From the extraordinary Neal Stephenson comes an epic adventure that spans entire worlds, both real and virtual.
The black sheep of an Iowa farming clan, former draft dodger and successful marijuana smuggler Richard Forthrast amassed a small fortune over the years—and then increased it a thousandfold when he created T’Rain. A massive, multibillion-dollar, multiplayer online role-playing game, T’Rain now has millions of obsessed fans from the U.S. to China. But a small group of ingenious Asian hackers has just unleashed Reamde—a virus that encrypts all of a player’s electronic files and holds them for ransom—which has unwittingly triggered a war that’s creating chaos not only in the virtual universe but in the real one as well. Its repercussions will be felt all around the globe—setting in motion a devastating series of events involving Russian mobsters, computer geeks, secret agents, and Islamic terrorists—with Forthrast standing at ground zero and his loved ones caught in the crossfire.
Neal Stephenson is quite rightly known as a writer of ideas, but don’t put it past him to pen a straightforward thriller. True, the plot of said thriller hinges on a massively multiplayer online game that’s a step beyond what’s actually available on the Internet circa 2011, but that’s as far as the sci-fi goes. Enter “REAMDE,” an online virus that brings together a super-rich CEO, a Chinese hacker, a rogue Russian mafioso, an assimilated East African beauty, an itinerant Hungarian software programmer, two insanely prolific fantasy writers, and guns, guns, guns. (The book features so much firepower that Stephenson enlisted what he calls a “ballistics copy editor.”) It takes a veritable master of pacing to make a thousand pages feel like barely a third of that, but Stephenson is that master; his breakneck narrative starts fast and never, ever lets up. As such, Reamde is as likely to turn off fans of his more cerebral fiction as it is to gain him scads of new devotees. Regardless, it marks an inimitable highlight of this year’s thriller roster. —Jason Kirk