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on 16 December 2013
Like many readers, I've enjoyed several of Neal Stephenson's books although I did struggle through some of the longer ones in places. Unfortunately, although I quite enjoyed reading through this lengthy tome at the start, the last 20% of the book severely disappointed, which ended up spoiling most of the book for me. The book is overly detailed, describing scenarios and subjects for pages and pages which then turn out to be almost irrelevant, including the MMO game that was used to provide the basic framework for the book. In typical Stephenson fashion there are groups of characters that get up to separate but intertwined activities but for them all to arrive in the same area at the end through remarkable coincidences, luck or at best a moderate hunch is a little hard to swallow. The book ends in a few pages of conclusion with an unsatisfying antagonist resolution and a Disney-esque happy ending chapter, as if Stephenson realised he was about to hit 1000 pages and ran out of steam. Then there are the plot gaps or quick resolutions such as:


1. Marlon, the guy arguably the cause of everything in the book including the book's title, disappears from the last 30-odd pages of the book and is literally dealt with in an off the cuff remark in the afterword.
2. Moments of peril get quickly resolved using deus ex machina devices such as man-hunting cougars.
3. What happened to the rest of the terrorists? The Forthrast's village? The helicopter pilot? The millions of dollars of virtual gold?
4. The deaths of some minor terrorist characters are explained in heavy detail, but Jake was being spoken to by Jones one minute and the next mention of him is Richard sorting through his things at his funeral. The same situation occurs with injuries - Zula's broken tooth gets a couple of paragraphs of explanation and a mention in the afterword but Richard's gouged eye is only mentioned just when it happens and then is of zero consequence at the end minutes of the book.
5. What happened with the Russian mafia? Clearly a lot of money was lost and the consequences were severe enough to cause Ivanov to act in the way he did but the issue was resolved by stating "Well, the events sent a message to others that the shouldn't try the same thing". Along with Marlon's virus, this situation literally kicks off every other event in the whole book.

There are plenty more issues with the book but this should give you an idea. The book starts off as if it wants to be like Charles Stross's "Halting State" but morphs into an unfocused generic thriller more akin to a Dan Brown novel. If it was edited brutally it could be very entertaining at around 400 pages. I suggest you try another Stephenson novel because when he's on form, the detail he sinks into his books bring the worlds alive.
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on 24 February 2012
Parts of Reamde are classic Neal Stephenson. He has a brilliant gift for taking technical, dry subjects and writing accessible, exciting, believable fiction over the top of it. The reader invariably learns something along the way. This stuff is fantastic and Reamde is full of it.

What Neal can't do is write action. A pity as the parts of book are Tom Clancy-ish at times and I found either dull or nonsensical. Perhaps this was here to make the novel more attractive to a wider audience. From this reader, who reads action/thriller pulp as well, the action parts needed more work. A star down for this.

But don't let that put you off. The world Neal creates is interesting, real and the story great. I enjoyed it very much.
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on 20 August 2017
Loved this novel. Neal Stephenson at his best.
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on 13 October 2011
I really enjoyed the reading of Reamde by Malcolm Hillgartner. A rollercoaster of a story. The story by Neal Stephenson is thriller set in a world where internet, mobile devices and gaming is as normal as cars and houses. This is true for most of us, but not in literature and movies where, strangely, computers, internet and even mobile phones are still a bit special however this seems to be changing. I have been a fan of Neals since Crypronomicon came out and have read up on his older work since. Crypronomicon remain my favorite by this author however this book is now on second place behind it. Preferring it to the Baroque Cycle despite the absence of Bobby Shaftoe, who remains my all time favorite character in literature. Reading some other reviews where people I notice people who write that the storyline contains unlikely events. Is Moby Dick likely? Well, I wonder, a thriller or a novel with likely events, that would be like, Booooring. A thriller is not about being likely events, it is about being exiting, eventful, characters who are larger than life, fast paced.
Malcolm Hillgartner has a great voice and is a fine interpreter of the story who does the accents of the characters in such a way that it almost feels like an radio drama. I more and more became to like audio books since they enable me to read a book in the car. I dislike radio and always enjoyed reading in the train, however, traveling by car each day does not allow me to read a printed book.
Too bad that Amazon puts the reviews of the Kindle, the Printed and the audio book edition all together, since especially the audio edition is really a different thing.
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on 2 November 2012
I am a massive Neal Stephenson fan. Cryptonomicon and Snow crash rate as my favourite books of all time. This book was described as a return to that form, but it really isn't. It's a pretty straightforward thriller - I guess it would be a good effort from another author. I felt that the characters had no depth, the plot was contrived, it didn't have anything clever or different about it, and I ended up skim reading to get to the end. Maybe I missed something, but I was disappointed (and went back and re-read cryptonomicon instead!)
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on 4 May 2017
I didn't think I would like this but I couldn't put it down. Great characters, good story read this now.
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on 3 March 2017
Rollercoaster ride of invention and excitement.
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VINE VOICEon 15 December 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a thoroughly absorbing novel that works on a number of levels but has one flaw, in my opinion.
The scenes in which the virtual world, T'Rain, is featured are cinematically vivid and fascinating, as are the long passages describing the genesis and development of the game and I was a little disappointed to find that T'rain is featured less and less as the story progresses.
The reason this book is so long is due, in no small measure, to the fact that the descriptions are incredibly detailed. No action is described in anything but the finest detail. The author is so adept at this, though, that it never becomes tedious and serves only to draw you further in to the story. And it is a great story, epic in scope, even though it takes place over the course of only a month. And then the characters talk to each other and you find yourself pulled out of the world Stephenson has so meticulously created; He really doesn't do conversation well at all. Well, actually that's not true. If they're in a coffee shop etc. talk is fine. As soon as someone draws a gun it's strictly pre-1960s movie style talking. If the whole book had been just description, explanation and exposition it would have been much more enjoyable. It is a fun, absorbing and clever book, just be prepared for a large suspension of disbelief whenever conversations are taking place under fire, as it were. Don't read the blurb though, I think it gives to much (if not vital) information. (As do some of the reviews here on Amazon-come on guys, leave us some surprises!
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on 22 August 2012
This for me was a 5 star book for the first 600 pages, 4-star for the next 200 pages, and then the last part rapidly degenerated into a confoundingly drawn out and highly improbable non-stop action finale, with ridiculous amounts of unnecessary and uninteresting details, as all the book's heroes and villains managed, miraculously, to converge from all over the world onto one spot where they could fight it out amongst themselves (and others) whilst endlessly scrambling up and down mountain paths in a cloud of bullets and blood.

And yet the first section of the book is a finely balanced and well-paced thriller. Inspiring stuff that had me staying up into the small hours not just reading but also investigating Google maps in order to find out more about some of the areas Stephenson was describing in the story.

Such a pity that an otherwise great read became a long drawn out struggle to finish the book - I found myself "speed-reading" through the final 50 or so interminable pages of tiresome forest combat in order to reach the predictable happy ending and move on to something better to read. I only wish I had paid a bit more attention to some of the other reviews here before choosing this particular book as an introduction to Neal Stephenson.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 August 2014
Like most people who have worked a lot with computers, I immediately saw the title of Neal Stephenson's book Reamde as a variant on 'Readme' - as indeed it is. I've really enjoyed his science fiction work like Cryptonomicon and Anathem before, and have even managed to overcome my loathing of extremely long books, as in these works Stephenson is not indulging in drivel, but really fills them with content. However, Reamde has left me with very mixed feelings.

I loved the plot segment that the book's title refers to. Reamde is a virus that takes computers hostage, linked to a massive multiplayer online game called T'rain, which was created as a way of using the virtual coinage inside the game for far more than simply buying a new sword. If you are interested in computer gaming, the parts of the story that revolve around the game are brilliant - as is the twist of the virus resulting in an organised crime gang trying to track down its creator.

However, this only accounts for around 1/4 of the 1,000 plus pages, and I was far less happy with the rest. Firstly, while the multiplayer game storyline is borderline SF, the rest is just a straightforward action thriller with good guys versus evil jihadists. This mostly consists of two huge set piece battle sections, each lasting several hundred pages. I'm not particularly interested in this kind of storyline, which despite being page turning in its intensity at the peaks had a lot of dull troughs. It didn't help that where previously Stephenson's expansive writing was a result of having lots of content, in the battles it really did feel like there was far too much padding and I found myself skipping whole pages at a time to get to something happening. I'm afraid he has strayed into late J. K. Rowling-itis - too famous now for an editor to dare to suggest cutting out the woffle.

Two more issues. Stephenson uses a large numbers of points of view, which I find tedious - while the T'rain part of the story was running I wanted to switch back to the main character's view, and got irritated with all the switches away, while in the battle scenes, and pretty much the last half of the book, the main character hardly features at all and is just a minor character of many - this isn't my favourite style of writing.

The final problem probably reflects my being British. The good guys are pretty well all rabid gun enthusiasts, which plays a major part in the storyline. I'm afraid this just leaves me cold - it was, at times, as if two lots of terrorists were fighting each other. I appreciate that this may have been in part to reflect the nature of battle in an adventure game, drawing real world parallels, which was decidedly clever, but it still left me feeling the 'good' guys all deserved to be locked up at the end for the safety of everyone else. Only the sheer momentum of the writing carries you past the fact that their response to have having an armed hoard of terrorists on the loose is not to call in the authorities but to try to kill them themselves.

This, then, was a book with lots of promise in what should have been its main theme, that became hijacked to become a very lengthy action thriller. Disappointed.
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