by Neal Stephenson
2011 / 1056 pages / audio – 38:34 read by Malcolm Hillgartner
rating 8

Richard Forthrast has accumlated a fortune by selling and operating a profitable multi-player online game, T’Rain which has been hijacked by hackers who hold  the operating systems of the players hostage for the payment of ransom.  REAMDE  is the name of the virus program which does this.  Payment to be made in virtual gold in a forest of the online world where Chinese boys pick it up and convert it to “winnings” in real money payable via organized crime and credit cards.

Richard and his niece Zula decide to go after the hackers and this makes for a very exciting world-wide tale involving the Chinese gangs, Russian mafia,  terrorists,  the CIA,  English spies,  religious fundamentalists,  Idaho libertarians, and others.   The chase leads through the Northeast section of the US and Canada – Richard lives in Montana and the action culminates near there.  The tracking has to take place in part on the internet to see who picks up the gold and trace them.

This book has received some rave reviews but it was pretty confusing to me – there were so many characters doing so many different things that I just watched for a couple people and if they were okay.  I liked Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon a whole lot better. And I also love William Gibson – the book reminds me of some of his books but with a lot more action.

Yes, it’s a mystery of sorts – very much actually.   It takes place right after Thanksgiving and now I think it’s about December 15th in the book – something like that.  The setting is all over the world – China, England, Canada,  Montana and other places.  It also takes place in an on-line action gaming situation where players pay to play,  collect game gold by various means and can cash it in for real credits on their credit card.  Trouble is,  some Chinese kids looking to make $17.00 or so are planting a virus called Reamde which, if accidentally collected,  infects the player’s computer.   He can only get his game back by dropping a bunch of game gold in a certain place in the virtual world.  Then the virus makers go collect the gold over there and cash it in through organized crime methods.  Meanwhile a spy agency in England has been tracking some of the players and got involved.

The parts in the virtual world are best,  along with the times when the game owner/inventor, his crew, the spies,  and others are playing the game and organizing strategy.  The real life actions of kidnapping,  bombing buildings,  escape by jet or boat are not nearly so interesting.  Most of the characters are quite interesting,  the women are almost like action-figures in some ways.   So far there are at least two dead bodies in the real world –



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