Once again, Mr. Stephenson has triumphed with another great read. It started out slow and I got a bit bogged down with all the video game references, but it turned quickly, into a book I found it very hard to put down with a great ending. Great author here:)
Zula Forthrast and her boyfriend Peter visit Uncle Richard at his Canadian ski resort. Richard got his start as a small-scale marijuana smuggler slipping along little-known trails between Canada and the U.S. He left the increasing violence of this life for the slightly-less-violent world of online gaming. Before long he founded a company to develop the large-scale online gaming environment of T'Rain. Richard returned to the land of his beloved Canadian trails and bought a big chunk of it to build his resort.
Peter unwisely uses the resort as a hand-off point for a file of stolen credit card numbers. His flash drive introduces the Reamde virus into the other party's computer system. This gets various people... upset. The resulting fuss embroils Russian gangsters, Islamic fundamentalists, government spies, trigger-happy mercenaries, trigger-ecstatic backwoodsmen, and--very occasionally--legitimate law enforcement. Everybody shoots at nearly everybody else. Eventually some team up and others check out. I won't spoil the story with specifics. But even one or two of the characters seem to find all of this action a bit implausible.
Flashbacks provide needed breathing space as we learn more about Richard's history and the intricacies of T'Rain. This is necessary to understand a few plot twists. The Reamde virus, it seems, works by encrypting files on players' hard drives. They can only get the encryption key after paying a ransom in virtual gold at a specific location in T'Rain. Thanks to the challenging features of the game, the large number of ransom-payers, and the finer points of money laundering, this isn't easy. So things get intense online, too.
These parallel plots are well-balanced. Reamde is recommended as a pretty good read.
What Reamde isn't, surprisingly, is science fiction. It is marketed as a techno-thriller, but I'll confess to having missed this. While reading I had believed that the "goldmining" and other economic transactions in T'Rain were clever extrapolations. When I mentioned them to my World of Warcraft-playing son, he set me straight. At least the deals he's been in were for smaller amounts. So far.
I am still reading this book but every now and then I have to grit my teeth and control my temper over the many either authoring or proofreading errors in the book. I could say that I am almost effingwell fed up, and I use the effingwell word quite deliberately because one of the major sources of irritation is missing 'f's. That is - the use of 'of' when the word should clearly be 'off'. I know that Americans understand that there are two different words, differentiated by that extra 'f', because they use the totally annoying construct 'off of' to denote the removal of something or someone from a conveyance, as in 'get down off of the train' where the word 'of' is totally superfluous and adds nothing to the meaning (and that construct is also used in this book - don't get me started!). I suspect that someone got tired part way through the book and just threw a spell-checker at it, changing all 'off's from that point on to 'of's. Perhaps the authors of the world of T'rain could invent a program which will parse a manuscript and correct the language usages and thus avoid the necessity of proofreaders entirely?
What a great read! This book is intense, just when you think you understand the story it shifts in wonderful ways. The characters are so loveable and so different. This book is the best book I have read in a long time! So glad I found it.