As he did in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson once again constructs a bizarre dystopian world composed of an eclectic combination of future technologies and ancient traditions and uses it as the backdrop to tell a unique story. At its core this is a coming of age tale about a young girl named Nell who comes to possess a very special book known as the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. This book is an engineering marvel that is fully interactive and capable of customizing itself to match its reader in order to prepare them for the challenges they will face on their journey to adulthood. In Nell's case the book ultimately winds up raising her in place of her parents and it enables her to survive amid the chaos that eventually comes her way from the unpredictable society around her.
Seveneves is an epic sci-fi story that is best experienced without knowing too much about the story. Know only that an unimaginable event occurs that results in a doomsday clock ticking down for planet Earth. This fact quickly becomes known around the globe and mankind must now face the real possibility of extinction in a short period of time. How will we as a race react to such devastating knowledge? In many different ways for sure and Neal Stephenson chronicles mankind's fate from multiple perspectives. From individuals to families, from communities to governments, and from science to religion all of the angles are explored as humanity is put to a test it was not prepared to handle.
Neal Stephenson takes a variety of different ideas and seemingly random subjects and does his best to weave them together into a coherent tale. These subjects include ancient Sumer, religious history, linguistics, virtual reality, viruses, sword fighting, and hacking, amongst others. They are all rolled into a story set in a bizarre future where the United States as we know it is no more and our current culture has been taken to absurd, and often entertaining, extremes. The US has become best known for its ability to deliver pizzas efficiently, the federal government has ceded much of the land to corporations/franchises, and couriers ride futuristic skateboards using magnetic harpoons to attach to vehicles on the freeway for a free lift.
I picked up Reamde because the story involved an online game world where hackers target the players and it seemed like an interesting topic for a novel. That premise turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg and this tale veers in many different directions. The online game world of T'Rain is a multi-billion dollar MMO with millions of players and that success makes it an attractive target. A ransomware virus is created that holds a players virtual assets hostage and then all hell breaks loose, in game and out. The main characters wind up all over the globe as spies, terrorists, smugglers, and the Russian mafia all get entangled into the plot. Every step of the way Stephenson ups the ante and the plot almost seems to run out of control.