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Laura Allen

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The Dark Forest
Joel Martinsen, Cixin Liu


Reamde - Neal Stephenson I feel awful.

I've given three stars to something written by Neal Stephenson.

I may not be the biggest Stephenson fan out there, but I can guarantee that I'm close-- I've read Anathem three times, and I have pets-- well, fish-- named after all the main characters from The Baroque Cycle. It almost hurts to give him less than five stars on anything, and to give his latest novel only three? Ouch.

But honestly, it's just not that memorable. It's not awful, by any means; if this were written by anyone other than Stephenson, it would be considered a decent bestselling thriller. But that's really all it is, a thriller; the characters are largely stock and the plot largely Hollywood, and for Stephenson fans, that's a real letdown. It has no trace of speculation, scifi, or magical realism at all; it's just a spy novel. I suppose the fact that the story revolves around an MMORPG-- the plot and characters are deeply embedded in the world of online gaming-- could give it a loose connection to the cyberpunk genre, but even that's a bit of a stretch, especially if you hold this one next to Snow Crash.

Having said all that, I'd like to say too that it is, on the whole, an enjoyable read. A couple of the characters are worth getting to know, and the pacing is excellent; it's hard to put it down. We tend to expect so much from an author like Stephenson that it's only natural to feel a bit let down by a release that's just okay; but they can't all be the perfect novel, can they? Since he's already written two, maybe three, of those, he can easily be forgiven one or two just plain bestsellers.