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Reamde: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 1055 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
One could be forgiven for, like me, being a little disappointed about that. Neal Stephenson is an author capable of towering accomplishments. For an author as preoccupied as he is with grand, sweeping ideas of cosmological scale and intricacy, it's jarring to pick up his latest novel and find yourself reading a thriller that's not about ideas as much as it is about fun.
But oh, what a thriller. It's a thousand pages with the dynamic energy of a bullet train or a wild mustang, screaming along with an almost unbearable intensity and narrative zest. I found myself nipping a hundred pages at a time, like trying to gag down a glass of Bacardi 151, because it moves with explosive speed and a madcap intensity that never really lets up. It's not a traditional Stephenson novel, but only a writer of his caliber could have crafted a thriller this long, complex, and energetic. And you get the sense that he just had a ridiculous amount of fun writing it.
It's worth every moment of the read, and it's terrific fun watching the thriller genre get worked over by a writer of a caliber rarely seen in the straight-to-paperback set. But it's still not really as good as some of his earlier stuff...so it's a four, reluctantly. Doesn't mean it's still not one of the best books I'll read this year.
For about the first half of "Reamde" I felt like I was reading "Cryptonomicon" all over again. There is a familiar balance of international characters, intrigue, wit and technological digressions that make it a pleasure to read for any fan of Stephenson's previous novels.
The story starts going downhill when it turns into a terrorist hunt. The al-Qaeda characters are wooden, undeveloped, and evil for unexplained reasons. There was plenty of space to get inside their heads and Stephenson didn't even try. Strike one.
Strike two is the verbose gunfight that takes up the last quarter or so of the book. It's far too detailed and very difficult to follow. I found myself losing track of where characters were and what they were doing, and couldn't even maintain a consistent mental image of the scene without getting thrown off by random inconsistent environmental details that Stephenson kept throwing in.
Strike three is the Hollywood-esque setup of the ending. Stephenson used to always leave important issues unresolved at the end of his stories, which made for good food for thought. This story ties up cleanly in the end but Stephenson had to seriously finesse reality in order to get it there.
I got the overall impression that Stephenson wrote half of the book in his old mode, where he simply had fun coming up with characters and situations to get them into; then he spend the second half of the book trying to squeeze out a coherent ending that would get all the characters to where they needed to be, but losing a lot of the inherent quality of his style in the process.
Yet, the book lacks the special Stephenson touch. First, there is no overarching theme tying the novel together. Cryptonomicon was about the elusive nature of information and wealth, the Baroque Cycle was about the rise of science and capitalism in the West. Having these deeper questions in the background made the surface action in the novels more meaningful. This time it is just a bunch of Good Guys chasing a bunch of Bad Guys.
Second, the characters in Reamde lack both depth and idiosyncrasy. Despite the length of the novel, there is so much going on that we do not get to know the nuances of the characters' personalities. I don't think I am the only Stephenson fan missing the Cap'n Crunch episodes. Though they start off with nominally different backgrounds and interests, as the novel progresses the good guys/girls all converge into a uniform mould of toughness, self-reliance and an aptitude for violence. The bad guys, apart form the chief villain, seem to exist just to be killed. These cookie-cutter "jihadists" seem to have been dropped in from some B-grade action movie script, for Stephenson does not seem to have any wish to examine either the ideology of religious fundamentalists or their social backgrounds.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Neal Stephenson is SUCH a versatile writer, at least in terms of the genres he writes in. Science fiction, cyberpunk, action-adventure, or history, Stephenson is always a treat. Read morePublished 6 days ago by videobear
I haven't read a Neal Stephenson book that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. If you love a techno thriller this is a great book.Published 7 days ago by David Haymes
started out with focus on gaming world and frankly I was beginning to tire of it. But then it started getting interesting. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Headed South
This is a very fast-paced action story for this author, and hysterically funny in his very dry, pay attention or you'll miss it sort of style.Published 15 days ago by dla
To be fair, all of my gripes are likely almost certainly to do with my preferences, so keep that in mind and take criticisms with a grain of salt on this one. Read morePublished 16 days ago by J. Paul Gutierrez
Spies, terrorists, video games, hackers and family drama -- hard to put down, impossible to summarize. "Nerd thriller", maybe? Totally satisfying page-turner.Published 16 days ago by Jesse Keller
Would I recommend this book to a friend? If so, why?
I would recommend this to my more technical friends, but I do not think it would be as exciting for those who are less... Read more
Very exciting with twists and turns that were very unexpected. The book starts out a little slow then down the first hill and away it races with excitement all the way to the end. Read morePublished 23 days ago by Michelle I Randa
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