Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Neal Stephenson’s Reamde

( #Reamde, #NealStephenson )

I finally finished the book that would not end yesterday. It has taken me almost 2 months to read Reamde (although I have read other books during this period too), but I got it done. What is the book about? I think this was Stephenson’s attempt to tell an epic fantasy story but in the real world. It is an interesting and creative idea, I am just not sure if that was the intent.

Reamde is part action thriller, detective story, and fantasy tale. The general idea is that a guy (Richard) creates an online game that can be used to traffic real money globally. The game is huge, almost everybody plays it (essentially it is World of Warcraft, but more popular). Richard’s niece ends up getting kidnapped through a series of semi-ridiculous plot turns (I can forgive this in the vein of North by Northwest). The kidnapped niece is basically re-kidnapped by another group of bad guys and then British and US intelligence agencies get involved.

The book features as massive cast of characters that all converge at the end of the book. I suppose my main issue with the story is the sheer amount of characters, many of them were unnecessary and it seems Stephenson doesn’t know what to do with them in the end. There are several that essentially get dropped around the 60-70% mark of the book without another mention. Reamde spends alot of energy getting all of the characters to the same place for the climax. Even with the time spent, it feels completely artificial. Having gotten to the end, I think the book would have been better served killing off some of the characters before we got to that point.

I get the impression the Stephenson was trying to go for a reversal of themes. The story revolves around an epic online game, but the real world becomes much more exciting. I am taking a guess that Stephenson plotted the book out like a video game. You have the main story and the side quests. Minor characters that serve a function and need little backstory. It is a clever idea and if executed better, the book would have been outstanding.

I give Neal Stephenson (and his publishers) kudos for keeping this ONE BOOK. No trilogy, no cliffhangers. It is a complete tale, in fact it is a supersized story. I am glad I could finish this book without having to purchase more and I feel like I earned a gamer trophy getting through it.