The book jacket description says that it is about the CEO of a "World of Warcraft" clone, the Russian mafia and Chinese hackers. It certainly starts out that way, but there's a massive twist a few hundred pages in. This is good, but makes it hard to say what the book is truly about. The book seems driven by coincidence and chance meeting. I kept searching for a theme there, but couldn't find one.
I had some significant issues with the plot. For instance, we're supposed to believe that the terrorists blew up over a hundred people at the border as a "diversion" to Abdullah Jones making it into the country. Yet we'd already been told that he had no real nefarious plans other than to get into the country. What plans he had were in China were completely fucked. We never get any inkling of a new attack planned, so what's the point of a "diversion" of a massive explosion just to get one terrorist into the country?
Every time the book seems like it might go deep, it doesn't. the book refers to Jake as part of "the American Taliban", yet despite getting Arab terrorists into view of American militia types, there's no real meditation at all about what makes either tick. They are just a given. Jones himself is almost completely uncharacterized, leaving us no inkling of what his motivation is other than that "he's a Jihadist". Surely there was something more interesting in a westerner turned to Islam. Surely something interesting could have made with the contrast of him with the Somalian-turned-westerner Zula.
As to the rest: everything else is what you'd expect from Stephenson. The geek satirist language. Amusing set pieces. The exaggerated style. It just isn't used here in the service of anything more than good guys vs. bad guys.
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