Ernest Cline‘s Ready Player One is a futuristic geek-fest that revels in the 1980’s subculture of video games, Dungeons & Dragons, comic books, science fiction (novels and films), and cartoons. If you like these things and you’re intrigued by a dystopian future where people forego reality for virtual reality, then this book is for you. The novel is fun, fast-paced, and addictive.
People in the novel log into a virtual reality called OASIS. There are thousands of worlds in the OASIS and they are created around individual’s obsessions. Imagine something immersive like from the Matrix, but not as real. Then, imagine people having avatars and leveling up like in World of Warcraft or any other RPG. Take that image a step further and picture a world where all of the games are meshed into one universe and there are few bounds. See it? If you don’t, that’s fine, because Cline certainly sees it and aptly creates it in Ready Player One.
The plot of the novel is simple. The creator of the OASIS is dead. He’s eccentric and in a Willie Wonka way turned his inheritance into a game. Whoever can decipher the puzzles, beat the levels, and find the Easter egg he’s hidden in the system will take over his company, inherit his wealth, and control the OASIS. Things get complicated when the evil, corporate telecommunications conglomerate IOI puts together a whole division committed to finding James Halliday’s Easter Egg. With the fate of the world and the virtual universe up for grabs, who will win?
Read the novel and find out. It’s an escape, you may wish to lose yourself in.
I’ve been sitting here trying to think of smart things to say about David Mitchell‘s Cloud Atlas. It’s not that I can’t think of things to say, but it’s that I can’t narrow it down to one pithy comment that sums up exactly what I want to communicate. Instead, I’ll say, Cloud Atlas is:
That works better than a blurb. It’s a messy novel and deserves a messy description. And yes, I mean that in the best way possible. If Cloud Atlas is all of these things, then what is Cloud Atlas? (more…)
I’ve long had a fondness for Choose Your Own Adventure books. As a kid, I’d sit on the floor, mesmerized by the pulpy covers and unknown outcomes. The storylines were simple and similar to Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Unlike a cartoon though, it was me in the story, imagined through a second-person perspective and the endings were often gruesome. Shaggy and Scooby would never be impaled through the chest by a Native American spear, or die of thirst, alone in the desert while vultures spiraled in the sky.
Interactive texts are not new, but the technology with which to create them is changing. Inkle has a service called Inkle Writer, where people can create their own interactive texts. It’s slick. It’s intuitive. You should have some fun with it. How they’re delivering these texts is also new. No more worn covers and marking decisions with multiple fingers. Currently, they’ve taken an interactive story by Dave Morris based on Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, and created a beautiful app, available through iOS. It’s engaging, it’s fun and it is yet another example of how technology is changing writing and publishing. Further, it leads to the following question: is a writer who creates an app for their work a novelist or a developer?
Is it just me, or did Kurt Warner pose for this book cover?
How does one critique a book? Examine the writing, the mechanics, the beauty of the written word? Or, does one take another approach and view the enjoyment and pull of the narrative?
Steven Erikson‘s novel, Gardens of the Moon, was enjoyable. It ventured away from that staid plot device: the young hero from nowhere who defeats an empire. Instead, Gardens of the Moon shifted perspective among a cast of characters that included various factions from a powerful empire and a mixture of people from a rebel city. As the series moves forward, Erikson has given himself a lot with which to work. The series (Malazan Book of the Fallen) seems ambitious in breadth. From my understanding the series moves in such a way that some characters carry over, while others fade away. This seems like a smart move and allows Erikson to focus on the story he wants to tell. The end of Gardens of the Moon was fairly complete as well. While it certainly leads into the next book, it’s not dependent on what happens in the future. In other words, one can read this first book and feel satisfied.
Satisfaction comes at a price though. While I mentioned that Erikson avoided some of the pitfalls of fantasy, he did manage to fall into a another trap: poor writing and mechanics. I liked the story; it’s true, but I found it hard to read due to Erikson’s writing. Transitions are few, descriptions are flat, changes in perspective are disorienting, and Erikson does not seem to understand the usage of commas and semicolons. Those items are what’s stopping me from reading the second book.
In the cost/benefit ratio of reading, do I want to put up with all those deficiencies for the story? Is it too distracting? If you’ve read the this novel or others in the series, let me know what you think. Does the writing get better?
David Guterson’s, Snow Falling on Cedars, is a quiet, contemplative book that depicts both the isolated life of the San Juan Islands and the racism Japanese immigrants experienced before and after World War II.
The novel revolves around one major event: the death of Carl Heine. Carl is a World War II veteran, a fisherman, husband, and father. He’s quiet with a gruff disposition. Moreover, Carl is strong, handsome and respected by the community. When he was a boy, his family owned a large strawberry farm on San Pedro Island; however, after his father’s death the farm was sold by his mother. At the time, Carl, was away at war. One could say that Carl represents the status quo or ideal of the island. He’s white, he stays out of other people’s business, he works hard, and lives clean. (more…)
Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company, the three novel tome which contains The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and the White Rose were not created following the classic fantasy formula. Instead, Cook has taken the perspective of a troop of mercenaries known as the Black Company and ostensibly recognized by readers as “the bad guys” and proceeds to dismantle the common theme of a prophetic orphaned child embraced by a rebellion who overthrows an evil empire. While not as morally complex as George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, the characters in these novels fall along a spectrum of good and bad, where history is relative and the winner has the last word. (more…)
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson is a complex fantasy novel that, thankfully, is not part of a trilogy. I don’t have anything against trilogies, but it’s nice to read a self-contained fantasy novel without waiting a few years for the follow-up books to come out. Point-of-view and rapid pace make Warbreaker such a compelling read. As a reader, entering a fantasy world is a shift in perspective. It takes time to figure things out and understand the system the world is built around. For instance, take the novel Dune, while not a fantasy, it establishes a world in which spice is the dominant currency. The system in Warbreaker is that of religion, as occasionally, people come back from the dead. (more…)
Exclamation points, like so many symbols, have a specific function and many unintentional meanings. Technically, an exclamation point is a sudden cry or yell that can be full of emotions ranging from anger to excitement. However, exclamation points are the all-caps-email of punctuation. They often feel out-of-place and come across as unnecessary yelling, like that email from an aged relative that says, HOW IS LIFE IN THE BIG CITY? CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO VISIT. THE TURTLES MISS YOU. Of course, there is the ironic exclamation point in names like Yahoo! and Swamplandia!, but really, beyond an exclamation, what is the point?
All this is to say, readers, beware. Take one look at the exclamation point after Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and turn back, because nothing on this trip through the Floridian swamp can save you. (more…)
The Women by T.C. Boyle is novel about Frank Lloyd Wright in the context of the women he loved. If you’re unfamiliar with Wright, he was married three times, had a mistress in between wives one and two, and seemed to have a strong attachment to his mother. While the story is interesting, the structure of the novel is much more compelling. (more…)
Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy by John le Carré is an inaction-packed suspense novel about a high-level mole in British intelligence and one man’s mission to uncover the traitor and take him down.
I say inaction-packed, because most of the novel involves George Smiley, the former second in command of the service, sorting through old files, interviewing former colleagues and contacts, and piecing together the puzzle.