My rating: 4 of 5 stars
REAMDE is a techno-thriller in the traditional sense, i.e., technology plays a part, but so does gunfights, teamwork and hardship. Not one of Stephenson’s strongest (that would be Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle), it has some of the nomadic quality of Anathem but, since it is not a science fiction book (the events take place in modern times, the only technological stretch maybe the quality of the T’Rain World of Warcraft-like multiuser game, which differs from WoW primarily in that it is designed with a working economy (again, one of Stephenson’s fascinations – who do you establish a currency in a virtual world.) This means that a lot of what happens stretches the limits of what is possible – you get a bit of the feeling that you get in a run-of-the-mill detective show or war fil, that the bad guys can never shoot straight unless they are aiming for one of the less central characters, preferably those with already life-curtailing afflictions.
The plot is convoluted and centers first on the hunt for some hackers holding important documents hostage (through cryptography), but an inadvertent stumble on a bomb factory in China turns it into a fight between a Jihadist band of terrorists and a collection of technologically astute, well balanced (in terms of gender, ethnicity and geographical starting point) group of hackers, mercenaries and survivalists. Fun, but if you are looking for Stephenson’s best stuff, start with the other books here. Or just relax and treat this as a bit of a diversion, not to be taken too seriously.