Take Richard Forthrast, ex-smuggler and now owner of a multi-player online game called T’Rain; REAMDE, a virus designed by Chinese hackers; Russian gangsters; a fantasy writer; a Welsh Muslim terrorist; add Forthrast’s niece, Zula, who’s caught in the middle of it all, and you have REAMDE (Wm. Morrow, $18.99), by Neal Stephenson, the most engrossing thriller you’ll read this summer. True to his style, Stephenson also masterfully weaves in information on a number of subjects, including the Chinese city of Xiamen, with descriptions of its architecture, guns, and international air traffic. REAMDE is an ambitious novel, and the plot comes together in an intense, all-guns-firing finale that will leave you incredibly impressed with Stephenson’s talent and erudition.
It took Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin 25 years to write this definitive biography of the man nicknamed ‘the father of the atomic bomb’. Thoroughly researched and detailed, the book paints a complex portrait of a man who was brilliant yet naive, charming yet abrasive. Oppenheimer’s story is also the story of how the country, caught up in anti-communism hysteria, turned on its best and brightest citizens.
The Whisperers begins with the Revolution of 1917 and moves on beyond Stalin’s death and even past the collapse of the USSR, describing experiences of several families affected by the Soviet regime’s policies. Figes shows how living in a regime that turns on its own people can poison one’s psyche and family relations for generations. It makes for a difficult and heartbreaking reading at times, but the book is impressively well-researched (with hundreds of interviews) and is a must-read for anyone interested in the USSR history.