You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Reamde is the latest book by science fiction author Neal Stephenson. This is not so much a science fiction story as a crime thriller. The action takes us to Seattle, China, the Philippines, British Columbia and Idaho. The events start at a resort in British Columbia owned by Richard Forthrast, the creator of an online RPG called T'Rain, the most popular multiplayer fantasy game. T'Rain is meticulously organized and detailed, though it is also used by players in China and elsewhere to leverage its financial structure for real financial gain. The trouble begins with Richard's niece, Zula, adopted from the Sudan, and Zula's boyfriend Peter. Peter is involved in a shady business deal, selling credit card numbers to a criminal named Wallace. When he has to borrow Richard's thumb drive to complete the transaction, Wallace's computer is infected with a T'Rain virus called Reamde. The Reamde virus encrypts Wallace hard drive and instructs that to decrypt it he must deliver a certain amount of gold to a certain place in T'Rain.

This bad luck sets off a chain of events. Wallace's boss, a Russian gangster named Ivanov, flies in to Seattle to find out why he has not received the expected goods for the money he paid. Ivanov comes to understand that his goods are being held hostage by a video game player in Xiamen, China. So after having Wallace killed, he flies Peter and Zula to Xiamen along with Csongor, a Hungarian hacker associate, and Sokolov, a former Russian special forces soldier, and other henchmen. In Xiamen Ivanov forces Zula and Peter and Csongor to track down the source of the hacker, and they find him in an old apartment building. But when Sokolov and his henchmen charge into the apartment they discover it's the wrong one, thanks to some subterfuge by Zula. Not only is it the wrong apartment, it is a very wrong apartment. Instead of young Chinese hackers, they storm into a room full of heavily armed terrorists led by terrorist mastermind Abdallah Jones.

This is where the crime story turns into an action thriller. The ensuing firefight between the gangsters and the terrorists sets off a chain of events. After Ivanov kills Peter, the terrorists kill Ivanov. Zula is kidnapped by Jones, and Csongor makes a futile effort to rescue her with the help of Marlon, the Reamde creator, and a Chinese girl named Yuxia who had served as their translator.

Zula is a strong young woman who survived the death of her birth family and her adopted parents. She draws on this strength to survive. She writes a letter and hides it, and she makes a daring escape attempt and nearly succeeds. She proves to be resourceful and defiant, though she has to act meek to let the terrorists think she is not a threat. Finally, in order to save her life when she thinks the terrorists are through with her, she tells them that her uncle is rich. This draws in Richard, who has started searching for his missing niece.

This story is full of action and suspense. It is different from most of Stephenson's novels. Anathem was a novel with some action, but it was driven by mystery and ideas. This is a novel of action. In one sense it is a character novel since the characters of Zula and Jones (and to a lesser extent Richard) are so dominant and their conflict drives part of the action. Some of the events are unlikely to the point of coincidence, though this is excusable until the very end. For the conclusion, all the characters end up in the same geographic location despite being separated by thousands of miles at one point, and despite their knowledge of the terrorists destination being extremely conjectural. I could fully believe they ended in the same destination, but not at the same time, just in time to deal with the terrorists.

The introduction of the fantasy world is an interesting facet, though it is not as fascinating as in Snow Crash. Admittedly, back then it was more of a novel idea. The adventures in T'Rain are played for suspense and for laughs. It is both tense and amusing when the land in T'Rain where Zula and the others must deliver the ransom gold to becomes overrun with hundreds of characters trying to waylay the virus victims. Yet while it is a fine thriller, it sometimes fails to keep the attention. B

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home