Friday, April 25, 2014

Fantasy therapy for distressed Americans

ReamdeReamde by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

He is my favourite writer of the several thousand authors I have read in my life, so you can't complain. And yet. Reamde mostly lacks the pilates-for-the-mind that is Stephenson's special skill and hallmark. This is much simpler, a thriller. It's great fun, but in the end is just one more on the pile of a world full of 'action' and 'adventure' novels and films. You can only take so many taxis or boats hijacked at gunpoint, or shootouts around mountains, before yawning. Without giving too much away, jihadis -- conveniently monochrome baddies -- hijack the book and turn it into fantasy therapy for traumatized Americans.

The genius who wrote Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Trilogy is, like his war-game character Egdod in Reamde, mostly slumbering as he strolls across the landscape followed by eager acolytes.

Of course it's not a bad book. But unlike those titles, you don't feel obliged to compare it with War and Peace or Barchester Towers, greatest novels that have ever been written. Worth reading? Definitely. Worth forgetting? Sadly.

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