Well, thank goodness that’s over.
Pull up a chair, let me start a little further back.
I used to like Neal Stephenson. Used to anticipate his every new book like a little schoolgirl (for the record, I have not ever been a little schoolgirl, but have, at times, acted like one). Until “Quicksilver,” which, for me, was a pompous, over wrought nightmare of a read. I slogged through it because I gave him the benefit of the doubt from “Cryptonomicon” and “Snow Crash” and Zodiac." I bailed on the rest of the trilogy and waited patiently until Neal got something a little more… manageable under his fingers.
And I thought, from the reviews and book jacket copy, that REAMDE would be it.
But it really isn’t.
REAMDE, I thought, would be right in Stephenson’s wheelhouse: tech-tinged with a bit of real world intrigue and excitement, but now I’m afraid to go back and revisit Crypto, for fear it suffered from the same problems REAMDE does. I get the sense that Stephenson hates the reader (and freedom, too, while we’re at it) while plodding through this book from joyless cardboard description to the next. He had a really interesting idea, in outline, for a book, researched the crap out of it, and then put all of his research in painful, way up front detail into the book. He spends far too long on certain subjects, stroking them and milking it until it gets to the point where you want to look away, to give him a bit of privacy, while he finishes whatever it is he’s doing (which he obviously loves – but is probably something best done in private). The dialogue makes me feel bad for Neal, because if this is how the characters talk in his head he must be driven almost completely insane by their stilted, awkward drivel. The dialogue, like crawling over shards of glass, makes the characters’ interactions a bit far-fetched and unbelievable. When he matches them up you feel much the same emotion you feel when putting together a children’s 12 piece puzzle: it’s not shocking and you don’t feel like there’s much of an accomplishment having done so. But here’s the rub: the children’s 12 piece puzzle you just put together you also did with the aid of a jigsaw, and none of the pieces were from the same puzzle, really, so you just cut them to shape and shoved them all together, leaving behind a messy, incoherent picture, in the end.