Picking up Neal Stephenson's "Reamde" I had a feeling I was going to like this. I've read plenty of his previous works and been thoroughly impressed with his takes on science fiction, his wicked sense of humour and his ability to put out amazing lines. Mostly though I picked this book up because it was massive and I knew it would occupy me for awhile. It's been quite some time since my last review, so clearly I was right.
Honestly I don't even know where to start with this book. It was amazing. So amazing that I've decided to give another go to one of his earlier, but drier, novels that I'd enjoyed. Stephenson has this uncanny ability to take twisted, complex storylines that just flat out shouldn't work and make them perfect.
The first half of this book was all build up to the action, setting up the storylines and allowing them to develop to the point that they could all run full steam. It starts out with the founder of a multi-million dollar (billion dollar?) online role playing game at his annual family reunion in Iowa. The game, the founder and his family are all big players in this book.
Before things get too far in Stephenson's somehow managed to incorporate the Russian mafia, hackers in China who have set up a major computer virus designed to make money off the video game, a cell of Islamic terrorists/jihadists, and the British intelligence organization MI6. Those would just be the main players in this book. The first half of the book builds up this beautiful crescendo, setting up the chess board as it were with this crazy set of characters. The second half moved as if propelled by rocket fuel, bringing everything together into a huge climactic battle.
I've only come across a handful of writers who can juggle such wild plotlines and still have the book come together in a cohesive whole. The premise itself is almost too much, but the very absurdity of all these forces affecting each other and coming together is what gives the book its gritty realism. This book could actually happen. Or at least that's how well it's written.
On top of these amazing plotlines, Stephenson also has this amazing prose, and both his descriptions and dialogues come to life. I laughed out loud at more than one occasion. I read passages out to my coworkers. Some bits were so good I even underlined them for next time. I may have even stayed up too late a night or two trying to delve deeper in the book.
I know that a lot of people try to stay away from science fiction. I also know that it might not mean as much coming from a fantasy and sci fi fan, but this book is so seriously worth reading. The science fiction (Stephenson's genre) only really comes out in terms of the video game that serves to push the plot forward. I'm looking forward to re-reading this one in a few years.