Ben Smithgall

Welcome to the web blog

Bit pusher at Spotify. Previously Interactive News at the New York Times, U.S. Digital Service, and Code for America.






By Neal Stephenson

Finished reading on February 11, 2019

A fun and absurd read. The New York Times review probably describes it best:

“Readme,” at a certain point, becomes less a novel than a book-shaped IV bag from which plot flows.


There are times when you wonder if “Reamde” is the smartest dumb novel you have ever read or the dumbest smart novel.

I’m going to go with smartest dumb novel.

Stephenson always seems to write himself into these novels, but in this one he’s done it twice, including as an author-character whose job it is to push out the canon for the fictional “T’Rain” universe at an absurd clip, often so quickly that the other Stephenson stand-in character can’t possibly keep up despite owning the company that creates that game. Given how quickly Stephenson himself churns out 1,000+ page novels, you have to wonder if this is some sort of cute way of sympathizing with his readers.