Review: REAMDE by Neal Stephenson

It’s like trying to watch an old man write Snow Crash.

The story opens with an easygoing introduction of several characters. There is no plot to speak of. There are Small Incidents which are destined to have Big Import with the subtlety of a cast-iron slapstick. The book squeaks with polish; the author’s intent to create a Commercial Fiction is so transparent as to cause a reader embarrasment.

Then there is about a hundred pages of explication concerning MMORPGs. These are clearly the outpourings of a man who knows just enough about the subject to think that his ideas are unique and revolutionary. They just aren’t quite related to the plot. Which there isn’t one yet.

Then some Exciting Incidents happen, for the sake of nothing of the sort having yet occurred. There’s no substantive conflict. But pages turn.

And then, about halfway through the book, any semblance of plot is entirely discarded – one hundred percent – one hundred and eighty degrees – and we have a novel about chasing terrorists and small-arms combat.

There are a few hundred pages alternating between The Author Plotting Out Loud, and the occurrence of Plot at three hundred words and six hundred rounds per page.

Oh, and then the book ends.

This work is an admission of defeat. It is the instrument of surrender for the Tech Bubble and all who blew it. It is a story about a guy who created a new technology, got rich, made it big, succeeded… and then, in middle age, had to have kidnapping and murder and mystery and revenge and international fucking terrorism in order for his life to be challenging, or interesting, or fun.

This book is about how adventure and excitement have to come from external stimuli. It is paving over the notion, explored rather substantively by Cryptonomicon, that these things can from from internal stimuli – that success, that adventure, that romance, can all come from within, can be made with our own two hands out of the things of this earth.

This book is Neal Stephenson’s epitaph for Randy Waterhouse. This doesn’t mean that Randy is dead. All it means is that Neal Stephenson is old. It is an admission of defeat. It is Stephenson’s epitaph; WATERHOUSE LIVES ON.

Otherwise… yeah, it’s an okay read. It’s Tom Clancy with too many infodumps, it’s Agatha Christie without much agency, it’s middlin’ airport lit with just enough subversions of the genre that it can be read with a giggle and not a groan. It isn’t bad. It isn’t distinctive enough for such a superlative. It isn’t bad. It’s just really not that good.


~ by davekov on 16 June 2012.

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