Book Review: Reamde by Neal Stephenson


Once again, Stephenson delivers an epic novel with an intricate, intelligent, entertaining, and fast-moving plot. Reamde is less a Snow Crash-like sci-fi novel, and more a suspenseful action-adventure story with a healthy dose of online gaming, hostage-taking situations, and baddy Russians.

Like in Snow Crash, online virtual-reality gaming plays a large role in Reamde, as does a computer virus that pushes the plot and (eventually) unifies the book’s various plot lines. Stephenson does a fantastic job exploring the complex personalities of his characters as they face stressful and challenging plot points – providing subtle viewpoint shifts when characters gain or lose power in the book’s numerous hostage situations. Characters that seem 2-dimensional develop in unexpected, yet fulfilling, ways – some transforming from villains into (unwilling) heroes by the novel’s end. The novel shifts between at least 4 main plot lines and the viewpoints of characters in each of those plot lines (and several seemingly – but not entirely – random characters), and it keeps the reader guessing up until the last 100 pages as to exactly how these plot lines will converge. At 1044 pages, the novel does seem a bit interminable at times, but the fast pace and numerous plot and/or character twists hooked me time and again. Stephenson’s ability to juggle and interweave seemingly infinite plot lines boggles me as a reader – especially when subtle, almost throw-away scenes reveal game-changing details. My only criticism would be that certain details seemed to get lost as the book hurtled towards its end – that and the book’s overwhelming complexity makes it easy to forget important details.

Overall, Reamde is one satisfying and engrossing read. One of my favorite details in the book: the strong female characters. Huzzah! Five out of five stars.