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3.7 out of 5 stars
192
3.7 out of 5 stars
Reamde
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 24 September 2013
Apart from the fact that this book has not apparently been proof-read by an English speaking person (how does the author distinguish between "ten percent off the price"and "ten percent of the price" for example, as all his "off"s are "of"), I started of (!) with an open mind and became increasingly uninterested in whether the major protagonists lived or died. What a curiously west coast American world view in which cyber-crime is still reduced to mean stereotypical "baddies" shooting up ignorant "foreigners". Even the British academic was a stereotypical eccentric Brit (coincidentally called "Don", give me strength!), smoked a pipe and lived in a preposterously isolationist "castle"on a British island not renowned for its multiplicity of castles (the Isle of Man). The author's constant reference to the internal workings of the multiplayer online gaming world left me with the firm resolution to never go there even if I had a lifetime of spare time to fill - most digressions into the gaming world were neither relevant to the main plot nor even intellectually interesting in their implications. And it constantly seemed as if he had to re-explain the origins of the controlling company when he thought of a new direction the later plot should move in - come on, a little project planning here please. And guess what....the Russian mafia oligarch was every bit as mercurial and quixotic as a James Bond villain, no subtleties of characterisation here either then. As someone with a reasonable handle on spoken and written English, there seemed to be an unnecessarily pointed use of seldom used words (either in American or British English) in order to challenge the average reader far less the purportedly intelligent characters in the book - I am glad I was reading it on Kindle otherwise I would have had to walk too far to my computer or bookshelf dictionaries to make sense of some sentences.The whole unedited action line was like reading a bad Jackie Chan film script but without the humour.
I have read some other of NS's works and was not so easily bored, but this was several hours of my life I will never get back.
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on 18 January 2012
Neal Stephenson has this delightful descriptive style. One thing which he does brilliantly is to capture that over-analytical streak of the socially inept, borderline-Aspergers male in a way which is insightful and witty. That in itself makes his prose a joy to read. What's more, his characters are interesting in their own right, so following their progress becomes compulsive.

Stephenson also has a reputation for dense, immersive novels - almost entirely because of the'Quicksilver' series, my copies of which are slowly disintegrating as I happily re-read them over and over. Reamde is much lighter fare. Not in physical terms - it still weighs in at 1000+ pages - but there is less focus on development in favour of a breathlessly fast plot. This is where I was slightly disappointed - whatever you use to suspend your disbelief while reading, I'd suggest going for something with words like 'Sikorsky' or maybe even 'Antonov' on the side, because your disbelief is going to need some pretty heavy lifting. The plot is... well, slightly wild. What's more, it sort of peters out towards the end where the last action of the book seems to be a very bloody tying up of loose ends.

So I came away with mixed feelings. The Quicksilver books left me feeling enlightened and thrilled to have been let into a very special world. Reamde was just a good fun thriller. That said, though, Stephenson is such a brilliant storyteller that he gets away with it on style alone. You might snort with disbelief at the plot, but you'll also find yourself snorting with amusement at the style and humour.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 5 August 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had been looking forward to Stephenson's new book. It didn't disappoint, but it is a hard book to review. There is so much that might be said. This is not only because it's long - though it is, at 1006 pages Reamde is 100 or so pages longer than Cryptonomicon - but also because of the sheer density of events, ideas, characters and plotting which you'd expect from Stephenson.

What I can easily says is that it's a superb book, with a good plot, memorable characters and almost continuous action. It's the kind of book you sit down to, then you look up and realise that you are a hundred pages on, it is 2 in the morning, and the rest of the family are asleep. Then you read another hundred pages.

I won't try to summarise the story in detail because I can't do it justice and don't want to drop too many spoilers, but in brief, Reamde centres on Zula Forthrast, adopted member of an extended American family, who, though no fault of her own, becomes involved first with Russian gangsters, then with Chinese hackers and finally with a cell of Islamic terrorists, led the redoubtable Abdallah Jones, the notorious Welsh terrorist. He is being hunted by various shadowy law enforcement agencies. As the book proceeds, and the story proceeds from the US to Canada, China and the Philippines, Zula collects allies - and enemies - the way others might accumulate Air Miles (she'd have got plenty of those, too, if she was flying legally). The death toll is epic, with an action filled climax which doesn't lose much from the fact that you might see it coming some way off.

Among Zula's allies is her Uncle Richard, the main other protagonist, a man who has made a fortune from online gaming by launching the most popular, most detailed and most accurate online world to date. Unfortunately, he has something that the Jones needs. Richard's presence and background makes this book much more than a gun fuelled action thriller, by giving Stephenson scope to wander a bit. Maybe he tells us rather more than, perhaps, we strictly need to know about the workings of T'Rain, the online game, its programmers and its hired writers - the prolific American fantasy novelist known as Skeletor (he exercises while he writes) and the donnish British expert in made-up languages, D-squared. More than we need to know, but not more than we'd want to know. As far as I'm concerned, anything Stephenson writes is a joy to read and I'm just glad that he was able to pack so much ... stuff ... into this book. If you've read Stephenson's earlier books you'll be familiar with this technique, although I would note in passing that perhaps the science-technology content of these digressions in "Reamde" is a bit less than in the past. For example, there's a scene here where a stolen Chinese fishing boat, captured by Zula's allies from the terrorists, encounters a strong current, missing its intended landfall as a result. That's all perfectly clear. At an equivalent point in Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, a similar situation is a cue for him to develop an entire calculus of marine navigation (all explained faultlessly in everyday English). This is not meant as a criticism so much as a contrast: the blurb on this describes it as Stephenson's most accessible book to date, and it possibly is, though not through dumbing down.

Richard and Zula Forthfast also introduce us to what I found a touching portrayal of an extended, all-American family (including the adopted Eritrean Zula) whose members range from sophisticated urbanites to determined, off-grid, backwoods individualists. Sorry to keep harping on about Cryptonomicon and its prequels, but if you've read those, you may understand if I say this family had many echoes of the Shaftoes in those books - not so much in their character as in their depth of portrayal: you sense that there is real history behind them. Of course in the earlier books Stephenson created three hundred years of backstory showing how the family got to be where they were. I don't know if he has done that here - though I'd love to read it if he has - but Richard, John, Jake and all the rest convince anyway.

Great fun. And an unbeatable ending.

Perhaps, though, the book could have been a bit longer...?
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VINE VOICEon 27 October 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was my first Neal Stephenson novel, and although I note that others have said this one isn't his best, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it's over a thousand pages long, Stephenson manages to maintain a cracking pace throughout.

There is a lot of backstory about the characters, particularly Richard Forthrast and the Forthrast family, but this didn't seem to slow the book down too much. Most of it was interesting to read, and I liked the way the backstory added some colour to his characters. Perhaps the female characters were all a bit too much like female versions of James Bond, but at least they were all different nationalities, with different backgrounds!

This is a very American novel - the Forthrast family highlighted lots of aspects of a very American way of life, and the descriptions of the mountains, road travel, and Richard's ski resort, added colour to the novel. For a non-American, they gave the book an air of reality that it needed to keep it grounded, as well as providing an interesting setting. Parts of the book also took place in China. There were some fascinating descriptions here too - although I didn't find they drew the reader in with the same sense of actually being there. Perhaps that's inevitable for a Western reader. Stephenson can describe action in the online world just as well as in the real world, and that brings me to my only real disappointment with the book. I thought initially that the book was going to be about conflicts between the two worlds of T'Rain and real life, but about half way through, the world of T'Rain got sidelined. I appreciate the real life action is easier to sustain, but somehow, based on what I'd heard about Stephenson, I was expecting more cyberpunk and less real life. It was hard to be disappointed for long though, as the rest of the book was still a good read.
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on 5 December 2011
I really like Neal Stephenson, to the degree that the Baroque Cycle trilogy is still one of my favourite series I've read. However this latest work while enjoyable was not up to the usual standard. Unfortunately I was thrown out of the story on a number of occasions due to continuity errors, and descriptions of a computer game that was beyond ludicrous.

To say that a large part of the storyline is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) it is obvious that the author has never played one, or at least no more than a cursory exploration. Neal treats his online avatars as though they could act/do pretty much anything they would in real life like grabbing someone by the collar before performing a magical feat.

Also I would have to say that it was a bit too long, by half way through the rest of the book was pretty obvious, and wading through endless descriptions of the American outback did nothing other than make me want a fast forward button.

Buried in all of the above negative criticism is a good story, and the fact that I made it to the last page is a testament to Neal's often superb writing. It's just in this case it could have done with a better editor to sort out the mistakes and cut some of the redundant passages
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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 21 April 2014
He is my favourite writer of the several thousand authors I have read in my life, so you can't complain. And yet. Reamde mostly lacks the pilates-for-the-mind that is Stephenson's special skill and hallmark. This is much simpler, a thriller. It's great fun, but in the end is just one more on the pile of a world full of 'action' and 'adventure' novels and films. You can only take so many taxis or boats hijacked at gunpoint, or shootouts around mountains, before yawning.

The genius who wrote Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Trilogy is, like his war-game character Egdod in Reamde, mostly slumbering as he strolls across the landscape followed by eager acolytes. Of course it's not a bad book. But unlike those titles, you don't feel obliged to compare it with War and Peace or Barchester Towers, greatest novels that have ever been written. Worth reading? Definitely. Worth forgetting? Sadly.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 August 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Forthrast Family - A typical American family? Probably not. Richard "Dodge" Forthrast, ex-small time drug runner, haunted by the Furious Muses (echoes of his previous girlfriends), now the owner of T'Rain, the world's most successful online game; his younger brother Jacob "Jake" Forthrast, a born again Christian and Survivalist; his elder brother John Forthrast, Vietnam veteran with two high-tech artificial legs; his sister Patricia, killed by a bolt of lightning, and his adopted niece Zula Forthrast who walked to Sudan from Eritrea to escape a war.

Normal they might not be, but when Zula is kidnapped by the Russian Mafia after her boyfriend failed to deliver on a dodgy deal, they react as any family would and pull together to try and find a way to rescue her.

This book is enormous! It is 1000 pages long and none of that is filler. What this length of story delivers is a tremendous and detailed back story for all of the vast array of characters, from the Forthrast family, to Abdullah Jones, the enigmatic Welsh Jihadist, to Marlon, a Chinese gold farmer turned virus writer and many many more.

This book is also a very American story. The Forthrast family may not be an ordinary family, and even though a lot of unusual things happen to them, these events are often contrasted with the more ordinary side of American life, including things like shopping at Walmart, RVs, Starbucks, family reunions, Thanksgiving, gunshops etc. At some points in the story I felt I saw some flashes of the writing of that master of the bizarre American story, Thomas Pynchon - but in a much more accessible and readable form.

The story features believable and beautifully developed characters, fast action, a superb plot, a brilliant ending, and even some tongue in cheek humour (A Legendary Deluxe Platinum Collectors Edition of T'Rain - complete with Bonus Material, anyone?) I haven't even mentioned the computer virus from which this book takes its name! There really are stories within stories within stories!

You can probably tell I really enjoyed this book, but I should probably confess to being a huge fan of Neal Stephenson. I have all his books including the wonderful Cryptonomicon, and my own personal favourite The Diamond Age, so this book would have had to have tried very hard for me not to like it. It is different to his other work though and is easily his most accessible book to date. The world in which this story is set is not a world of historical events, science fiction or fantasy (other than the elements surrounding the online game T'Rain), it is simply our contemporary world.

Overall - 5 stars! You will invest a considerable amount of time in reading this book. It took me two weeks to finish it - but I have to say that this was time very well spent indeed!
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on 31 May 2012
I think that perhaps 3 stars is too low for this but then I can't really quite bring myself to give it four stars. For me its a solid 3 and a half. Being a bit of a Neal Stephenson fan I had high hopes for this book, I loved Anathem and hoped for something on that level, but sadly it could not live up to monks in space and indeed was a bit, how do I say it? ho hum.

This is at best an action book set more or less in the present, not a visionary sci-fi or technology driven historical novel. There is none of the sparkle of ideas that illuminate Anathem, the Baroque cycle, Cryptonomicon, The diamond age, or Snow crash. I would rate this alongside zodiac perhaps even behind if I was asked to rank Stephenson's novels. That said I mostly enjoyed Zodiac, and I mostly enjoyed Reamde, but its a big step down from his last half dozen efforts.
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on 20 December 2011
I have been almost worshipfully keen on Neal Stephensons work since I first came in contact with "The Diamond Age", and worked my way through his list. Each piece was differently brilliant, managed to give penetrating insight to arcane areas of the human experience, with amazing characterisation, and a delivery that spanned from techno-fetishism to humour......so it was with Great Anticipation that I discovered that another title was out.
The sad truth is that "Reamde" was ok, but something was missing. The choice to create a straight thriller resulted in a lot of back to back action sequences (which he's always been good at, don't get me wrong) which ended up just feeling a bit tired by the end. The magic just wasn't there, and I know that it'll stay on my shelf for years, while the others get taken out and re-read and lent out to people enthusiastically.

It feels like sacreliege, but I just didn't love it.
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