Neal Stephenson’s Action

In his two most famous novels, Snow Crash (1992) and Cryptonomicon (1999), Neal Stephenson demonstrated an aptitude for writing action sequences. But Stephenson’s latest, Reamde (William Morrow), takes that art form to a new level. The book starts with some modest target shooting at a Midwestern family reunion and ends with a 100-page gun battle featuring some of those same Midwesterners, plus Islamic terrorists, Chinese gold farmers, a Hungarian hacker, the Russian mafia, and the CIA. In between, there is an epic, Blues Brothers–like chase scene that spans several continents in both real and virtual worlds.

All the running and shooting make Reamde seem less cerebral than recent Stephenson efforts such as The Baroque Cycle and Anathem. But while his heroes duck and roll, Stephenson offers intelligent treatments of political and technological topics, including the war on drugs, the war on terror, the rise of China, virtual economies, and the Second Amendment.—Katherine Mangu-Ward

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    Looking forward to this, always ready for something new from Stephenson.

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    I enjoyed the book but not as much as I have his others. The virtual-world aspect is almost completely separable from the rest of the book, only important as the point of contact for a ridiculous coincidence. His descriptions of architecture and landscape are atlassian but fail to excite me; I don't read atlases. The mustache-twirling villain has some panache we never get an inside look at why he does what he does. Finally, Stephenson's lexicon is ridiculous.

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