This Week, I Read… (2022 #6)

#14 – Reamde, by Neal Stephenson

  • Rating: 1/5 stars

It causes me almost physical pain to do this, but DNF @ 33%. This is the first Stephenson novel I’ve ever given up on.

Okay, I did bounce off Anathem at first, I had to wait a little bit and start that one over, but that was more because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I started it for something even more esoteric than his usual fare. With Reamde, I’m honestly just bored.

How has a promising beginning about the complex ecosystem surrounding a MMORPG designed from its base level to support gold farmers and money laundering degenerate into a jaw-grindingly bland and bloated action-movie script so quickly? Why are there suddenly Muslim terrorists introduced? Let me be clear, I’m aware of when this was published and I didn’t give it a try until ten years later, but I was already exhausted by the ever-present Muslim terrorist plot by 2011, so it’s not like I would have enjoyed it then, either. I don’t want to read something that relies on that overdone antagonist, and I especially don’t want to read Stephenson’s version of it.

I’m also already tired of Zula as the damsel in distress. When I decided to give up, I leafed randomly through some of the later pages looking for hints about what I was missing, and yeah, everybody is still trying to save Zula very late into the book. I’m not interested. I don’t even dislike her as a character, as much as I’ve seen her–she’s obviously intelligent, and is always trying to think of when/how to escape, how not to get herself killed, how to minimize the harm her captors are doing to others. She’s a good person. But at this point she’s the only major female character, as Yuxia is clearly a minor one and I only just got past the introduction to the MI6 spy who accidentally gets caught up in this hullabaloo, so I don’t know if she’s going to be major or not. (Though the sudden divergence from the plot we already know into her backstory and setup actually revived my flagging interest for a bit, because that’s one of the things I do love about Stephenson, the unpredictability of what he thinks is going to capture our attention. But it wasn’t enough.)

There’s a possibility I’ll go back for this someday, like I did with Anathem, but probably only if my husband (also a lifelong Stephenson fan) reads it and tells me it’s worth my time after all. I’ll move the copy to his shelf, and we’ll see what happens in the future, but for the moment it’s time for me to move on.

#15 – The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Well, that was fun.

Enemies-to-lovers sometimes falls flat with me when the war is either too vicious, or not vicious enough. They’re not really enemies if the barbs thrown couldn’t be hurtful, but too hurtful doesn’t leave a lot of plausibility for forgiveness, let alone love.

I don’t love everything about this story, but I do think it hit the right balance with its level of conflict. By framing the leads’ dislike of each other as a game, one they’re both shown to play vigorously and enjoy immensely, it leaves the door open for their relationship to change.

And since I’m a total sucker for guys who are stoic or even cold on the outside but charmingly vulnerable teddy bears underneath, I liked Josh quite a lot, even when he was saying things that, in other situations, I would find unattractive. Again, because it’s a game, and also because Lucy is being just as awful, Josh’s meanness doesn’t disqualify him as a good romantic hero, to me.

I finally got around to reading this when the giveaway for the movie tie-in edition popped up in my feed–I’d been meaning to get this from the library for ages and never quite getting to it. For all the romances I read, I generally don’t actually watch rom-coms, but if the movie doesn’t mess with the quality of banter in this story, I think it’s definitely got potential and I might even watch it someday.

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