Neal Stephenson’s latest tome is his most accessible story yet. Featuring real-world places and technologies, this one doesn’t require particular leaps of imagination in order to picture it coming true. For all that, it is over 1000 pages, so a deep breath before plunging in is recommended. The basic premise of the book is “What if hackers and terrorists lived next door to each other and someone went after the wrong one by accident?” In typical Stephenson fashion, REAMDE spirals out from there to encompass gender politics, virtual currencies, MMORPGs, Islamic fanatacism, drug smuggling, espionage and more. While the concepts presented aren’t mind-blowing like Cryptonomicon or Anathem, the special mix makes for a compelling read, like a more technologically savvy Tom Clancy. In fact, REAMDE reads more like a geopolitical thriller than a techno-thriller.
While there are certain sections of the book that feel like they’re in a holding pattern (I suppose in order to achieve synchronicity amongst the main characters’ actions), for the most part, the book moves along at a fair clip. The descriptions of the locales is rich enough that you can picture most of the places in your mind, even the ones that only exist inside a computer.
While not Stephenson’s best book, I’d give REAMDE a solid 3/5.