Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An interesting new book

Neal Stephenson has a new book out: Reamde.  I had really enjoyed some of his earlier works, but had shied away from his latter works because even when I could get them for $1 at the used book store, they had become so lengthy that I never found time to read them.
However, after reading a nice review by Elizabeth Hand, I decided to give this one a try.  I think you can tell why.
Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post, 15 September 2011 (Ht: MR).
“Reamde” opens disarmingly enough, on an Iowa farm where the Forthrast family is having its annual Thanksgiving reunion. Richard Forthrast, a middle-aged former marijuana smuggler and founder of Corporation 9592, a Fortune 500 company based on a game called T’Rain, joins the rest of the gang in the Back 40, where bolt-action .22s, Glocks and assault rifles are cheerfully deployed in the tribe’s yearly target practice. The Forthrast clan is good-natured enough to welcome Richard; his survivalist brother, Jake; as well as numerous old-timers, grad students, homemakers, Gen-Xers and awed youngsters who know of Uncle Richard’s legendary exploits from his Wikipedia entry.
This is a novel in which Russian gangsters, kidnapped computer programmers, Chinese hackers, a Hungarian Internet security specialist, the FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police and MI6, not to mention numerous members of the Forthrast clan and several Liege Lords of T’Rain, all end up in pursuit of a single man.
Stephenson’s control of these multifarious plotlines is remarkable, as is his evocation of settings as disparate as a 21st-century boomtown in southern China, a remote island in the Philippines, a survivalist compound in Idaho and Wal-Mart.
The last paragraph reminds me of a story that I read (apparently true) about a survivalist group that had planned to take over a Wal-Mart and hold it as their own personal post apocalyptic survival pantry.  Apparently the scheme fell apart prior to actuation when the group came to arguing over how to deal with innocents who came to the store looking for help.
In glancing around at some reviews, I noticed (somewhere) someone commenting on Stephenson having something of a Gold Bug like fascination with the metal that keeps its luster.  Apparently his Cryptonomicon also features, Andrew Loeb a survivalist, and both Diamond Age and Snow Crash are (strange) tales of life after the End of the World as  We Know it (EOTWAWKI).  So I suppose I should not be surprised at the survivalists.  But these are her and know survivalists, not futuristic ones.


Degringolade said...

Now you have me all excited. I have always been a Neal Stephenson fanboy, so I will be going out and crowbarring open my wallet tomorrow.

Thanks for the tip

russell1200 said...

I ordered it yesterday, but I started the first two chapters today (from facebook).

He is naming a lot of names and I suspect it will pay to write them down to help keep up with them.

There are three authors in the second chapter who all have last names starting with a "D". One of them is even referred to as D-Square - which I suspect is a nod to Gary Gygax the late (primary) creator of Dungeons and Dragons.

The problem is that I am halfway through Robert Edric's "Salvage", and also want to read Sigrid Nunez's "Salvation City". I am used to having a number of non-fiction books going at one time, but usually avoid it with fiction.