Reamde (en español)

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Overview

En 1972, Richard Forthrast, la oveja negra de un clan de Iowa, huyeron a las montañas de British Columbia para evitar una redada. Un guía experto en caza, manejaba una fortuna hecha con marihuana de contrabando en la frontera entre Canadá y Idaho. Al pasar los años, Richard regresó a los Estados después de que el gobierno americano concediera la amnistía a los desertores. El transformó su riqueza en un imperio y desarrolló un complejo remoto en el que podía vivir. También creó T'Rain, un juego multimillonario ...

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Overview

En 1972, Richard Forthrast, la oveja negra de un clan de Iowa, huyeron a las montañas de British Columbia para evitar una redada. Un guía experto en caza, manejaba una fortuna hecha con marihuana de contrabando en la frontera entre Canadá y Idaho. Al pasar los años, Richard regresó a los Estados después de que el gobierno americano concediera la amnistía a los desertores. El transformó su riqueza en un imperio y desarrolló un complejo remoto en el que podía vivir. También creó T'Rain, un juego multimillonario para jugadores en masa, y para jugarlo en línea, con millones de fans alrededor del mundo. Pero el éxito T'Rain también lo ha convertido en un objetivo. Los hackers han encontrado oro dando rienda suelta a REAMDE, un virus que encripta todos los archivos electrónicos del jugador y las mantiene hasta pedir rescate.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Neal Stephenson never does anything half way. His 2600-page Baroque Cycle is only the most gargantuan of his prodigious book projects, which also include Anathem and Cryptonomicon. With Reamde, he pulls out the stops again with a 960-page epic about Richard Forthrast, a misfit marijuana smuggler/entrepreneur who becomes ensnared in a money-laundering scheme involving World of Warcraft and Chinese gold farmers. Like Stephenson's other productions, this novel is more addictive than easily describable and is guaranteed to excite his huge voracious fan base.

Publishers Weekly
Stephenson (Anathem), the master of meandering, inconclusive plots, delivers a sprawling thriller that shows him in complete control of his story, regardless of the many digressions and a host of characters. Zula Forthrast’s unfortunate taste in boyfriends catapults her into a breakneck adventure spanning two continents and several increasingly dangerous criminal gangs. What looks like a chance to make a quick buck turns sour when the Russian mafia discover that Zula’s conniving boyfriend, Peter, inadvertently handed their representative a virus-infected thumb drive that holds all of the mafia’s encrypted data. Peter and Zula find themselves prisoners of the menacing and desperate Ivanov and dragged to Xiamen, China, in a last-ditch effort to confront the hackers responsible before Ivanov’s bosses learn what has happened. Complications ensue when the gangsters raid an apartment belonging not to the rather hapless hackers but instead to the notorious terrorist Abdallah Jones and his well-armed compatriots, into whose hands Zula falls. The plot snowballs from there, toward a violent conclusion near the U.S.-Canadian border. Author tour. (Oct.)
Wall Street Journal
“There’s an intellectual pill buried deep in Mr. Stephenson’s narrative candy, one powerful enough that he deserves to be classified as a major national and international resource.”
Popular Mechanics
“The cult legend’s newest book, Anathem, [is] destined to be an instant sci-fi classic.”
USA Today
“Fascinating...hysterical.”
International Herald Tribune
“[Stephenson] makes reading so much fun it feels like a deadly sin.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Reamde is an entertainment, an emormous, giddily complex one. There’s no telling what Stephenson might be planning for his next novel, but now’s the time to dive into a first-rate intellectual thriller without fear of being overwhelmed by its virtuosity.”
The Guardian
“REAMDE combines meticulous observation of the stranger socioeconomic effects wrought by technology with rousing fusillades of adventure.”
Boston Globe
“Expertly crafted and often gorgeously written.”
New York Times Book Review
“Electrifying . . . hilarious...a picaresque novel about code making and code breaking, set both during World War II and during the present day.”
Pittsburgh Tribune
“A story that, despite its gargantuan heft, speeds along like a bullet train....The depth of the story, the attention to detail, the interlocking narratives and fine characterizations mark REAMDE as an immersive literary experience.”
Time Out London
“This is a book about science and philosophy which demands the full concentration of the reader -a worthwhile, smart, exciting read.”
Wired
“A hell of a read.”
Washington Post Book World
“In less masterful hands, this pile-up of implausible coincidences, madcap romance, technological mayhem and nail-biting suspense might have been a train wreck, but Stephenson pulls it off. REAMDE has one of the most satisfyingly over-the-top endings of anything I’ve read in years. ”
Slate
“Intertwined the tale of an Internet startup with a Greatest Generation flashback, as if the author had foreseen both the Nasdaq bubble and Saving Private Ryan.”
Time magazine
“What ever happened to the great novel of ideas? It has morphed into science fiction, and Stephenson is its foremost practitioner. A-”
Bloomberg News
“REAMDE is...one big, carefully choreographed, jet-set square-dance of mayhem.”
Sunday Sun (UK)
“Stephenson displays his ingenuity when it comes to mixing science, sociology and satire with swashbuckling adventure. Anathem marries extensive scientific and philosophical dialogues to cliffhangers, hi-tech warfare and derring-do.”
Mental_Floss
“Neal Stephenson has guts, a killer story, and—for the first time since Cryptonomicon—a thriller I can thoroughly recommend to any reader....With REAMDE we have a very smart page-turner—a global chess game expertly played.”
Entertainment Weekly(A)
“An engrossing look at the way the flow of information shapes history.”
Press Association (England) on REAMDE
“Nobody else writes like Stephenson”
Mental_Floss on REAMDE
“Neal Stephenson has guts, a killer story, and—for the first time since Cryptonomicon—a thriller I can thoroughly recommend to any reader....With REAMDE we have a very smart page-turner—a global chess game expertly played.”
Stranger magazine
“Even at a thousand pages, Reamde is sprightly enough to jump between 9 or 10 plot threads without getting tangled up in itself, and, refreshingly, it does so without employing the annoying modern thriller trend of rat-a-tat sprays of two-page chapters.”
Tor.com
“It’s hard to sum up a 1,000 page tome in a short review, so if you don’t feel like reading this rather long one, I’ll boil it down to three words: I loved it.”
www.fantasyliterature.com
“After a decade of novels set in 18th century Europe and in alternate universes, Neal Stephenson triumphantly returns as a bestselling author to contemporary America.”
OakPark.Patch.com
“Stephenson, best-known for his genre-hopping novels, tackles tech-terrorism in Reamde.”
Wall Street Journal on REAMDE
“There’s an intellectual pill buried deep in Mr. Stephenson’s narrative candy, one powerful enough that he deserves to be classified as a major national and international resource.”
International Herald Tribune on REAMDE
“[Stephenson] makes reading so much fun it feels like a deadly sin.”
fantasyliterature.com
“After a decade of novels set in 18th century Europe and in alternate universes, Neal Stephenson triumphantly returns as a bestselling author to contemporary America.”
Press Association (England)
“Nobody else writes like Stephenson”
Library Journal
After the best-selling Anathem, Stephenson's latest blockbuster introduces Dodge Forthrast, a legendary gamer, famous for his illegal past and for T'Rain, the hugely successful real-time strategy game he created. When teenage hackers in China unleash a computer virus named Reamde in T'Rain, the virus interrupts the daily business of the criminal underworld, who use the virtual world of T'Rain to launder real-world dollars. The plot intensifies both inside the game and around the globe, as gamers, fantasy writers, and hackers try to outplay a wide range of bad guys including the Russian mob, Islamic terrorists, and MI6. VERDICT Stephenson continues to deliver cyberthrillers packed equally with detailed backstory and action adventure. It is a great crossover recommendation for sf readers interested in thrillers and for fans of spy novels who appreciate intricate plotlines and technical detail. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/11.]—Catherine Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Who lives by the joystick dies by the joystick: Noir futurist Stephenson (Anathem, 2008, etc.) returns to cyberia with this fast-moving though sprawling techno-thriller.

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.

The Barnes & Noble Review

Neal Stephenson is a force of nature. His massive, sui generis books—which originate, according to the press kit at his extravagant online project The Mongoliad, as "tens of thousands of pages in longhand"—thrust themselves up regularly out of his oceanic consciousness like the volcanic island of Surtsey boiling titanically out of the sea—only not mere naked rock but overgrown with a whole ecology of ideas, thus startling and bemusing viewers with the wonders of his fecund universe.

These books are generally complex and ramified depictions of geopolitical/technological/cultural landscapes, postmodern novels of the type that the critic Tom LeClair has branded "systems novels." (And, in fact, one of Stephenson's novels is actually titled The System of the World.) Famously produced by writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Robert Coover, and William Vollman, the information- dense systems novel concerns itself with analysis of both the underlying structures of the world and their transgressive interstices. Plot and character are often non-naturalistic, defying traditional readerly expectations.

Stephenson's previous novel, Anathem, was precisely such a book, building a weird alternate universe of science monks and alien spaceships from the ground up, in order to highlight the hidden metaphysical structures and biases of our own continuum. However, Stephenson never precisely repeats himself from one book to the next (save when in the midst of his Baroque Trilogy). With Reamde, he's certainly maintained his interest in charting and phlebotomizing the hidden arteries of society. But he's also chosen to step back from a full- blown systems novel and to couch this examination in the form of a pure thriller, a mode he's essayed before with his two collaborative novels, Interface and The Cobweb. The result is akin to Charles Stross's Halting State or Cory Doctorow's Makers or Walter Jon Williams's This Is Not a Game, with a bit of Pynchon's Inherent Vice to spice the stew. It's suspenseful, ruefully humorous, gloriously mimetic, and utterly au courant. At the same time it subtly winkles out, with terahertz- scanner acuity, the concealed struts and fractures in our dominant paradigms. Consequently, this might be the most accessible and sheerly entertaining book Stephenson has done since his midcareer masterpieces Snow Crash and The Diamond Age.

Let us begin, as Stephenson does, with Richard "Dodge" Forthrast, multimillionaire. A humble, brilliantly geeky, yet ultra-capable middle- aged chap, Richard began to accumulate his fortune while running dope across the U.S.-Canada border in the seventies. He parlayed that stake, through sheer ingenuity and some good luck, into T'Rain, a wildly popular online gaming empire akin to World of Warcraft (their biggest competitor). Now he's a semi-retired yet still harried, micromanaging Founder, longing for his freedom-filled youth.

While attending the annual Forthrast family reunion at Thanksgiving, Richard encounters his young niece Zula, once a child refugee from Eretria, but for a couple of decades now a corn-fed Iowa girl in all but looks. Impressed with Zula's computer skills for running esoteric simulations, he hires her. Unfortunately, Zula has a jerky boyfriend, Peter, whom Richard is forced to consort with from time to time if he wishes to share Zula's company. But what neither Richard nor Zula realizes is that Peter, another hacker, is busy selling stolen credit card numbers to the Russian mafia. And through accidental infection with the new REAMDE virus, his new digital shipment of numbers has caused a royal screw-up for the gangsters. Trouble for Peter—and Zula—follows with breathtaking speed.

This setup occupies merely the first hundred out of nearly a thousand pages of jam-packed, explosively unpredictable, retrospectively ineluctable, wildly hairy, gut-knotting events. I am going to cite a few plot points, of course, to illustrate my observations, but shall cloak the instances in a certain degree of generality, so as not to spoil the gasp- out-loud surprises in store for the lucky readers of a book it's hard not to describe through amusement-park metaphors.

But first, please meet, more or less in the order of their appearance, a few additional characters essential to the discussion:

Richard's two brothers: Jake, a wilderness-ensconced survivalist, and John, "acting patriarch" of the Forthrast clan.

Sokolov, an unforgiving but ethical, ultra-efficient Russian mercenary and killer.

Csongor, an overweight Hungarian hacker employed by the Russians.

Marlon, young Chinese hacker and creator of REAMDE.

Yuxia, a Chinese guide and self-identified "Bigfoot Woman" from a minority tribe.

Abdallah Jones, terrorist, West Indian by ethnicity, British slum kid otherwise.

Olivia Halifax-Lin, Asian-descended U.K. citizen and MI6 secret agent.

Seamus Costello, U.S. black-ops specialist on the trail of Jones.

These stars of an extensive troupe are all portrayed with a degree of larger-than-life vitality that makes them practically bolt off the page. They sparkle, they hurt, they plot, they ponder, they love. They act and react. Their varied backstories have been crafted with care by Stephenson and inserted into the action at just the right points. Abdallah Jones, for instance, emerges as a frightening yet completely human figure, both opaque and comprehensible, pitiable and detestable. The quirky interactions among the cast—and all the major players do eventually cross paths, amid much confusion and debriefing—constitute half the pleasures of this book. Their dialogue, consisting mainly of a wiseass demotic, rich with clever Runyonesque japes, is pure pleasure to parse. If you do not cherish every one of these complex folks by novel's end, even the villains, then there's something wrong with your mirror neurons.

At first, we live solely inside Richard's dense, fanciful consciousness, thinking the narrative will follow him exclusively, and it's a shock when we first jump to another point-of-view. But Stephenson's merry-go- round of sequential narrative privileging is handled with brilliant finesse, and in fact serves as a mechanism of suspense in its own right. For instance, we lose track of Sokolov at one point for over 200 pages, just after he's been left stranded. And while the jaw-dropping incidents during that gap are utterly riveting, we're also subconsciously anxious about his fate.

These alternating perspectives drive a narrative carousel that flings us through innumerable cliffhanger moments, decorated with insanely great details, both arcane and cosmopolitan, rendered in a crystalline prose the seems to reel out by the yard. Eventually, the story settles into shape as a global odyssey that will climax in Richard Forthrast's old druggy stomping grounds and involve every major character at once. You can practically hear Raymond Scott's famous cartoon theme "Powerhouse" running continuously throughout the book.

It's a clich? to call a book cinematic, but no other word fits this very visual, very plot-driven affair. If the Coen brothers (The Big Lebowski) were to join forces with David O. Russell (Flirting with Disaster) and Martin Scorsese (After Hours), they might come close to filming this madcap affair. But the hidden template here is an even older movie: It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. The invaluable site TV Tropes identifies two key elements of Mad World: Epic Race and A Simple Plan (Gone Wrong). Both are here. But I like to employ my own critical term: Serendipitous Cascade. One event after another, some gratuitous, some intentional, are yoked with seeming inevitability to produce the most unlikely, unforeseeable, yet inevitable consequences. Hitchcock's North by Northwest is another prime example of this technique. All the while, Stephenson's penchant for world-system analysis is going on in the background. The key areas of interest are entrepreneurship, spying, terrorism, family ties, and computer gaming. Stephenson has insightful things to reveal about all these topics, and some lesser ones too. For instance, here's Olivia's spy boss running matters down for her education:

The American national security apparatus is very large and unfathomably complex?. It has many departments and subunits that, one supposes, would not survive a top-to-bottom overhaul. This feeds on itself as individual actors, despairing of ever being able to make sense of it all, create their own little ad hoc bits that become institutionalized as money flows toward them. Those who are good at playing the political game are drawn inward to Washington. Those who are not end up sitting in hotel lobbies in places like Manila, waiting for people like you.
If only we could have half as cogent an explanation of the Global War on Terror (GWOT, in Stephenson's acronym) from our actual leaders.

Surprisingly, the least intriguing (but still fascinating) area of the book is the computer gaming thread, the world of T'Rain, its creation and upheavals. True, without the MacGuffin of REAMDE, the rest of the events would not have been triggered. And while Stephenson does have a lot of funny, perceptive stuff to say about massive, multiplayer gaming and the fantasy novel mentality that drives much of it (see a hilarious parody of some Tolkienesque writing on page 202), this realm takes a back seat to the physical shenanigans. (Although Stephenson does pull the very clever trick of letting the virtual and real worlds bleed together at times.)

But there's one very important thematic thread that manifests subtextually in a characterological manner, and that's the necessity for attaining an understanding of, and competence in manipulating, the universe as she exists. (This theme was a major part of The Diamond Age as well.) Sokolov is a good example of this, although his universe is mainly one of kill or be killed. But every other major character itemized above exhibits this same Heinleinian competence (which of course also has a moral dimension: knowing what needs to be done, you are ethically obligated to do it). Adrift off the coast of China without fuel, Csongor, Yuxia, and Marlon rig sails from some random junk and teach themselves how use them. Zula deals with her captivity by the bad guys in a dozen ingenious ways.

But it's Richard (whose family name of Forthrast echoes both "forthright" and "wrath" in my ears) who most thoroughly embodies this way of being, and who is therefore rewarded with the ultimate confrontation with Jones—no less competent in his own inhuman fashion. Stephenson makes everything explicit on page 839:
[Richard's behavior] was probably rooted in a belief that had been inculcated in 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?. 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 have to get involved.
However desirable, this attitude necessarily involves sacrifices and a certain narrowing of vision, which might partially explain why Richard has burned through five major relationships and is currently womanless. Anyhow, he's really in love only with Zula, but he is moral enough to know he can't have her.

But, as befits a classical Shakespearian comedy, by novel's end Richard is embosomed with family once more, and several weddings loom among the scarred survivors of what will surely become a landmark among madcap, truthful thrillers exhibiting both heart and brain.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award -- all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, and The San Francisco Chronicle. Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9788466647687
  • Publisher: Ediciones B
  • Publication date: 9/30/2012
  • Language: Spanish
  • Series: Nova (Ediciones B) Series
  • Edition description: Spanish-language Edition
  • Pages: 982
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Neal  Stephenson

Neal Stephenson is the author of Anathem; the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World); Cryptonomicon; The Diamond Age; Snow Crash, which was named one of Time magazine's top one hundred all-time best English-language novels; and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Biography

In Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash, human beings can immerse themselves in a computer-generated universe, and computer viruses can infect human bodies. This blurring of the boundaries between silicon and flesh seems characteristic of Stephenson, a writer whose interests in technology and engineering are inseparable from his skills as a storyteller.

Here is a novelist who talks about the "data management problem" of writing a historical novel, and who apologizes for not responding to fan mail by explaining that he has an "irremediable numerical imbalance between outgoing and incoming bandwidth."

Indeed, Stephenson seems to have a computer metaphor for almost every aspect of the writing life, even when he's not using a computer to write. He wrote the manuscript for Quicksilver in longhand, using a fountain pen. With this slower method of putting words to paper, he explained in an interview with Tech Central Station, "It's like when you're writing, there's a kind of buffer in your head where the next sentence sits while you're outputting the last one."

"Paper," Stephenson adds, is "a really good technology."

As the author of Snow Crash, Stephenson became a cult hero to cyberpunk fans and an inspiration to Silicon Valley start-ups. His Metaverse was the Internet as cutting-edge carnival, a freewheeling digital universe where a pizza-delivery driver could become a samurai warrior. "This is cyberpunk as it ought to be, and almost never is," wrote David Barrett in New Scientist.

Stephenson followed Snow Crash with The Diamond Age, which Publishers Weekly described as "simultaneously SF, fantasy and a masterful political thriller." Stephenson then broke out of the science fiction genre with Cryptonomicon, a 928-page doorstop of a book that drew comparisons to Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Cryptonomicon interweaves two cryptography-themed plots, one set in the 1990s and the other during World War II. "What cyberculture needs right now is not another science-fiction novel but its first great historical novel, and Cryptonomicon is it: an intimate genealogical portrait of the 20th century's computer geeks, great and small, and of the technosocial landscape they have more and less knowingly shaped," wrote Julian Dibbell in The Village Voice.

Hefty though it is, Cryptonomicon is a quick read compared to Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, which begins with Quicksilver and continues in two more volumes, The Confusion and The System of the World.

In Quicksilver, a historical novel set in the 17th century, Stephenson explores many of the roots of modern science, mixing meditations on calculus, chemistry and cryptography with a cast of oddball characters (and many of the real-life historical figures, including Isaac Newton, turn out to be very odd indeed).

"At first it feels like Stephenson is flaunting how much time he spent at the library, but the lure of the next wisecracking history lesson becomes the most compelling reason to keep going," wrote Slate reviewer Paul Boutin.

So how did Stephenson manage all that historical data?

"I started with a bunch of notebooks, just composition books, in which I would write notes down in chronological order as I read a particular book, or what have you," he explained in an interview on his publisher's Web site.

"Those are always there, and I can go back to them and look stuff up even when it's otherwise lost. Then, I've got timelines and timetables showing what happens when in the story. I've spent a while monkeying around with three ring binders, in which I glue pages here and there trying to figure out how to sequence things. It's a big mess. It's a big pile of stationery. Many trips to the office supply store, and many failed attempts. But in the end, as long as you can keep it in your head, that's the easiest way to manage something like this. You can move things around inside your head more easily than you can shuffle papers or cross things out on a page and rewrite them."

The three-pound processor inside the author's head, as it turns out, is a really good technology.

Good To Know

Stephenson comes from a family of scientists: His father is a professor of electrical engineering, and his mother worked in a biochemistry lab. Both his grandfathers were science professors. Stephenson himself majored in geography at Boston University, because the geography department "had the coolest computers."

Stephenson co-wrote two political thrillers, Interface and The Cobweb, under the pseudonym Stephen Bury with his uncle George Jewsbury (whose own nom de plume is J. Frederick George). "The whole idea was that 'Stephen Bury' would be a successful thriller writer and subsidize my pathetic career under the name Neal Stephenson," he told Locus magazine. "It ended up going the other way. I would guess most of the people who have bought the Stephen Bury books have done so because they know I've written them. It just goes to show there's no point in trying to plan your career."

In the Beginning... Was the Command Line, Stephenson's book-length essay on computer operating systems, complains that graphical user interfaces distort the user's understanding of computer operations. On his current Web site, Stephenson dubs the essay "badly obsolete" and notes: "For the last couple of years I have been a Mac OX user almost exclusively."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Stephen Bury (co-author pseudonym, with J. Frederick George)
    2. Hometown:
      Seattle, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 31, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Meade, Maryland
    1. Education:
      B.A., Boston University, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Reamde

A Novel
By Neal Stephenson

William Morrow

Copyright © 2011 Neal Stephenson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061977961


Chapter One

THE FORTHRAST FARM
Northwest Iowa
Thanksgiving

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 protectors—hard-shell earmuffs with volume
knobs sticking out of them—which 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
corners.
Despite the wind, the small muscles of his face and scalp—the
parents of headaches—were 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 yard—he 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
tree—and a long, stark, forkless branch it was—they 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
or sarcasm.
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 sensed—and perhaps he was
being too sensitive—that they were a little relieved when he kept
on walking.
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 fence—not the Glocks or the black rifles, of course,
but the single-action revolvers, the 1911s, the burnished lever-action
.30-30s—he'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.
Richard faltered.
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 then—for sometimes it paid to be the family
genealogist—corrected 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 away—Iowa State? Done
something practical—an engineering degree. Gotten a job, moved
somewhere.
"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
similarity—which, once pointed out, was undeniable—between
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
creepy.

(Continues...)



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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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2012

    Book descrption in ENGLISH, book in SPANISH!

    I am not happy, I was expecting a book in English.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2012

    Spanish!!!!!

    Why are thenotes in English???????
    I bought because the details are in the wrong language.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2012

    Why the crap is this in maidspeak!

    Everything else about it is in english

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