Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" is one of my favorite novels ever.   Apparently this is true for many people, whose reviews of "Reamde" tend to the negative only so much as they compare this latest novel to his prior work.    But this is not a problem for me:  this is a terrific novel.

There are two primary heros:  Richard, who got rich smuggling marijuana between Canada and the USA and then went straight with a massively multi-player online role-playing game called "T'Rain."    And, Zula, Richard's adult niece, who demonstrates considerable resourcefulness under pressure.   Several secondary characters are well described.

The plot, as is typical of Stephenson, is complex and multi-layered.  Chinese game players (for profit) have hacked the game such that files on a player's computer get encrypted.  They require that one make a $73 payment (inside the game structure) to get the decryption code.   The game structure allows virtual currency to be converted to real world currency, so with enough players paying, there's big money to be made.

Russian mobsters get involved when some of their files are affected.   And from there, there's too much risk of plot spoilers to say more.

Bottom line:  ignore the reviews that say "I liked his other books better," and read "Reamde."

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