I’m a big Neal Stephenson fan. Let that be said right off the bat. I really enjoy how he can make a slew of different, unrelated plots all tie together. He has a flair for being able to keep track of lots of characters and points of view. Typically, his books have a very strong sci-fi edge, even if they’re not always 100% sci-fi. Reamde was actually the least sci-fi book of his that I’ve read. I still enjoyed it, of course, but it wasn’t his strongest outing.
The book focuses on a number of characters spanning the globe from China to Canada to Russia to Hungary to the Philippines. You’ve got Russian mafia, Chinese hackers, British spies. The plot . . . is too complex to sum up in a review. Suffice it to say that a girl goes missing, and the creator of an MMORPG sets off to find her (although it’s much much more complex than that.)
It’s a long read–1000+ pages. And while I really like Stephenson, I also feel like he can get really bogged down in description from time to time. Then again, I’m a big YA fan, and one of the things I like most about YA is how streamlined it is, so maybe I’m not a big description kind of a guy to begin with. That said, it was frustrating at times how suddenly the back story of a new character, or a lengthy discussion on some setting detail, would derail the story for a significant chunk of pages, without necessarily bringing any big “wow” elements with it. Then again, some of that is due to Stephenson stuffing his book full of viewpoint characters, You have to be able to introduce them somehow. I just didn’t feel like it worked perfectly this time out.
I did love the action and the way the plot unfolded, though I felt like much of the book relied heavily on coincidence, something I’m never a big fan of. It’s sort of like salt in a plot. A little makes everything just right. A lot, and it’s bad for the book’s health.
Still, even with all that, the pages kept turning quickly for me, and I enjoyed the book. Do note that it’s pretty adult fare. Plenty of language, violence, and the rest. A good read, even if not up to par with some of his better books.