Reamde (Review)

Reamde (Review)

his one comes from Neal Stephenson, they guy who swept me away with Snow Crash all those years ago. It’s a vast and glorious tale that runs a modest 1044 pages. Yeah, you gotta really wanna here.

So Reamde is, in a nutshell, a fictional tale about a bit of Chinese malware that locks up your files and leaves you a “reamde” file that tells you how to pay them off to get your files unlocked. Of course the file is typoed because they are Chinese hackers and English is not their mother tongue. But the unique thing here is how you pay. It’s not via bitcoin, no, but inside a vast online game. You have to proceed to a certain longitude/latitude location and drop 1000 gold pieces ($73 US dollars). Then, presumably, your files will be opened.

So the payoff method is unique (since there exist methods of getting money back out of the game). But the situation is even more so, as Zula (the niece of the game’s owner) has the bad luck to be hanging with a shitty boyfriend who is selling stolen credit card information to the Russian mob. Of course, he borrows a zip drive from her uncle (the game’s founder) to transfer the file. And of course, Reamde is on his zip. So it gets into the mob’s agent’s computer and locks everything up, all those critical crime files, gone. The agent returns to force Peter and Zula to try to help him with the unlock payoff but now there is a full-scale war in the artificial world as small armies rage across the drop points, killing those coming in with gold and stealing it off their dead bodies. And suddenly the Russian mob (headed by a guy overextended and at risk) show up and then it’s no longer a game.

The mobster wants his files back and his effort is Russian-direct. He flies all concerned parties to China, to attempt to locate the Chinese hackers and convince them that returning his files would be in their best interest. But there is a bit of confusion as to which room the hackers are in. And the one the Russians barge into (one floor up) is packed with Islamic terrorists. Monitored, across the street, by a English female spy. And does the shit hit the fan.

And we’re only getting started.

I really liked this. The characters (I can’t even tell you how many there are) are interesting, the situations are interesting, and the story just moves on and on. On the bad side, it’s huge and vast. And the battle, with the terrorists attempting to slip across the Canadian border, murdering everyone they come across, with Zulu as their captive and all the other characters slowly orbiting in, is a long and lengthy conflict that crawls across miles and seems to go on for hundreds of pages. Because Stephenson is an established author, he gets all the elbow room he wants for his story and he uses every inch.

When it was done and I finally closed this one up, I could only sigh. I thought back across the full span of this, from the events in China, the flight of all involved to all points of the compass, their trips across the Pacific and America, the characters they met, the methods they used to find the murderous terrorists out in the middle of nowhere, and felt as if I’d been involved in their saga was well.

It’s a big book. A good book but a big one. You’ve been warned.