Review: REAMDE

January 5, 2012 Comments Off on Review: REAMDE

The newest Neal Stephenson book is very fun but not as overwhelmingly awesome as my favorites of his. It’s a great story, but disappointingly devoid of the philosophical/mathematical tangents and oversized metaphors that I expect from him. And 1000 pages might be just a tad long for a single storyline, even an exciting one with multiple main characters. Positive changes from Anathem, though: we’re back to third person, thank god, and the stultifying proofs and thought experiments have gone away (maybe he overcompensated and that’s why there are so few interesting digressions in REAMDE). And the story is a great idea; someone commented that this will be the first Stephenson book to become a movie, and that might well be. Do not read any further if you are a committed Stephenson fan who will definitely read the book no matter what—I had a blast going into it without having any clue what was about to happen.

The backstory of the book is that Richard Forthrast helped create an MMORPG (like World of Warcraft) where it was easy to change virtual gold pieces into actual real-world currency. (It is possible to sell WoW gold pieces to people who don’t have time to mine, but the game in REAMDE was created with the explicit intention of making the economics a significant part of it.) But a virus named REAMDE is going around which encrypts all your computer’s data and makes it inaccessible without the key, which can be obtained by leaving 100 or so gold pieces at a certain latitude and longitude in the game. The Russian mafia loses some important data and vows revenge on the hackers who created the virus. Also, chaos ensues in the game world once everyone realizes that a certain region is littered with piles of gold and idiot n00bs carrying more of the same. Also, spies and guns and explosions. Also, boats and cougars. Also, fundamentalists. It’s really a wonderful story, told with Stephenson’s usual tight writing, even though it does get a little bogged down towards the end. But he does my favorite thing, which is to blandly arrange spectacular coincidences—because spectacular coincidences happen all the time, even in the real world, and it’s great to enjoy them in a plot.

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