Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A few REAMDE excerpts, to get across the flavor of his writing...

A few of my favorites, lets me use the "copy" feature of my Kindle software (glad they added that to the PC version):

The young ones shuffled to a stop as their ironic sensibilities, which served them in lieu of souls, were jammed by a signal of overwhelming power.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 15). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.

Video games were a more addictive drug than any chemical, as he had just proven by spending ten years playing them. Now he had come to discover that they were also a sort of currency exchange scheme. These two things—drugs and money—he knew about. The third leg of the tripod, then, was his exilic passion for real estate. In the real world, this would always be limited by the physical constraints of the planet he was stuck on. But in the virtual world, it need be limited only by Moore’s law, which kept hurtling into the exponential distance.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 34). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.

But each had a kind of confidence about him that was not often found in young men who had followed the recommended path through high school to college and postgraduate training. If she had wanted to be cruel or catty about it, Zula might have likened those meticulously groomed boys to overgrown fetuses, waiting endlessly to be born. Which was absolutely fine given that the universities were well stocked with fetal women.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 160). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.

Zula asked Yuxia what a Hakka was and learned that they were the only Chinese who had refused to take up the practice of foot binding. So “Big-Footed Woman” was not just a throwaway line. Not only that, but they would buy the unwanted female children of their Cantonese-speaking neighbors and raise them. Yuxia was not the type to deploy terminology like “feminist” or “matriarchal,” but the picture was clear enough to Zula.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 242). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.

...Sokolov recognized, in the black jihadist’s movements, a sort of cultural or attitudinal advantage that such people always enjoyed in situations like this: they were complete fatalists who believed that God was on their side. Russians, on the other hand, were fatalists of a somewhat different kind, believing, or at least strongly suspecting, that they were fucked no matter what, and that they had better just make the best of it anyway, but not seeing in this the hand of God at work or the hope of some future glory in a martyr’s heaven.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 340). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.

Men wanted to be strong. One way to be strong was to be knowledgeable. In so many areas, it was not possible to be knowledgeable without getting a Ph.D. and doing a postdoc. Guns and hunting provided an out for men who wanted to be know-it-alls but who couldn’t afford to spend the first three decades of their lives getting up to speed on quantum mechanics or oncology. You simply couldn’t go to a gun range without being cornered by a man who wanted to talk to you for hours about the ballistics of the .308 round or the relative merits of side-by-side versus over-and-under shotguns.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 603). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.

What he wasn’t so good at was manipulating the internal states of other humans, getting them to see things his way, do things for him. His baseline attitude toward other humans was that they could all just go fuck themselves and that he was not going to expend any effort whatsoever getting them to change the way they thought. This was probably rooted in a belief that had been inculcated to him from the get-go: that there was an objective reality, which all people worth talking to could observe and understand, and that there was no point in arguing about anything that could be so observed and so understood. As long as you made a point of hanging out exclusively with people who had the wit to see and to understand that objective reality, you didn’t have to waste a lot of time talking. When a thunderstorm was headed your way across the prairie, you took the washing down from the line and closed the windows. It wasn’t necessary to have a meeting about it. The sales force didn’t need to get involved.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (pp. 893-894). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.

Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 893). William Morrow. Kindle Edition.


No, I spelled that right.  The author, Neal Stephenson, named it after a fictitious virus (which was a misspelling of the "README" common in computers, and probably a reference to "reamed" as well).  It's a roller coaster ride involving a young couple, a massively multiplayer roleplaying game, Russian mafiosi, Chinese hackers, spies, and an Al Qaeda cell headed by a Welsh terrorist.  Oh, and currency exchange.

This may be his best written novel yet, although some people were disappointed in it (it was not as brimful of technological flights of fancy as his usual fare).  Perhaps the cast of characters is a bit large and hard to keep track of, but he ties everything together splendidly.  Don't expect very deep character analysis, but do expect to be surprised by his sudden turns and made thoughtful by some of the ramifications of technology that he exposes (such as using computer games to facilitate real life crime).