Neal Stephenson’s Reamde is a thriller set in contemporary America. The novel follows the lives of Richard Forthrast and his niece, Zula Forthrast, who is a refugee from Eritrea. The novel focuses on Richard’s business, built around his creation of T’Rain, a massive multiplayer online role playing game, or MMORPG, and Zula’s adventures. During the novel, Zula is abducted by Russian mobsters, taken to Xiamen, China, and there abducted by Islamic terrorists, who take her back to North America as they try to enter America to launch a terrorist attack on Las Vegas.
Richard Forthrast is an outsider in his family since he dodged the draft (earning him the nickname “Dodge”), fled to Canada, and began to work as a wilderness guide. Richard shot a bear defending one of his clients, who then asked him to skin the animal for him. Richard elected not to allow the client to take the skin with him, instead choosing to smuggle the bear across the border. Richard navigated tunnels built during the prohibition era and discovered “Prohibition Crick,” near America Falls. Realizing that he could make money from this, he then began to smuggle marijuana across the border and became a millionaire. Richard would go on to buy the land around Prohibition Crick and America Falls, before allowing his youngest brother, Jacob, to farm there with his gun-loving, deeply Christian family.
Richard managed to leave the drug business behind him, but had to find ways to launder his money. He founded the Schloss, a ski resort in British Columbia, Canada, with his money. During this time, Richard played World of Warcraft for ten years, finally discovering he could make money from gaming. Richard creates T’Rain, a detailed fantasy game similar to World of Warcraft. T’Rain is distinct from World of Warcraft because the latter actively restricts the actions of Chinese gold farmers, who are virtual gold farmers that harvest gold online and sell it to Western players. T’Rain rather allows these virtual gold farmers in China to make money and thus, make a modest living in China’s economy. The depth of T'Rain's design at times causes it to defy Richard’s direction. For example, players' avatars were originally divided into good and evil, but players have since redivided themselves into two new races based on fashion. The “Forces of Brightness,” dressed in clashing colors, have attacked the more traditionally attired “Earthtone Coalition.” Although T’Rain at times presents unexpected problems, it has nevertheless added to Richard’s wealth and has become one of the world’s most popular MMORPGs.
Reamde opens in Idaho, during the Forthrast family’s Thanksgiving. The family celebrates by firing off many rounds: the entire family is highly trained in the use of firearms. They are also very knowledgeable about their property and Second Amendment rights. Richard’s older brother, John, fought and lost his legs in Vietnam. He and his wife work a farm with their adopted daughter, Zula. Zula has just finished college, where she majored in mathematics. Upon hearing that she is looking for work, Richard invites her to work for his company, Corporation 9592.
Zula later comes to visit Richard at the Schloss with her boyfriend, Peter. Peter is a hacker and has accompanied Zula to British Columbia to snowboard, and more secretly, to drop off a DVD of hacked credit card numbers to a client. The client, Wallace, works for the Russian mafia. On their way back to Seattle, Peter explains to Zula what he has done and she breaks up with him. However, when they get back to Peter’s building, he receives a call from Wallace. Apparently his laptop has been hacked, which means that he cannot send the credit card numbers on to his mobster superiors. This means that both Wallace and Peter are about to have a very big problem.
It turns out that Wallace is a habitual T’Rain player and he has fallen victim to a virus that is affecting many T’Rain users....
(The entire section is 1,687 words.)