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Excellent For What It Is
on September 20, 2011
The good news: *REAMDE* is a great page-turner, a bit of a throwback to Stephenson's early, pseudonymous techno-thriller *Interface*. I stayed up all night charging through the first half, and seriously considered skipping work so I could finish it. Having finished it, I have to say that it reads like a streak, which isn't something you can say about any of Stephenson's other novels. However, it's in his digressions and excesses that Stephenson is great, which brings us to...
The bad news: although it wouldn't be accurate to call this a "beach read", it's true that it isn't anywhere near as ambitious as Stephenson's earlier work, and there are no outrageous, indelible set-pieces like the Cap n' Crunch chapter of *Cryptonomicon* or the Newton-Leibniz smack down from *The Baroque Cycle*. And with the exception of the hilarious medievalist Don Squared, the characters aren't very memorable. In particular Zula, the heroine, is a bit bland and unconvincing.
The bottom line: if you're a Stephenson fan, you'll probably be a little disappointed, but if you're new to his writing, this is a perfect introduction to his style and outlook.