Online war game becomes real in 'REAMDE'

Will there come a time when online war games might actually become real-life encounters? In Neal Stephenson’s book “REAMDE," one man’s imagination threatens his reality as a virus in his successful online video game takes on a life of its own.

Stephenson is quite the multifaceted man. From his college studies in geography and physics, to his work on a manned suborbital launch system with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Stephenson’s true calling can be found in his writings.

His novels range in subject from cyber-punk to historical fiction, with a lot of science fiction sprinkled in for good measure. “REAMDE” is an adventure-packed thriller that tells the story of a computer gaming geek who finds himself caught up in a very real and very dangerous version of his own online war game.

The story begins with Richard Forthrast. A true rebel without a cause, Forthrast was a draft dodger, marijuana smuggler, Iowa farmboy in his youth. Now, granted amnesty by the U.S. government, Forthrast is the very successful CEO of Corporation 9592, which created the online game world of “T'Rain.”

But just as Forthrast is attempting to retire, a virus called REAMDE (a play on words for the computer program READ ME) infects his game and proceeds to wreak havoc among the T'Rain community and the world itself. It’s up to Forthrast to find a solution to set things right before time runs out and he and those he cares about become victims of their own version of war.

It’s not easy to summarize a book that is 1,000-plus pages, especially one that is as crammed full of action, plot twists and intrigue as “REAMDE.” There is a little something for nearly everyone here in this book — from an action thriller to a suspenseful mystery, with a little bit of a love story.

Stephenson’s novel is an ambitious undertaking, and you may need a scorecard to keep track of all the characters, but the brave reader who dares will be greatly rewarded with a fantastic story.