Thursday, February 18, 2016
It's still really nerdy, but the nerdiness is a light peppering rather than a deep sauce. Actually, the very foundation of the book is pure nerd ideology. That ideology says that if only people would base their existence on rationality and skills and not get caught up in social convention, they will then succeed and kick ass in all kinds of situations. There is some truth to this and it is very appealing to an old ex-nerd like myself. The dark side of this is the libertarian techbro dolt that we see all too often today and I'm sure a lot of them loved Reamde. Stephenson doesn't take us down this far because he maintains a human, sympathetic side, but also because the priority here really is the story.
And it's a great, crazy story. It somehow manages to be both empirical and theoretical at the same time. It's empirical because he brings in a wild mix of characters and situations, whose behaviour and premises driver what happens next. Yet at the same time the whole thing is structured into some neat unities (it all takes place in 3 weeks) and maintains several consistent, interesting themes (the virtual world vs. the real world; terrorism as a thing, far right rural wingnuts as real people, family).
Ultimately, it is a teeny bit too American jingoistic and the ending wasn't quite as satisfying as I had hoped (by the time you get to it, you can kind of guess how things will play out). But the ride itself was thoroughly enjoyable and I will keep my eyes out for his next book.