Reamdeby Neal Stephenson
“Stephenson has a once-in-a-generation gift: he makes complex ideas clear, and he makes them funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling.”
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Neal Stephenson is continually rocking the literary world with his brazen and brilliant fictional creations—whether/em>/em>/em>
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“Stephenson has a once-in-a-generation gift: he makes complex ideas clear, and he makes them funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling.”
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Neal Stephenson is continually rocking the literary world with his brazen and brilliant fictional creations—whether he’s reimagining the past (The Baroque Cycle), inventing the future (Snow Crash), or both (Cryptonomicon). With Reamde, this visionary author whose mind-stretching fiction has been enthusiastically compared to the work of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace—not to mention William Gibson and Michael Crichton—once again blazes new ground with a high-stakes thriller that will enthrall his loyal audience, science and science fiction, and espionage fiction fans equally. The breathtaking tale of a wealthy tech entrepreneur caught in the very real crossfire of his own online fantasy war game, Reamde is a new high—and a new world—for the remarkable Neal Stephenson.
Richard Forthrast is a middle-aged videogame tycoon with a problem on his hands: Bad guys have figured out a way to hack his new shooter splatfest with a virus that "took advantage of a buffer overflow bug in Outlook to inject malicious code into the host operating system and establish root-level control of the computer."Richard has other problems, some big enough to pose a threat to the world currency market. Eek! Fortunately, nepotism be damned, he's hired his adopted niece to do a little consulting, and she turns out to have the wherewithal to give Geena Davis and Uma Thurman a run for the money in the hot-chicks-with-mad-ninja-skills department. Young Zula has solid possibilities. For one thing, she's babelicious, "black/Arab with an unmistakable hint of Italian." For another, she's got dual degrees in geology and computer science, which come in very handy when she has to scale impenetrable mountains on the hunt for renegade computer jocks. A bonus: She's quick to learn her way around a shotgun, and her boyfriend isn't too shabby, either, even though they have a habit of getting into bad predicaments: "As minutes went by and the novelty of being on a private jet wore off, Zula began to understand the same thing that Peter did, which was that they were not meant to get out of this alive." There are bad guys aplenty, and they're more diverse than an IHOP menu: There are Russians and Chinese, mutually distrustful, and a small army of very bad jihadists, the kind who give good Muslims a bad name. There are hackers and counterhackers, spies versus spies. And then there are Richard's kinfolk, the Brothers Karamazov with heavy weapons.
Who'll prevail? We don't know till the very end, thanks to Stephenson's knife-sharp skills as a storyteller. An intriguing yarn—most geeky, and full of satisfying mayhem.
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By Neal Stephenson
William MorrowCopyright © 2011 Neal Stephenson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE FORTHRAST FARM
Richard kept his head down. Not all those cow pies were frozen,
and the ones that were could turn an ankle. He'd limited his
baggage to a carry on, so the size 11's weaving their way among
the green brown mounds were meshy black cross-trainers that you
could practically fold in half and stuff into a pocket. He could have
gone to Walmart this morning and bought boots. The reunion,
however, would have noticed, and made much of, such an extravagance.
Two dozen of his relatives were strung out in clumps along the
barbed-wire fence to his right, shooting into the ravine or reloading.
The tradition had started as a way for some of the younger boys to
blow off steam during the torturous wait for turkey and pie. In the
old days, once they'd gotten back to Grandpa's house from Thanksgiving
church service and changed out of their miniature coats and
ties, they would burst out the doors and sprint half a mile across the
pasture, trailed by a few older men to make sure that matters didn't
get out of hand, and shoot .22s and Daisies down into the crick.
Now grown up with kids of their own, they showed up for the reunion
with shotguns, hunting rifles, and handguns in the backs of their
The fence was rusty, but its posts of Osage orange wood were
unrotted. Richard and John, his older brother, had put it up forty
years ago to keep livestock from straying down into the crick. The
stream was narrow enough that a grown man could cross it with a
stride, but cattle were not made for striding, or bred for intelligence,
and could always contrive some way to get themselves into terrible
straits along its steep, crumbling banks. The same feature made it
an ideal firing range. Summer had been dry and autumn cold, so the
crick was running low under a paper-thin glaze of ice, and the bank
above it threw up gouts of loose dirt wherever it stopped a bullet.
This made it easy for the shooters to correct their aim. Through his
ear protectors, Richard could hear the voices of helpful onlookers:
"You're about three inches low. Six inches to the right." The boom
of the shotguns, the snap of the .22s, and the pow, pow, pow of the
semiautomatic handguns were reduced to a faint patter by the
electronics in the hearing protectorshard-shell earmuffs with volume
knobs sticking out of themwhich he'd stuffed into his bag yesterday,
almost as an afterthought.
He kept flinching. The low sun shone in the face of a two hundred
foot tall wind turbine in the field across the crick, and its blades cast
long scything shadows over them. He kept sensing the sudden onrush
of a bar of darkness that flicked over him without effect and went on
its way to be followed by another and another. The sun above blinking
on and off with each cut of a blade. This was all new. In his younger
days, it had only been the grain elevators that proved the existence
of a world beyond the horizon; but now they had been supplanted
and humbled by these pharaonic towers rearing their heads above
the prairie, the only thing about this landscape that had ever been
capable of inspiring awe. Something about their being in motion, in a
place where everything else was almost pathologically still, seized the
attention; they always seemed to be jumping out at you from behind
Despite the wind, the small muscles of his face and scalpthe
parents of headacheswere relaxed for the first time since he had
come back to Iowa. When he was in the public spaces of the reunion,
the lobby of the Ramada, the farmhouse, the football game in the
side yardhe always felt that all eyes were on him. It was different
here, where one had to attend to one's weapons, to make sure that
the barrels were always pointed across the barbed wire. When Richard
was seen, it was during terse, one-on-one conversations, spoken
DIS-TINCT-LY through ear protection.
Younger relations, rookie in-laws, and shirttails called him Dick,
a name that Richard had never used because of its association, in his
youth, with Nixon. He would answer to Richard or to the nickname
Dodge. During the long drive here from their homes in the exurbs
of Chicago or Minneapolis or St. Louis, the parents would brief the
kids on who was who, some of them even brandishing hard copies
of the family tree and dossiers of photos. Richard was pretty sure
that when they ventured out onto Richard's branch of the family
treeand a long, stark, forkless branch it wasthey got a certain
look in their eyes that the kids could read in the rear view mirror, a
tone of voice that in this part of the country said more than words
were ever allowed to. When Richard encountered them along the
firing line, he could see as much in their faces. Some of them would
not meet his eye at all. Others met it too boldly, as if to let him know
that they were on to him.
He accepted a broken twelve gauge side-by-side from a stout
man in a camouflage hat whom he recognized vaguely as the second
husband of his second cousin Willa. Keeping his face, and the barrel
of the weapon, toward the barbed wire fence, he let them stare at
the back of his ski parka as he bit the mitten from his left hand and
slid a pair of shells into the warm barrels. On the ground several
yards out, just where the land dropped into the ravine, someone
had set up a row of leftover Halloween pumpkins, most of which
were already blasted to pie filling and fanned across the dead brown
weeds. Richard snapped the gun together, raised it, packed its butt
in snugly against his shoulder, got his body weight well forward,
and drew the first trigger back. The gun stomped him, and the base
of a pumpkin jumped up and thought about rolling away. He caught
it with the second barrel. Then he broke the weapon, snatched out
the hot shells, let them fall to the ground, and handed the shotgun
to the owner with an appreciative nod.
"You do much hunting up there at your Schloss, Dick?" asked
a man in his twenties: Willa's stepson. He said it loudly. It was hard
to tell whether this was the orange foam plugs stuffed into his ears
Richard smiled. "None at all," he replied. "Pretty much everything
in my Wikipedia entry is wrong."
The young man's smile vanished. His eyes twitched, taking
in Richard's $200 electronic hearing protectors, and then looked
down, as if checking for cow pies.
Though Richard's Wikipedia entry had been quiet lately, in
the past it had been turbulent with edit wars between mysterious
people, known only by their IP addresses, who seemed to want to
emphasize aspects of his life that now struck him as, while technically
true, completely beside the point. Fortunately this had all happened
after Dad had become too infirm to manipulate a mouse, but
it didn't stop younger Forthrasts.
Richard turned around and began to mosey back the way he
had come. Shotguns were not really his favorite. They were
relegated to the far end of the firing line. At the near end, beside a
motorcade of hastily parked SUVs, eight and ten year old children,
enveloped in watchful grown-ups, maintained a peppery fusillade
from bolt-action .22s.
Directly in front of Richard was a party of five men in their
late teens and early twenties, orbited by a couple of aspirant fifteen
year olds. The center of attention was an assault rifle, a so-called
black gun, military style, no wood, no camouflage, no pretense that
it was made for hunting. The owner was Len, Richard's first cousin
once removed, currently a grad student in entomology at the
University of Minnesota. Len's red, wind-chapped hands were gripping
an empty thirty-round magazine. Richard, flinching every so often
when a shotgun went off behind him, watched Len force three
cartridges into the top of the magazine and then hand it to the young
man who was currently in possession of the rifle. Then he stepped
around behind the fellow and talked him patiently through the
process of socketing the magazine, releasing the bolt carrier, and
flipping off the safety.
Richard swung wide behind them and found himself passing
through a looser collection of older men, some relaxing in
collapsible chairs of camo-print fabric, others firing big old hunting
rifles. He liked their mood better but sensedand perhaps he was
being too sensitivethat they were a little relieved when he kept
He only came to the reunion every two or three years. Age and
circumstance had afforded him the luxury of being the family
genealogist. He was the compiler of those family trees that the moms
unfurled in the SUVs. If he could get their attention for a few
minutes, stand them up and tell them stories of the men who had
owned, fired, and cleaned some of the guns that were now speaking
out along the fencenot the Glocks or the black rifles, of course,
but the single-action revolvers, the 1911s, the burnished lever-action
.30-30she'd make them understand that even if what he'd done
did not comport with their ideas of what was right, it was more true
to the old ways of the family than how they were living.
But why did he even rile himself up this way?
Thus distracted, he drifted in upon a small knot of people, mostly
in their twenties, firing handguns.
In a way he couldn't quite put his finger on, these had an altogether
different look and feel from the ones who swarmed around
Len. They were from a city. Probably a coastal city. Probably West
Coast. Not L.A. Somewhere between Santa Cruz and Vancouver.
A man with longish hair, tattoos peeking out from the sleeves of
the five layers of fleece and raincoat he'd put on to defend himself
from Iowa, was holding a Glock 17 out in front of him, carefully
and interestedly pocking nine-millimeter rounds at a plastic milk
jug forty feet away. Behind him stood a woman, darker skinned
and haired than any here, wearing big heavy-rimmed glasses that
Richard thought of as Gen X glasses even though Gen X must be an
ancient term now. She was smiling, having a good time. She was in
love with the young man who was shooting.
Their emotional openness, more than their hair or clothing,
marked them as not from around here. Richard had come out of
this place with the reserved, even hard-bitten style that it seemed to
tattoo into its men. This had driven half a dozen girlfriends crazy
until he had finally made some progress toward lifting it. But, when
it was useful, he could drop it like a portcullis.
The young woman had turned toward him and thrust her pink
gloves up in the air in a gesture that, from a man, meant "Touchdown!"
and, from a woman, "I will hug you now!" Through a smile
she was saying something to him, snapped into fragments as the
earmuffs neutralized a series of nine-millimeter bangs.
A precursor of shock came over the girl's face as she realized he
isn't going to remember me. But in that moment, and because of that
look, Richard knew her. Genuine delight came into his face. "Sue!"
he exclaimed, and thenfor sometimes it paid to be the family
genealogistcorrected himself: "Zula!" And then he stepped
forward and hugged her carefully. Beneath the layers, she was bone
slender, as always. Strong though. She pulled herself up on tiptoe to
mash her cheek against his, and then let go and bounced back onto
the heels of her huge insulated boots.
He knew everything, and nothing, about her. She must be in
her middle twenties now. A couple of years out of college. When
had he last seen her?
Probably not since she had been in college. Which meant that,
during the handful of years that Richard had absentmindedly
neglected to think about her, she had lived her entire life.
In those days, her look and her identity had not extended much
beyond her back story: an Eritrean orphan, plucked by a church mission
from a refugee camp in the Sudan, adopted by Richard's sister,
Patricia, and her husband, Bob, re-orphaned when Bob went on the
lam and Patricia died suddenly. Readopted by John and his wife,
Alice, so that she could get through high school.
Richard was ransacking his extremely dim memories of John
and Alice's last few Christmas letters, trying to piece together the
rest. Zula had attended college not far awayIowa State? Done
something practicalan engineering degree. Gotten a job, moved
"You're looking great!" he said, since it was time to say something,
and this seemed harmless.
"So are you," she said.
He found this a little off-putting, since it was such transparent
BS. Almost forty years ago, Richard and some of his friends had
been bombing down a local road on some ridiculous teenaged quest
and found themselves stuck behind a slow driving farmer. One of
them, probably with the assistance of drugs, had noticed a
similaritywhich, once pointed out, was undeniablebetween
Richard's wide, ruddy cliff of a face and the back end of the red pickup
truck ahead of them. Thus the nickname Dodge. He kept wondering
when he was going to develop the aquiline, silver-haired good looks of the men
in the prostate medication ads on their endless seaplane junkets and fly
fishing idylls. Instead he was turning out
to be an increasingly spready and mottled version of what he had
been at thirty-five. Zula, on the other hand, actually was looking
great. Black/Arab with an unmistakable dash of Italian. A
spectacular nose that in other families and circumstances would have
gone under the knife. But she'd figured out that it was beautiful
with those big glasses perched on it. No one would mistake her for a
model, but she'd found a look. He could only conjecture what style
pheromones Zula was throwing off to her peers, but to him it was
a sort of hyperspace-librarian, girl-geek thing that he found clever
and fetching without attracting him in a way that would have been
Excerpted from Reamde by Neal Stephenson Copyright © 2011 by Neal Stephenson. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
- Seattle, Washington
- Date of Birth:
- October 31, 1959
- Place of Birth:
- Fort Meade, Maryland
- B.A., Boston University, 1981
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The size of this book is going to turn some people off. The depth of this book might do in some more, but it is exactly these things that keep Neal Stephenson fans coming back and spending a lot of time getting through them. When people see me carry this massive doorstop around (and seriously, this thing could be used as a murder weapon) they would inevitably ask me about it and the author. I would always start off by saying Stephenson writes science fiction, but then I would immediately backtrack. He writes fiction that is heavily involved with science, but not spaceships and aliens. Rather it is the cutting edge technology that infuses our lives today. But then he layers in history and philosophy in such fresh ways that it keeps me thinking about it for years to come. As for the size of the book, it includes every aspect of the narrative in such subtle layers the story just organically builds from one level to the next. The whole time it gentle ratchets up the tension to reach one thrilling climax. What is most enjoyable of his work is the sheer amount of knowledge he lays on the reader without once relying on gratuitous explanatory text, rather he just seamlessly blends in detail descriptions and factual references into the action. One character doesn't understand something and the expert character explains it in a very concise and clear manner. The opposite of most medical TV shows where one Doctor will explain the most basic things to another (really for the audience). Honestly I would really enjoy the other Doctor on the show to say something like "No shoot Sherlock, I went to medical school too." This book starts out as a family drama, moves to a Russian mob story, then to a computer hacker plot, then to a terrorist attack, all building to a showdown in the mountains. I really loved as I started getting to the end and all the main players, both good and bad, were all converging together from all possible angles for the showdown of all showdowns. You could sense it coming and the pages flew by until you get the gun battle. A lot of reviewers have focused on this 150 page plus scene but it is worth it as you get to see every character reach their story's conclusion. There is no I wonder what happened to moments at all; Stephenson covers it all. I am giving this 4.5 stars only because I accept this just won't be for all people. Generally 5 star means that I think if you do not like this book then there is something wrong with you. 4 stars mean I really love this book but get it that some people will not. Reamde is an amazing techno-thriller that is well worth your time investment. It is the only thing which holds me back, it is that time investment. Most books I read I know I could just gut it out and be done in a day, with Stephenson I have to accept that I cannot do this. I have to commit to several good days reading and accept all the other books I cannot read at the same time. Much like Phoebe making all the cookie varieties so they won't feel bad about being left out, Stephenson is committing to just the one variety once and a while.
It's pretty crazy, but in this modern age some authors still expect to get money in exchange for writing a one thousand page book for you to enjoy. Scoundrels! Also, I'm about half way through the book and so far it's fantastic. Any Neal Stephenson fans reading this, it's well worth the 17 dollars(which is less then half the cover price and you can buy it from your couch at home without paying for shipping or having to wait for it to be shipped).
Neal Stephenson has written books that will stretch your mind and make you wake up in the middle of the night years later as your subconscious continues to work through their implications. Most of these books are also funny, gripping page-turners that will deprive you from sleep until you finish them. This is Stephenson's first book that's a member only of the second category. It reads like a screenplay of a really good summer action movie for a smart audience with clever dialogue and awesome special effects -- and a few days after you finish it, you won't remember any of it. If you're a Stephenson fan, you've already bought it and read it. If you're not (yet) a fan, you might actually be more impressed with some of his earlier work. I would hate for a new reader to enjoy Reamde and then pass on Cryptonomicon because you get the mistaken impression that the author is gifted with an awesome command of English but hasn't got much worth saying in it. He's actually a writer whose work will be read decades from now by people who want to understand us and our times better.
so nice to see Stephenson writing so directly again. I am taking a stab at anathem, also, and the artifice he writes there inflects and makes artificial, to my ear, the prose. This book has the direct tone of Snow Crash, freeing Stephenson for the great observational character I like so much from him.
Maybe less cerebral then his "Crytonomicon", but much more fun. Would great ensemble cast movie as the great characters scatter and re hook-up. Think of "24" type story, but instead of Jack Bauer you have a bunch of unique type characters that are just thrown together.
Not only did I order the hardback so I could lend it to people, I went back and started it over immediately after finishing it - something I've never done before. The time I've spent in EQ and WoW contributed a lot to my enjoyment of the in-game action and background, but the mix of action and insights into people and processes would have been enough to make it a great book.
I have read other Stephenson stories (Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age) and enjoyed them. However, reaMdE was a disappointment. It was like Tron cross-bred with Jason Bourne, but lacking an overall idea what it all meant. The fascinating beginning involving the multi-player game T'Rain and the reaMdE virus that was infecting and subverting that world seemed like the start of a really interesting story. Then....Stephenson turns the focus on a band of Jihadists and the rest of the story seems designed for NRA gun aficionados. Excessive numbers of pages are devoted to detailed descriptions of the gun and martial arts battles (standard fare in today's movies, which I'd hoped to avoid in more literate matter). The master hacker gets carried along in all this Jason Bourne action-movie storyline and even meets T'Rain's master Richard. But, at the end, nothing of his role as virus maker, his possible future or relationship with the main character, Richard Forthrast, is ever resolved. In effect, it seems like two separate stories, each incomplete, and neither one with a large vision -- just another action pic. It should satisfy the "Dark Knight Rises" crowd, but doesn't really provide much of substance, notwithstanding its loose ends. In summary: borrow it from your local library, but don't waste your "red gold" on this one.
Great way to escape at the end of a long day, like watching a James Bond or Indiana Jones movie. A present day setting, realistic characters and situations thrown together in an extreme way for a rollercoaster ride that took several nights to get through. Enough Stephenson to reward you with a well thought out story with continuity, description and twists and turns. I didn't have to look up as much as I did during the Barouqe trilogy, therefore a much quicker and easier read. To the reviewer who got hung up on the $73 ransom, you totally missed the point. To the reviewer hung up on the violence, it fit the context of the adventure that Stephenson was trying to craft. He didn't dwell on it, but was required to remove certain characters from the plot to get to his desired ending. To the reviewer and others who thought reamde was a cheap ploy to get us to read the book, not the case at all. The readme.txt or readme.nfo file, is a file that is often included with software or file packages to give the user an overview, release notes, instruction, etc. Hackers and virus writers typically plant their payload in files that are named and spelled a certain way as to attract the sloppy clicker. Often misspelling or changing a character or two in the infected file to fool the human mind into taking the bait. Hacking and the computer virus scam was a major plot device hence it's inclusion as the story's title. Who would have thought a story with terrorists, chinese gold farmers, Russian organized crime, an MMORPG, British spys, navy seal-esque lone wolf with a one man agenda, pennies make dollars virtual scam, off the grid militia men, billionaires, iowa farmboys, a Mensa-smart american raised refugee and a mountain lion would make a good story? Stephenson did and so did I after I finished the ride.
Reminded me of one of those epic adventure dreams I used to have when I was young...heightened color, slow-motion choreography of gun battles and pursuit of and by ruthless criminals, fractal detail wherever I looked. But it left some loose ends, and the two main story lines which literally started their conjoined life in an explosion seemed to lose strength as the adventure unwound.
Several of Neal Stephenson's books are quite hard going, and all the more rewarding for that. This one is a fairly easy read, but probably best described as engrossing but shallow. From many other authors, REAMDE would have been worth five stars, but this is not from another author. Basically, I was disappointed. Unlike, say Cryptonomicom, or The Baroque Cycle, or Anathem, it didn't engage my mind and I don't feel enriched by having read it.
I've always come away from a Stephenson novel with the desire to learn more about some aspect of the work: virtual reality, nanotech, cryptology, geometry, banking and finance(???) among other things. Not the case here. While I did enjoy the novel well enough it became clear fairly early on how it would end. It became a question of how all the pieces would come together - something with which he did an admirable job ***SPOILER***(perhaps with the exception of the deus ex catamount.)
I was very happy to hear about a Neal Stephenson book in the style of Snow Crash. At 160 pages in I find I can't sleep or do anything else but read this book. Enjoy.
Peter saw an opportunity to make some fast cash. However, he handed the Russian mafia a virus infected thumb drive that was destroying their encrypted data base. Ivanov the customer is unhappy but wants more than just his money back and his files freed; he wants to scatter Peter's remains across the states before his comrades learn what happened and scatters his. His girlfriend Zula takes him from their home in Seattle to her black sheep Uncle Richard's farm in Iowa. When Nixon was president, Richard fled to British Columbia to avoid the draft; there he became a millionaire smuggling marijuana into Idaho. Years later with Carter amnesty, Richard used his money to create his remote "farm" in which his niece and her boyfriend visit him. However, his biggest success since he stopped trafficking is T'Rain multiplayer virtual game; that is until now, as hackers in China have deployed the REAMDE virus that encrypts a player's electronic files until remittance is made to release them. This is an exciting international thriller starring two black sheep and the woman who connects them. The story line travels the globe while containing engaging spins and a horde of characters from many points around the world. Although at times the subplots go seemingly forever nowhere, overall readers will enjoy the adventures of Zula and the two rogues in her life. Harriet Klausner
This book gives a nerd everything they can ask for. Gaming. Hacking. Guns. Explosions. The wgile nine.
Drags and drags.
I don't write book reports. Read it.
This book was all over the place. With most novelists, I'd mean that as a problem, but with Stephenson it's just how the story unfolded. Going from virtual space to physical space everywhere from Canada to China and quite a few places in between, this novel looks at how our interactions in virtual worlds can spill over into the "real" world. And it does with in an engaging manner with just enough action and suspense to keep the reader hooked.
Can a book that clocks in at just over 1000 pages be a riveting page-turner? In this case, the answer is an emphatic "Yes!" Stephenson intertwines the sagas of several main players, all uniquely characterized, in a novel that spans the globe from the US to China. Drug smuggling, Russian mobsters, charismatic terrorists, virtual reality computer gaming, international spies, computer geeks, money-laundering - they're all there and they all combine to form this highly entertaining novel. Precise detail never detracts from the non-stop pacing of the story, and a book that at first looks to be a massive undertaking all to soon approaches an ending that is disappointing only because it means the end of this superlative accomplishement.
Another great read by an author from whom I will now read everything that they publish as soon as I get my hands on it.