“Reamde” by Neal Stephenson

Book cover of Reamde

Summary

“Reamde” is a story centering on the inventor of an immensely popular and successful massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), his niece, and a slew of other associated characters dealing with a variety of threads including in-world MMORPG dynamics and sociology, international (primarily American and Chinese) real and virtual-world financial and criminal activities, terrorism, and a clever computer virus that ties (almost) all of them together. This book has quite a lot going on and does not head in any one clear direction.

Of Neal Stephenson’s works I have read Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon. I would not recommend each of these books to everyone, but I would recommend all of them to most. Each had very interesting ideas wrapped in a generally compelling plot. Reamde contains some compelling ideas, but at a bit over 1000 pages it would have communicated those ideas and the plot much more satisfactorily in half the words. It is a shame too, because there were a few characters I came to like and a lot of what happened both in the first quarter and in the last quarter made for a great read. In fact I’d love to see a movie made ...

Book cover of Reamde“Reamde” is a story centering on the inventor of an immensely popular and successful massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), his niece, and a slew of other associated characters dealing with a variety of threads including in-world MMORPG dynamics and sociology, international (primarily American and Chinese) real and virtual-world financial and criminal activities, terrorism, and a clever computer virus that ties (almost) all of them together. This book has quite a lot going on and does not head in any one clear direction.

Of Neal Stephenson’s works I have read Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon. I would not recommend each of these books to everyone, but I would recommend all of them to most. Each had very interesting ideas wrapped in a generally compelling plot. Reamde contains some compelling ideas, but at a bit over 1000 pages it would have communicated those ideas and the plot much more satisfactorily in half the words. It is a shame too, because there were a few characters I came to like and a lot of what happened both in the first quarter and in the last quarter made for a great read. In fact I’d love to see a movie made since it would be easy enough to cut out a substantial amount of the story and lose very little. That includes so much minutiae of how some of the villains construct a prison inside of an RV. Thanks, but I just don’t care enough to know about the sizes of wood, the cuts they made, and the construction process. Granted, these sorts of details have at times provided interesting tangents that I have enjoyed on other occasions and particularly in some of Stephenson’s other works. Perhaps it was the topic, or perhaps I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the time.

In addition to the story being too long, it was also poorly structured, at least given Stephenson’s ability. I recognize the need to avoid introducing too many characters into a story too rapidly, but introducing three new incredibly important characters more than a quarter of the way into the book, two of them bringing with them an entirely new plot line that drives the rest of the story, felt very wrong. I generally don’t mind a story changing, particularly when I’m not really sure what the story will be about in the first place, but the change felt so unrealistic and was so considerable that it made the story feel like it lacked a core narrative and I had a hard time enjoying the following several hundred pages.

Having said all that, MMORPGs, Chinese gold farming, viruses, scams, and their interaction with the real world provided an interesting set of ideas that I thought were handled quite well. In fact I felt a bit bad at times that I was more curious what was going on with the virtual world and the unexpected politics and war within it than the “real-world” plight of the main character hostage. After all, I assumed that I more or less knew what would have to happen with her being a primary character that must certainly survive, but in that virtual world I didn’t know how things would play out. I felt that the characters were realistic in their decisions and intelligence, and clearly a great deal of research went into producing an effective stage on which to tell the story. If you’re a patient reader and are interested in several of those main ideas, or in how victims of kidnapping and forced crime handle their circumstances, this book may be for you.

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