Steve Bein, writer & philosopher

Find all of the Fated Blades novels at Powell's, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Audible, or from your favorite neighborhood bookstore.

The newest addition to the saga of the Fated Blades is the novella Streaming Dawn, an e-book exclusive available for any platform.


So I kinda forgot what country I'm in...

This weekend I decided to re-read Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE. The first time I read this book, I decided that if I ever teach a fiction writing class, this will be the textbook on rising stakes. I’ve never read anything quite like it. It starts off nice and slow -- almost boring. You meet some interesting characters. They draw you in. Then things get swiftly worse for them. It becomes a study in what Donald Maass calls “microtension”: line by line, page by page, you’re drawn along. And since you’re so caught up in it, you figure you know what the book is about.

Then, in one line -- my Kindle tells me 27% of the way through -- everything changes. Personal stakes become global. Every character you thought was embroiled in an unholy shitstorm turns out to be in the eye of that storm. As bad as things have been getting -- and they’ve been getting worse from one page to the next -- they all look easy compared to what happens next. By 30% everything is much, much worse, and the tension keeps mounting from there.

But here’s what really got me today. I’m flying to from Rochester Minnesota to Rochester, New York -- small airports, so small planes, much like the planes Stephenson’s characters have been flying around in. Some of these characters have flown to Xiamen, a tiny island off the coast of Taiwan. Stephenson goes in to loving detail describing the urban sprawl, so much so that when I got off my plane, and got onto the highway, I was surprised to see all the signs and billboards and license plates in English. Some part of my brain expected to see them in Chinese.

A great book can make me forget where I am for a while, but that doesn’t take me into the book itself; it just makes me forget that I’m in my hammock, that I’m thirsty, that I’ve been cultivating a kink in my neck for a few hours. I’m transported, but I’m transported to
nowhere -- outside of my body, away from everything other than reading. I don’t know that a book has ever transported me so completely that I forgot what continent I’m on.

So yeah, read REAMDE.