SciFi Discussion – Reamde

On Tuesday 15th January Manchester SciFi Book Club braved the cold and met up at the Madlab to discuss Reamde by Neal Stephenson. This is the second Neal Stephenson book that we’ve read, the first being Snow Crash.

Reamde is a technothriller novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 2011. The story, set in the present day, centers on the plight of a hostage and the ensuing efforts of family and new acquaintances, many of them associated with a fictional MMORPG [Massively multiplayer online role-playing game], to rescue her as her various captors drag her about the globe. Topics covered range from online activities including gold farming and social networking to the criminal methods of the Russian mafia and Islamic terrorists.

Did We Like It?

Overwhelming everyone liked it, with one exception who wasn’t sure. With a generous 1042 pages there were a few people who were unable to finish Reamde. Although it is published as one book, it does feel like it could be split into 2 or 3 separate books.

Whilst it was a little slow at first, the pace soon picked up and accelerated to through the book. It was even a little rushed at times. There was plenty of action throughout and we were surprised that it has not already been made into a film.

Character Assassination

The characters were interesting with some being more developed than others. We did feel that the manner of describing characters was an info dump or even statistics read out from Trump cards. Richard’s back story was revealed in a better way, as it evolved all the way through the story. Sometimes characters were referred to by there names and other times by their nicknames, which caused a bit of confusion.

We liked that situations in the story made some of the characters personalities change. We also liked it when Peter got shot and killed, since he was treacherous and self-serving! Although none of the characters really stood out, there were plenty of characters that we liked, such as Csongor, Sokolov, Seamus, Yuxia and Egdod. We couldn’t really identify with any of the characters, although worryingly there was something of an familiarisation with chief terrorist Jones, largely because he was British.

There were not many moments where Zula had any control over what was happening, but when she did take control her decisions were pivotal.

Is It SciFi?

No. Not only was there an absence of robots and spaceships, there was nothing relating to science or technology which is not reality. Its a thriller that is fact based. There were no giant ideas or themes, Reamde is very much about the story.

Whilst Reamde is a great story, we felt that it was a bit contrived in places, for example when the terrorist gets killed by the mountain lion, how everyone got nicely paired off and how the Jihadists happened to be living above the hackers.

We liked the effort at describing and creating the game of T’Rain, the Apostropocalipse, the different ways in which the Americans & Chinese played T’Rain and the way the bandits piggybacked on the hackers money making scheme. It was interesting how the terrorists secretly flew out of Chinese airspace and over the Atlantic to Canada. We liked the description of the culture shock for Sokolov and the Jihadists when they were in America, especially when they reached the gun aisle in the supermarket. Richard mentioning that you could enter a Walmart store in one location and then emerge from another Walmart somewhere else entirely was a little gem.

It was proposed that we rate Reamde on the basis of “How deep is your vassal network” but we ended up scoring out of 5. Reamde scored a respectable average of 3.35.

Manchester Sci-Fi Book Club Contacts

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Next Sci-Fi Book:

  • February 19th – Behold the Man by Michael Morcock

SciFi Books for Following Months:

  • March 19th – Neverness by David Zindell
  • April 16th – Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  • May 21st – The Truth (Discworld Novel 25) by Terry Pratchett

SciFi Comic

It has been suggested that we read SciFi Comic Y:The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, in collaboration with the Mad Graphic Novel Group.

See you next book!

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