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