Profile: Fiction, Political Thriller, Suspense?
My level of dislike for this book borders on irrational. My first pass at the review had nothing good to say about it at all. That wasn’t exactly fair, so here’s Version 2. REAMDE is a fantastic idea that has been tossed into a river with the lead weights of Stephenson’s writing style, 600 extra pages and a dozen extraneous plot lines. Now, if you happen to be irrationally fond of exposition, you might really enjoy this book. I didn’t.
Part of this is my fault. Stephenson and I have had a rocky relationship at best. I slogged through the Baroque Cycle a few years ago on a friend’s recommendation, and while I didn’t hate those books, I definitely didn’t love them either. Snow Crash was great. And Cryptonomicon was solid too, but all of his books suffer from a similar pathology of being overwritten and heavy on the exposition. REAMDE goes a little beyond that and ponderously drags around extraneous PoV characters, plot lines, and MacGuffins galore for no tangible payoff.
The setup is pretty clever. A nasty virus targeting players of the MMORPG T’Rain inadvertently hits a money manager for the Russian mob, whose boss then kidnaps Zula Forthrast, niece of T’Rain’s founder, Richard Forthrast, and her hacker boyfriend to try and track down the virus makers in China. Hijinks ensue. The problems start coming as Stephenson adds increasingly complicated and unlikely plot twists. The Chinese hackers have holed up underneath an Islamic terror cell, and when the bust goes bad all hell breaks loose.
Read the rest of the review… (WARNING: Light spoilers follow)