A couple weeks ago, I managed to grab an advance copy of the new novel from Neal Stephenson, Reamde. The title is a play on the semi-deliberate mangling of English words by non-English speakers when naming knock-off products or other merchandise, while referencing the classic readme files that accompany many varieties of software. Without even opening the cover, we already know that this is going to be a book about computer geeks and knowing Stephenson, that it will have broader themes and outrageous ideas. All of these things boded well.
Stephenson opens at the Forthrast family annual Thanksgiving celebration which doubles as a family reunion for the sprawling clan. Richard Forthrast is a bit of a black sheep with shady past and the dubious destinction of being filthy rich in an otherwise blue collar family. At the reunion, Richard meets up with his niece Zula, an Eritrean refugee/adoptee, and her boyfriend Peter. When we fast forward a bit, Zula is working for Richard’s video game company and Peter is embroiling her in his illegal schemes. Then the Russian mob gets involved. Then it gets weird.
Reamde is a tome. Over 900 pages of action and adventure and a large, but not unweildy, cast make for a beast of a read. Stephenson is in peak form; weaving and reweaving multiple stories through cliff-hangers, double-crosses, and left turns. He finally wraps the novel up with a hectic climax that runs nearly 200 pages.
This book is reminiscent of Stephenson’s earlier books, such as Snow Crash and Diamond Age, but it reads with the satisfying complexity of a veteran writer, secure in their craft. I honestly can’t recommend it enough, and I won’t be surprised at all to look back and see that Reamde was my favorite book of the year.