A new Neal Stephenson book finally hits the shelves, clocking in at 1,044 pages of sweet, crunchy goodness. If you haven’t read Neal Stephenson before, you should probably question your indie cred in the mirror for a while. Try investing in some horn-rimmed glasses, or delve into an obscure musical genre to make up for your sheer lameness to this point in life. Instead of occupying Wall Street, you should occupy your couch for a week with this book, for Neal is the The Hold Steady of modern writers. You’re a little sad to see him for sale in Walmart; you wish for the old days when it was just you and three other people in a smoky club who knew about him, but on the other hand, the work is still solid and enjoyably groovy. I usually don’t do plot synopses, as it seems well-handled by eighth graders and Amazon reviewers, but just for you, I will pop a couple Xanax, chase it with a fermented beverage, smear on some lipstick and give you what you want. No spoilers — this stuff is all within the first 100 pages. Reamde is a computer virus out of China that attacks players in an MMO called T’rain (pronounced “terrain”). The virus steals all the files off a flash or hard drive, and the only way to get them back is to create a character, start playing T’rain and bring a lot of virtual gold to a certain location in the game. You then trade the gold for your files. The Chinese hackers, of course, just kill your character with their uber-powerful ones, take your virtual gold, and cash it in for real money. It works out pretty well for the hackers — imagine every “World of Warcraft” player coughing up about $70, and you can see the money would pile up pretty high, i.e., three million dollars the first weekend. That is until they steal a list of credit card numbers from a Russian mobster’s computer. Instead of just paying the blackmail money, the mobsters kidnap one of the game programmers, Zula Forthrast, fly out to Xiamen, China, and start seeking out the hackers’ IP address in wangbas all over the city. Things go awry, some jihadist terrorists get thrown into the mix and take Zula hostage, and you, good reader, are off on 900 pages of globetrotting shoot-’em-up and chase-scene madness. As my friend Paul would say, “lots of ownage.” Stephenson’s writing is great because he sprinkles in enough ideas to make the story not just an action romp, but also a history of ethnic Chinese conflict; Russian gangster etiquette; money laundering via MMO gold farming; firearms trivia; Canadian marijuana smuggling; Filipino vs. Chinese internet cafes; Asian sex trafficking trivia (T-bird?); in short, loads of details that make the reading fun and a learning experience. I would point out that this book is NOT science fiction like some of his previous books; all technology in it seems readily available today. I guess the obvious comparison would be that this novel is large and addictive like a Harry Potter for grownups, but Harry would finish the book with a smoking British-Asian girlfriend, a Makarov pistol in his belt and lots of leisure time to play video games. The only problem with this book, and I hate to even mention it, is that the first 30 pages were not that great. A lot of explaining and setup, but get through that and it’s pure mayhem all the way to the end. I rate this a “buy now” in hardcover. It’s so large the trade paperback is going to be $20 anyway, and it’s too big for a mass market, so cough up that extra fiver and buy it in hardcover on sale for $25 wherever books are sold. Do it.