My mate Jeff has been on me to read Reamde since before Christmas. Neil bought it for me for Christmas. Jeff kept asking me, Have you read Reamde yet? Tell me what you think of it once you have! I wondered why he was so kancheong about it — we both really like Neal Stephenson, but this was a bit overkill.
And then I read it.
For starters, it goes back to the gaming world of Snow Crash (well — sort of): this time we are with the game’s creator Richard Forthrast, a very rich man with a colourful past who owns the world of T’Rain, a MMORPG (I think) that has taken the world by storm. There’s virtual war, virtual currency, and some Russian mafia thrown in for good measure. As well as a very large part of the story set in Xiamen.
That’s the OMFG part.
Is it really geeky that I was so thrilled to pretty much recognise every part of Xiamen he described? Even the apartment blocks — I may not know the exact streets he writes about, but I’ve definitely been down many of them. That crazy-ass wiring? It’s everywhere, you just need to get off the main tourist drag.
Neil heard me squeak with excitement when I realised the characters were going to be spending a substantial amount of time in Xiamen. And it was clear that his research trip must have been a few years ago, as the waterfront he speaks of has pretty much been fully developed and occupied (I even have an idea of which office building he must have been thinking of when talking about the safe house).
He could have been talking about the 禾祥西/东路 (Hexiang Xi / Dong Lu) area when he referred to where the Troll and Jones lived. We didn’t see 鼓浪屿 (Gulangyu) this time as we were told the number of tourists that now visit is so massive it’d be unpleasant, but he captured it very well. I wonder if he ate any muah chee while he was there. And the roundhouses! We’ve been there too! I have so many lousy photos of the roundhouses that I could have been his research assistant.
But. He said they all got stared at and people would run out to see them. I only see this happening with Zula, as the other characters didn’t seem any different from the thousands of laowai who have taken up residence in Xiamen. Caucasians aren’t a reason to gawk any more, not in Xiamen.
So that was me being anal-retentive.
What a fun novel! Loads of action, geeky stuff, extreme libertarians, guns, planes, Russians, romance — what’s not to love? Stephenson has a real flair for giving the reader a lot of information without it seeming too much like a lecture or really bad dialogue.
Needless to say, this book is going on the collector’s shelf (no child is going to get their hands on it until they understand how badly I’m going to react if any of these books are damaged) next to my Peanuts comics.