This review contains spoilers.
I thought I'd got a remaindered, 1000 page, hardback book, from a prominent author, at an absolute bargain price because the publisher made a typo on the cover. Unfortunately, that typo is deliberate. It was made by one of the characters in the book and gets propagated widely in malware.
I read this book to the end so that I could provide a fair review for SoylentNews but I really wish that I hadn't. At around the 75% mark, I wanted to abandon the book. Around the 95% mark, I was more interested in my bookmark than the book itself. The problem is that the book is too detailed and yet not detailed enough. The plot flips from a semi-autobiographical character to a dodgy Scottish accountant for the Russian Mafia to a needlessly exotic Black, Welsh, lesser-known contemporary of Osama bin Laden. Internal motive is rarely explained and therefore Welsh's Islamic subjugation of another needlessly exotic character makes her seem like a really irritating Mary Sue when it should have been a highly researched study of cultural belief.
Until reading What ISIS Really Wants, I thought the book would have benefited highly from Mary Sue being killed in the first half. Either way, it may be beneficial to read this book while referring to an atlas. It certainly seems to be written that way.
Other reviews note the comic relief. This made me think "What comic relief?" Then I remembered the rivalry between a snob and a hack who provide a superfluous backstory for an inconsistent online game which adds very little to the plot. The snob, when he is able, has his email translated into a language of his own devising, written onto vellum and delivered on a velvet cushion. Unfortunately, Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (published in 1934) has superior observations about telecommunications and doesn't explain its Noodle Incident in full.
One seemingly outrageous section of the book involves a siege and building collapse. However, subsequent events in Paris made this a case of life imitating art. Unfortunately, this occurs in one of a series of exotic locations reminiscent of a James Bond film. (Quantum of Solace springs to mind but SPECTRE also fits.)
The plot isn't resolved in a satisfactory manner and an epilog doesn't help. Every bad guy dies. Every good guy lives. A character with dubious morals receives an injury which forces reform. What happens to the mafia guys? Who cares because it was just a device to get to the jihadists.
Three people are credited in the book as providing expertise for ships, guns and geography. Unfortunately, due to the repetition of "gunwales", "clip" and "talus", and the lack of editing thereof, it seems more like Neal Stephenson collected on three bets. This is the overall problem with the work. Light editing of a literary great has destroyed the value. Applying a firmer process between author and editor would have been far more beneficial.
Neal Stephenson's early novel, Zodiac, is preferable to REAMDE and this is generally regarded as inferior to Snow Crash, The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon. On this basis, REAMDE is probably the worst Neal Stephenson novel ever published. Publishers, William Morrow and Atlantic Books, should be ashamed.
I previously reviewed Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy and Postsingular and found that Rudy Rucker's best work comes after ideas had the most time to percolate. Postsingular was a relative dud, although still far superior to Neal Stephenson's REAMDE. In contrast, Rainbows End is highly recommended. Indeed, it is essential reading for anyone concerned about the progression of software from desktop, web and mobile to augmented reality. The book has a shockingly similar game to Pokémon Go in addition to a plausible mix of tech mergers and new entrants in a near-future universe where smartphones have given way to wearable augmented reality.
Many books, comics and films have covered the purgatory of high school and some have covered the special purgatory of going back to high school (for a re-union or as a student). The film: 21 Jump Street is a particularly silly example of the sub-genre. Rainbows End covers a world leading humanities academic who spends years in the fugue of dementia, responds almost perfectly to medical advances and is enrolled in high school to complete his therapy. While he looks almost perfectly like a 17 year old, his contemporaries remain in decline or have bounced back with far more random results.
NSA-created cyber tool spawns global ransomware attacks
Leaked alleged NSA hacking tools appear to be behind a massive cyberattack disrupting hospitals and companies across Europe, Asia and the U.S., with Russia among the hardest-hit countries.
The unique malware causing the attacks - which has spread to tens of thousands of companies in 99 countries, according to the cyber firm Avast - have forced some hospitals to stop admitting new patients with serious medical conditions and driven other companies to shut down their networks, leaving valuable files unavailable.
The source of the world-wide digital assault seems to be a version of an apparent NSA-created hacking tool that was dumped online in April by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. The tool, a type of ransomware, locks up a company's networks and holds files and data hostage until a fee is paid. Researchers said the malware is exploiting a Microsoft software flaw.
One or more anti-virus companies may have been hacked prior to WannaCrypt infecting 75000 Microsoft Windows computers in 99 countries. First, anti-virus software like Avast fails to make HTTP connections. Second, five million of ransomware emails are rapidly sent. Although many centralized email servers were able to stem the onslaught, many instances of anti-virus software had outdated virus definitions and were defenseless against the attack. Indeed, successful attacks were above 1%. Of these, more than 1% have already paid the ransom. Although various governments have rules (or laws) against paying ransom, it is possible that ransoms have been paid to regain access to some systems.
Also, file scrambling ransomware has similarities to REAMDE by Neal Stephenson. Although the book is extremely badly written, its scenarios (offline and online) seem to come true with forceful regularity.
Telefónica reportedly affected. NHS failed to patch computers which affected US hospitals in 2016. 16 divisions of the UK's NHS taken offline with aid of NSA Fuzzbunch exploit. The fun of a public blockchain is that ransom payments of £415,000 have been confirmed. Cancellation of heart surgery confirmed. Doctors unable to check allergies or prescribe medication. Patient access to emergency treatment denied in part due to hospital telephone exchange being offline.
It also appears that one of the affected parties refused to answer a Freedom of Information request in Nov 2016 about cyber-security due to impact on crime detection. Similar parties provided responses to the same request.
I was initally under the impression that Postsingular and Hylozoic continued the Ware Tetralogy but these are two distinct fictional "universes". Although there is an expectation for authors to continually out-do themselves with ever more fantastical ideas, Postsingular fails to satisfy on multiple criteria. It is too knowingly in the present, using "tweet" in the contemporary context and also having search engines. It may be that Rudy Rucker's feedback from fans and increased knowledge about computing makes the book less entertaining.
Regardless, nanotechnology, synthetic telepathy, natural telepathy and multiple forms of teleportation are explored in depth in the context of reality television, augmented reality spam and post-scarcity economics. Several characters are introduced very poorly and Rudy Rucker continues a tradition of ridiculous character names. Thankfully, characters become more rounded as plot develops. One character, Dick Dibbs, is uncannily similar to Donald Trump and Postsingular accurately captures some of the North American 2016 pre-election hysteria almost 10 years before it occurred.