Friday, March 16, 2012
While this is the first Stephenson novel I've read — I'd been meaning to read him for awhile because his fans are always raving about his novels, particularly Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon — and while I didn't care for REAMDE, it wasn't enough to put me off him forever. That said, after finishing REAMDE, I put the novel down and breathed the hugest sigh of relief I've let loose since finishing Gravity's Rainbow. Again, it wasn't all terrible, but it was a gigantic relief to be finished.
The novel is a thousand-page doorstop about a computer virus called REAMDE that infects players of a World of Warcraft-like video game called T'Rain. Three groups of characters with vastly different backgrounds — including a Chinese gamer, a Hungarian computer nerd, a sexy Asian MI6 agent, a Russian gangster, an international Islamic terrorist, and an adopted Eritrean-refugee who is the niece of the impossibly wealthy creator of T'Rain — are thrown together by circumstance, and then literally blown apart in all directions. Traversing the globe — from an island off the coast of China, to the Philippines to the British Columbian wilderness — they must reunite to stop the Islamic terrorist from doing really bad things on American soil.
I'd love to tell you that because this is an "international thriller," it hums along at breakneck speed. It does, sometimes. Mostly, it doesn't. If you're familiar at all with Stephenson, then you know that "concise" would never be a word used to describe him. Normally, I don't mind verbosity — my favorite writer is David Foster Wallace, for God's sake. But here, a lot of the "information dump" feels really superfluous and really slows down the pace of the novel. Indeed, the last, supposedly high-drama scene, as all the characters find their way back together, takes place in the wilderness of Idaho — and reads like part hiking instructional tome, part gun manual, and part, yes, actual thriller. Also, it takes place over almost 300 pages! THREE HUNDRED PAGES! Just this part could've been it's own freakin' novel.
So I wasn't a fan, but if you're into gaming, guns, the Idaho wilderness, or China, this might be a novel you enjoy much more than I did.
*Apologies to non-geek Stephenson fans, but after suffering through this thousand-page novel, I'm well within my rights to make fun of his notoriously geeky fans, I think.
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 11:40 AM