Reamde

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Reamde
Reamde stephenson williammorrow 2011.jpg
AuthorNeal Stephenson
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreTechno-thriller
PublisherWilliam Morrow (US)
Atlantic Books (UK)
Publication date
September 20, 2011[1]
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages1056
ISBN978-0-06-197796-1
OCLC703206576
813/.54
LC ClassPS3569.T3868 R43 2011
Followed byFall; or, Dodge in Hell 

Reamde is a technothriller novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 2011. The story, set in the present day, centers on the plight of a hostage and the ensuing efforts of family and new acquaintances, many of them associated with a fictional MMORPG, to rescue her as her various captors drag her about the globe. Topics covered range from online activities including gold farming and social networking to the criminal methods of the Russian mafia and Islamic terrorists.

Plot summary[edit]

Zula Forthrast, an adopted Eritrean, is given a job by her uncle, Richard "Dodge" Forthrast, at his company which runs an MMORPG called "T'Rain", which has made Richard rich and famous. Zula and her boyfriend, Peter, visit Richard's cat-skiing resort. Desperate for money, Peter sells a database of stolen credit card numbers to a shady contact, who is in fact working for the Russian mob. The transaction inadvertently results in a T'Rain-based ransomware virus infecting the contact's laptop and rendering the only copy of the database useless. Ivanov, a senior gangster behind the deal, tracks Peter down and coerces him and Zula to help him find the virus creators in Xiamen, China.

Upon arriving in China, Peter, Zula, and Sokolov (a former Spetsnaz security consultant hired by Ivanov), locate the virus creators’ apartment. The Russian team prepares to raid the apartment, only to be misdirected by Zula into a random apartment, which coincidentally happens to house Islamic terrorists preparing to bomb an international conference soon to take place in the city. In the subsequent gun battle, Ivanov kills Peter, and Abdallah Jones, the head of the Islamist cell, murders Ivanov. The hackers flee the building as a fire sets off the stored explosives and causes it to collapse. Jones flees with Zula as his hostage.

Jones and Zula covertly fly from China into the Canadian wilderness and move south toward the US border. Jones plans to use Zula to force Richard to help him cross the border using a secret smuggling route. Meanwhile, Sokolov narrowly escapes from Xiamen by sea and begins to hunt down Jones in order to save Zula, eventually entering the US. An MI6 agent posted to Xiamen to manage surveillance on Jones is reassigned to locate Jones in cooperation with the CIA but suspects that both agencies' traditional approaches are misguided, eventually uniting with Sokolov to travel to the US-Canada border directly based on intuition.

Eventually, all of the main characters converge on Richard's ski resort and its US-side counterpart, where Richard's brothers live with a community of Christian isolationists and heavily armed Second Amendment fanatics. The terrorists camp in a location near the resort and inform Richard of their hostage, forcing him to lead them into the US while a small team detonates a suicide bomb near a border crossing as a distraction. After being used as bait, Zula manages to escape and heads out to rescue her uncle. Meanwhile, US-based terrorist cells converge on the community from the south, and protagonists and terrorists end up battling in a massive gunfight. In the end, the terrorists are stopped and Richard kills Jones.

Characters[edit]

  • Richard "Dodge" Forthrast, a former marijuana smuggler who launched and still oversees a successful gaming company and runs a cat skiing lodge near the border crossing of his old smuggling route.
  • Zula Forthrast, a 25-year-old Eritrean adoptee educated in geology and programming who works for her Uncle Richard's gaming company and was dating Peter before becoming a highly resourceful kidnapping victim twice over.
  • Peter Curtis, a computer security consultant and boyfriend of Zula until he involves her in his identity theft and sales, leading to their kidnapping and his later murder by Ivanov in Xiamen.
  • Wallace, a Canadian-based Scottish money manager and criminal working for Ivanov and a T'Rain player whose computer and backup system are infected with Reamde. It is implied that he is murdered early on for his failure.
  • Ivanov, a Russian mobster who may have started to go insane after several ministrokes and continuing high blood pressure, entering into several risky endeavors with Wallace, culminating in his desire to go out in a blaze of glory trying to recover the funds in China, where he is shot by Abdallah Jones.
  • Csongor Takács, a 25-year-old freelance Hungarian computer security consultant and sysadmin working for Ivanov. He falls in love with Zula and, like the Russians, is disgusted with Peter's seeming indifference to his own girlfriend.
  • Abdallah Jones, a Welsh-born Muslim-convert terrorist affiliated with Al-Qaeda, jihadists in Pakistan, and other Sunni cells. Distracted by the sight of a cougar and thus shot in the head by Richard Forthrast.
  • Marlon, a Chinese hacker and leader of the group who created the Reamde virus. Zula saves his life, and he becomes friends with Csongor and Yuxia on an unexpected sailboat voyage.
  • Qian Yuxia, a Hakka guide and part-time tea saleswoman. She becomes friends with Zula in Xiamen, at first through selling tea, then learning each other's body language. When Yuxia sees Zula crying in distress that Zula has gotten Yuxia into trouble, Yuxia will do anything to become an ally.
  • Olivia Halifax-Lin, a British citizen of Chinese descent and an MI6 operative tasked with finding Abdallah Jones in China.
  • Sokolov, a former Russian military and Spetsnaz man who now acts as a security consultant operating out of Toronto, hired by Ivanov to find the Chinese virus writers. Highly trained in military arts, he ends up defending Zula and romantically involved with Olivia.
  • Seamus Costello, a CIA operative based in the Philippines who is obsessed with neutralizing Abdallah Jones. Also an avid T'Rain player.
  • John Forthrast, the eldest Forthrast brother who lost both legs in Vietnam and took parental responsibility for Zula after his sister Patricia died. Beaten to death by Abdallah Jones.
  • Jacob "Jake" Forthrast, the youngest Forthrast brother, a Christian isolationist who lives with his immediate family and like-minded neighbors in Idaho near Prohibition Crick, a former safe house on Richard's old drug smuggling route.
  • Donald "D-squared" Cameron, a Cambridge fellow and author of highly regarded fantasy fiction contracted to provide a broad, consistent narrative of T'Rain.
  • Devin "Skeletor" Skraelin, an absurdly prolific pulp fantasy author under long-term contract to fill in narrative details of T'Rain.
  • Ershut, a follower of Abdallah Jones, whom Richard thinks of as a "Barney", meaning a technically proficient deputy. Though an abductor of Zula, he is reasonably kind to her. Vaporized when a dying member of Richard’s crew voluntarily became a suicide bomber himself.

Reception[edit]

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Val Nolan called Reamde "one of the smartest, fastest-moving, and most consistently enjoyable novels of the year". It is, Nolan went on, a "painstakingly-researched, deftly-plotted roller-coaster of gigabytes and gunplay, a pitch-perfect pastiche of Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy-style techno-thrillers and a comment on contemporary digitality and the ubiquity of online interconnectivity."[2]

Rowan Kaiser for The A.V. Club gives Reamde an A− rating saying: "The marriage of the thrilling and the nerdy is what makes Reamde work, and it offers a glimpse at a fascinating writer making a welcome transition back into a more accessible style."[3]

Kirkus Reviews sums up Reamde as: "An intriguing yarn—most geeky, and full of satisfying mayhem."[4]

Cory Doctorow writes in his Boing Boing review: "Stephenson's several exquisitely choreographed shoot-outs (including an epic, 100+ page climactic mini-war) are filled with technical gubbins about guns that convey the real and genuine enthusiasm of a hardcore gun-nut, with so much verve, so much moment, that I found myself itching to find a firing range and try some of this stuff out for myself."[5]

Michelle West, reviewing the novel for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, did not consider the book to be science fiction and called it "a geek thriller." She wrote, "Even if I don't like characters Stephenson's created, I nonetheless find them engaging, and I read him in large part for his characters and the particular ways in which they process information and interact with the world. Of his novels, this has easily the most structurally solid ending. In feel, it's closest to Cryptonomicon, although all of the action takes place in the present, where information travels quickly, and cellphones and wifi are ubiquitous. I enjoyed it greatly, and I frequently laughed out loud at his descriptions or his dialogue; it read like a much shorter book."[6]

In an interview, Paul Di Filippo called Reamde "the most gripping and funny and wise thriller I've ever read."[7]

Entertainment Weekly called it "an ingenious epic" in their "Must List" column.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Catalog, Harper Collins, archived from the original on 2011-05-22, retrieved 2011-09-04
  2. ^ Nolan, Val (19 November 2011). "Bestseller Stephenson's new hi-tech gaming thriller is a world apart". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  3. ^ Kaiser, Rowan (5 October 2011). "Reamde". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  4. ^ "Who lives by the joystick dies by the joystick: Noir futurist Stephenson (Anathem, 2008, etc.) returns to cyberia with this fast-moving though sprawling techno-thriller". Kirkus Reviews. 1 September 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  5. ^ Doctorow, Cory (14 September 2011). "Stephenson's REAMDE: perfectly executed, mammoth, ambitious technothriller". Boing Boing. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  6. ^ West, Michelle (July–August 2012). "Musing on Books". The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  7. ^ Walters, Trent. "An Interview with Paul Di Filippo". SF Site. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  8. ^ Lee, Stephan (Jul 13, 2012). "Your Summer Must List: Books". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 18, 2014.

External links[edit]