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Speculative-fiction writer returns 'home' for reading

BY MADISON BENNETT | SEPTEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Author Neal Stephenson managed to link computer hacking, the Russian Maffia, video games, and terrorism all in one story.

But he also managed to give Iowa a shout out in his newest novel, Reamde, as well.

"Neal spent most of his childhood in Ames and graduated from high school there, so he has ties to Iowa," said said Terry Cain, the science-fiction and graphic-novel buyer at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. "Add to that the fact that Reamde starts out in Iowa, and it's a pretty good match."

Stephenson will read excerpts from his latest work at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S Linn St. Admission is free.

Reamde is a story of an Iowa-born video-game entrepreneur who ends up having to play his online game in real life after hackers infect the game's code with a virus. In his typical fashion, Stephenson draws upon bizarre plots that put the reader through rings of science fiction. His previous works include Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon, which draw upon similar notions of the unimaginable. He has a very large following both in Iowa City and across the United States, said Jason Paulios, the community-services librarian for the Iowa City Public Library.

"He's definitely a cult author," said Jan Weissmiller, a co-owner of Prairie Lights.

Although Prairie Lights will sponsor the event, the reading will be held in the library's Meeting Room A.

"We're expecting a larger crowd than we can fit in the store," Cain said. "The last time he was in Iowa City, we held it in the store, and we were standing-room-only. We want to allow as many people as possible to attend, so we're teaming up with the library this time around."

"His early speculative fiction work is especially popular with Iowa City Public Library patrons," Paulios said, noting Reamde's recent positive reviews.

The New York Times Book Review had this to say about the novel:

"Once again, Stephenson is asking us to think about virtual worlds and information storage; once again, by God, he makes reading so much fun it feels like a deadly sin."

The Iowa City Public Library will broadcast Stephenson's reading live on the Library Channel, Cable TV Channel 10.

Prairie Lights will sell copies of Stephenson's work at the event. In fact, he will only sign copies of Reamde purchased from Prairie Lights. Copies are available at Prairie Lights at a 25 percent discount. Stephenson will also sign a limited number of his earlier books with the purchase his newest novel.

"If the past is any guide, it will be one of our bigger events," Cain said.


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