A Readable Door Stopper - Reamde
February 13, 2012 | ~4 mins read time.

I've read several books by Neal Stephenson and I've enjoyed his "alternate reality" or "alternate history" pieces, despite the fact each of the books I've read would almost put the Bible to shame in terms of length. Reamde is certainly a door stopper in terms of size. It's nearly a thousand pages long and can be somewhat intimidating because of its size for some. But it is very much worth the read.

Set all over the world, but largely in British Columbia (I may be a little biased toward it because of this), the Northwest USA, China, the UK, the Philippines, and various other places around the globe, Reamde is an extremely entertaining novel involving an unlikely cast of characters that somehow mesh really well together. Stephenson has managed to bring each and every one of them to life. While bringing deep depths to the main characters, namely Zula and Richard, he has not forgotten that there are supporting cast members. Each of these is given enough of the spotlight to make them more understandable and at no time did I feel like he threw a character into place just to explain away any given plot line. No, Stephenson took the time, as he usually does, to ensure that the novel flows seamlessly from beginning to end.

The novel is a nice mix of almost Old West ideals and modern issues (such as terrorism, organized crime, corporate espionage and theft). Stephenson also does a nice job of portraying the modern world that is mixed between physical realities and virtual realities with the game he's created within the story arc that is almost a character in and of itself. Reamde is a virus plaguing the virtual world of T'Rain (a play on "terrain") and the various characters are each sucked into the plot in much of the same way that we are sucked into certain things in life on a daily basis that we may, or may not, wish to participate in. Life sometimes happens to us and Stephenson does a nice job of incorporating this idea into Reamde and illustrating how human beings are extremely resilient.

I have talked with several people who said that they've never picked up a Stephenson novel because of the size most of them are (the paperbacks could easily double as bricks for building a house). Granted, he has a way with writing a long novel, but they are by no means boring and dry. Some would say that Reamde (as well as others in his library) are too detailed, but I have to disagree with this. Stephenson is detailed, but no detail is unnecessary to the plot and to the overall picture that is building in your head while reading. Those who cry "too detailed, too detailed" seem to have the same problem with Reamde as some readers have had with other novels of its type- the length. It may help to know that while reading Reamde, it is clear where the novel could have been split into three and turned into the Reamde Trilogy. I, for one, am glad that Stephenson seems to prefer (or his publishers do, whoever is responsible is one of my heroes) to release the whole work all at once instead of making readers wait for each installment. I hate that. I often will hold off reading a series of novels, especially trilogies, until the whole thing is done and released. When I first read the Lord of the Rings series, it was in one gigantic paperback and I devoured it. I did the same with Reamde. One thousand pages of engrossing story was devoured in less than a week and only because I had every day things to do. Had that not been the case, it probably wouldn't have taken even 24 hours.

It seems one needs to have a criticism for a novel when one is reviewing it. I find that intentionally finding fault with anything because it's what one has to do is silly. Thus, I used the length as a "fault", but one that others have attributed to it. If it helps you to pick this book up and read it entirely, think of it as having been split into three separate books. In fact, the way the legs of the journey within Reamde have been split up, you can easily pretend that they are where one book ends and a new one has been released if that's what you need to get through it. Reamde is a fantasy novel couched within an international espionage novel that will have you turning pages so fast you won't remember that the length was a problem, if it ever was a problem for you to begin with.