maybe even a bit dated from it being written in 2011. So don’t be scared off by the categorization of ‘science fiction’ if that’s not something you typically read.
This books follows a small set of main characters – a middle aged draft-dodger who’s become wealthy and successful by inventing the video game mentioned above, his adopted, computer-wizard niece from Eritrea, some Russian mafia guys, some Chinese hackers, some British government agents, and some middle-eastern terrorists. I gotta tell ya, this plot is all over the place, but it just flows so well.
The beginnings of it at least, start when a computer virus – Reamde – made by the Chinese hackers ransom locks some files wanted by the Russian mafia while inside a resort owned by the video game creator. And it just goes from there. Honestly I can’t even begin to go farther into the plot because it really just goes everywhere.
So plot-wise, for being a 1000 pages, it was pretty fast-paced. As said, it didn’t lag or anything, and while it did definitely get a bit convoluted, at no point did it cross into jump the shark territory. The continuity and segues into new plot points were really good and kept me coming back.
The thing I did have a problem with, the thing that kept me from loving this book, was the vocabulary. Like… when I first started reading this book, I thought it was written in the 80s, going by the language the author was using. There were dated, offensive terms for black people, for homosexual people, and for special needs people that haven’t been used in a way that was ‘accepted’ in normal society for a loooong time. Like, they were sprinkled throughout the book, spoken by characters as if they were normal, characters not written to be racist or homophobic or anything like that. They were also in the narration itself at times. So I was reading this and I thought, ‘this is probably an old book, product of its time’. But nope, it was published in 2011. So like.. while I really liked the story, the vocabulary really made me hate it at the same time. I don’t know if the author feels that the terms are ‘normal’, or maybe this was originally drafted in the 80s or what, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. I have no idea how it got passed the editor, to be honest.
The thing that confused me the most about the weird vocabulary was it was combined with a very diverse cast of characters, all of whom were fleshed out and fairly well developed. It was just a weird dichotomy, seeing a really nice cast combined with the rocky vocabulary. I don’t know. It was… bizarre. I don’t remember this vocabulary being in other books I’ve read by Stephenson, so I have no idea what was going on.
So yeah overall: really neat, windy plot, good characters, great pacing. Vocabulary? Don’t pick this up if you don’t wanna be subjected to it. It can definitely be offensive.