My rating: ★★☆☆☆
Read From: 19 August 2013 - 15 September 2013
Start with a family reunion. Focus on the black sheep of the family. Make him wealthy. Now give him a nerdily interesting, checkered past. Finally set him up as the creator of a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game that’s built around making money in creative ways that other MMORPG’s find distasteful.
The MMORPG is called T’Rain, built on the back of a truly nitpicky landscape generator called TERRAIN. (Terrain, T’Rain, get it?) It’s set up with the careful attention to detail , accuracy, and knowledge of geek culture that only Stephenson can provide.
This is all part of the setup and it does take a while to set up and to start the story rolling. But once stolen data is encrypted by a virus (called REAMDE) and held hostage for (virtual) ransom, things start rolling along. Stephenson sets up a story that rolls along like billiard balls or a Rube Goldberg machine. One set of characters takes action that results in then careening into a new set of characters who are then jolted into action and sent careening into a new, completely separate and different, set of characters. And the actions just bangs along from one continent to another.
Or, at least, it seems to at the beginning. But once Stephenson has introduced all of the characters, he seems to lose control of the narrative. Within a short while, the book consumes itself with the intricate details of how, exactly, characters move from one location to another. Given the sheer number of characters Stephenson introduced, that poses a bit of a problem.
The story just switched from character to character to character to character to character, showing how they were moving around. Even the action sequences, when they finally came, suffered as too many characters were doing too many things in too many different locations. It was a chore to keep track of everyone and where Stephenson last left them. The ending, when it finally came, was a blessed relief that even managed to feel rushed.
Ultimately, Reamde is a book with some good ideas about the MMORPG gaming world and how it interacts with the real world. But it’s a mediocre action story that could have used a good bit of reductive editing.