"Reamde' was released in the UK a scant week before I was off on a two week holiday in Australia and I spent most of that week worrying about whether it would arrive before I had to leave. Luckily, it turned up with nearly eighteen hours to spare and so I was able to open it to the first of over a thousand pages as the plane thundered down the runway.
Early reviews over the past week had been mixed, some people felt it wasn't Neal's best work while others thought this might well be the book that propels him into the mainstream. The blurb on the back suggested a typical Stephenson plot-line that seemed overly comedic and bizarre with Canadian drug runners, Russian Mafioso and Chinese hackers all mixed together with an Eritrean girl brought up in Iowa. The first chapter started off the way that Stephenson meant to go on, with guns being fired left, right and centre. It also introduced us to Richard Forthrast and Zula Forthrast, two of the main characters in the book. The first 100 pages or so are fairly slow going as various scenes are set but, once the action takes off with the murder of a minor character, it doesn't let up for the remaining 900 pages.
"Reamde" is the 2011 equivalent of what "Cryptonomican" was in 1999. It is a novel that is vast in scope, that explores different subjects and settings intelligently. If you can understand why Zula would spend much of her early life carting around a complete Encyclopedia Brittanica, you'll love this book. It is also a surprisingly readable book. Although Neal Stephenson has a background in Science Fiction (of sorts), you'd struggle to find any of that in this book. Lots of Science Fact, yes, but fiction? Well, maybe T'Rain (the online computer game that dominates the lives of so many of the characters) but even that will not tax the imagination of anyone brought up in the internet era. I have to agree with other reviewers - this just might be the book that launches Stephenson in the mainstream market; anyone who enjoys a good old fashion thriller or spy novel might just enjoy this one.
Oh, and that name? Linda took one look at it and declared that someone had spelt "Remade" incorrectly but, as most geeks will have spotted and as the book explains, it derives from "Read Me", a common file name.