Reamde and my Fears of Large Novels

Posted February 15, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature, Thriller / 5 Comments

reamdeI don’t normally read books that are over 1000 pages and after reading Reamde, I’m a little reluctant to read something this big again. Not that there was anything wrong with this book; but sitting at over 1100 pages, it was a big task chipping away through this book. Neal Stephenson provides a story full of nerdism, thrills and a lot of action, dipping into aspects of organised crime and terrorism. My first thought of this book was the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) game that this book is based around; every aspect of this game is covered in this book. It takes all the aspects he liked about World of Warcraft and gave it a face lift, threw out all the parts he didn’t like, even going to the extent of making the world geographically accurate for people interested in mining. But the underlining reason for T’Rain, is the gold farming market; while Blizzard tries to crack down on farming, this game is based around a potential money laundry scheme. While T’Rain was created for sinister reasons, the creation of the game and the employee of popular fantasy writers turned the game into a huge success. Just reading about this game made me want to play it. This game serves as a background for the main plot in Reamde.

While there is a lot happening in Reamde, the main plot is centred around a virus, which encrypts files and hold them for ransom for T’Rain gold. This virus affects a computer containing sensitive documents of the Russian Mob, who do not wish to pay the ransom but set out to hunt down the people behind the virus and make an example of them. Along the way many people become involved including the T’Rain founder, a T’Rain employee, some Chinese gold farmers/hackers, a Russian mercenary, a Hungarian hacker, the CIA, MI6 and some international terrorists.

While I enjoyed the ride that Reamde took me on, I can’t help thinking that there is a lot of fat that needs to be trimmed. I’m not sure if being a bestselling author Neal Stephenson had the freedom to fatten this book up, or the editors didn’t do a good job, or they intentionally left the book this long; but I think that this book could haveeasily been turned into a 700-800 page novel without losing any of the plot. While this book was really enjoyable for a nerd like me, I still can’t help but wonder; does it need to be this big?

Which brings me to the point of this blog post; do you find big novels daunting? I know some people prefer a longer novel, because they are not ready to leave a world so quickly; it’s possible these people are fast readers or not so easily distracted. I often think that I tend to get bored with the world, often wishing for it to end. This could be because I’m easily distracted, or because I’m impatient and want to move onto a new book; I often procrastinate reading by reading another book. I’m just curious how people view large novels; would you prefer them or do you try to avoid them? In the past I think I would avoid them, often dreading reading books that are more the 600 pages but I’ve come to the realisation that I can’t put them off for too long. My to-read pile is growing at an alarming pace and the amount of larger novels are making me feel a little uneasy.

In the past I think my average novel is about 280-300 pages long (thank goodness for pulp novels and their need to wrap up in under 300 pages) but I’ve had to push myself to tackle some of the bigger novels. There are too many classics that need to be read and there are a few recent releases that seem to be critically acclaimed that I’ve got my eye on. Personally my reading goal is 100 books a year but maybe next year I should focus on a page count instead of trying to push myself to read 100 books. Please let me know your thoughts of larger novels; I would love to know the pros and cons of them.

5 responses to “Reamde and my Fears of Large Novels

  1. I was very disappointed with Reamde, which I thought was sold as Stephensonian cyberpunk but turned out to be a fairly pedestrian action thriller. It could definitely have been cut down (if you liked the MMORPG aspect, and wanted to see more focus on that, check out Ready Player One by Ernest Cline which is fast, fun and full of ideas).

    Reamde is even more disappointing when you note that in an interview last year he argued that science fiction authors should be writing about *big stuff* (see the link in this comment).

    And when you look at Stephenson’s recent novels such as Anathem you see big ideas expressed in big fat novels that are much better than Reamde turned out to be. I think it was just a light/commercial project in between his more serious work.

    Addressing the point of the post: big novels do require more of an investment, but the payoff can be worth it (see Anathem).

  2. Never having been a gamer, this sounds like one for me to skip. I agree, 1100 pages is a big investment of time for something that may not be worthy of it. I’ve heard some very disappointing reviews of the book. Can’t say it’s going on my to-read list.

    I do wonder, though, if our attention spans are simply dwindling? There aren’t that many books I read that I could not put down halfway through and forget about. It takes an awful lot to hold my attention anymore.

  3. I have a very boring day job that leads me to seek out the longest possible audiobooks to fill my day. Many of them are books that I’d probably never get through on paper.

    That having been said, there are some that I find just too damn tedious to finish, even on audio. Bleak House and Moby Dick come to mind.

    The big risk with a large novel is that it can have already read 300 pages before you realize that you’ve made a mistake.

  4. […] there is my biggest problem with the book, which is a similar problem I had with Reamde and that is I feel like Neal Stephenson turns some chapters into a Wikipedia articles just to give […]

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