Wednesday, January 4, 2012


My first impression in reading this novel was dismay. Oh no, I thought, Neal is doing Cryptonomicon all over again: page after page of geeky stuff, characters found inexplicably compelled to comment on. Don't get me wrong: I *am* a geek. Yet, reading the first part of the novel I couldn't figure out how all those details were relevant. And so it goes: excruciating details about characters are given, and then they disappear from the plot for the next 200 pages or more.

The setting is not even particularly original: Deaver touched on MMORGPS in Roadside Crosses, Doctorow wrote an entire novel on gold farmers. So what are you trying to tell us Neal? I still don't know, more than halfway through.

Thankfully at some point the POV changes, and the plot eventually picks up. So this is indeed a thriller after all, I think, reassured. But then everything stops again, for a massive 15 page info dump (approx. pages 300-315) with the biography of a suddenly appearing character, all in painful detail. Said character makes a very brief apparition in the actual story, only to disappear immediately. All that could have been shown from the POV of one of the many other characters of course, interfering minimally with the flow.
Then the bad guy dies (!) only to be replaced by a more preposterous but far less menacing one. That's pretty much where I stopped.

Why is the author doing that? Beats me. So far the massive volume seems like an attempt to keep a high word count indulging in whatever interested him on the day he was writing it. But somehow this word mass did not coagulate in a novel (as I have written somewhere else, the American Editor species must be on its way to extinction).

Older non sf books by Stephenson (I'm thinking about Zodiac, for instance) felt much more compact and coherent. REAMDE is a strange hybrid, not thriller enough for the fans of the genre, and apparently written for an audience of geeks for whom most of what is covered in the novel is hardly new or surprising. In my humble opinion, Stephenson's attention for detail is better employed in describing possible futures (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and above all Anathem) rather than reiterating a simil-present we know well, or tackling with genres whose mechanics the author seems unfamiliar with.

No comments:

Post a Comment