Review of Reamde by Neal Stephenson

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Stephenson can slice and dice with the best of those busily rewriting our history, and sometimes our future, with the help of technology. But this is a pretty straight present-day thriller. The eponymous virus is disguised as a readme file that extorts virtual treasure from the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called T’Rain. Its stratigraphy mirrors that of the real world in complexity, thanks to a crew of differently skilled programmers, enabling players to ‘mine’ commodities exchangeable for real-world currency, aka Bitcoin. A fascinating sequence is set within T’Rain as its creator attempts to track his niece’s abductors through their online presence. However, the (extremely long) tale swiftly veers away from T’Rain to more familiar (though still thrilling) spy and terrorist terrain, leaving us wishing William Gibson would write another novel instead. For a more down-to-earth discussion of our world’s interconnectedness, browse Stephenson’s collection of essays, Some Remarks, particularly the one about laying deep-sea cable.

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