Monday, May 27, 2013

read: Ready Player One (4 stars)

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if all those hours (days, weeks) you spend playing video games and watching trashy television could pay off with a huge fortune and controlling interest in the largest corporation in the world? What if life in the real (AKA outside) world was generally so crappy that most people find refuge inside a ubiquitous, immersive video game (called OASIS) controlled by that same corporation? These are the big questions posed and addressed by this romp through 1980s nostalgia set in a bleak near future of 2040. Really, this is just a giant 80s nerdgasm.

The story is really quite simple. A poor boy, Wade (AKA Parzival, nee Percival), from the stacks (of mobile homes near Oklahoma City, a nigh-impossible construction given the huge tornado-magnetism of such a thing) seeks a better life and goes on a quest. Along the way, he makes friends and enemies, meets and loses a girl, triumphs over challenges, and meets his greatest enemy on a field of battle. In other words, this is a quest.

What sets this telling apart is the constant barrage of references to pop and geek culture from the 1980s, due to the fixation on the era by the creator of OASIS. Most of the time, this is plenty charming. But it does get a bit wearing after a while. I also have my doubts that any one person could absorb an entire decade's worth of pop culture, secondhand mind you, in the space of a few years. Much less also have the wherewithal to master most of those video games, plus the worlds of OASIS. But that is the conceit of the book and Wade's superpower.

The writing is pleasing and crisp, though a bit episodic. There's a bit of a deus ex machina (or two) to help wrap up the ending, but they are somewhat excusable (I kept waiting for a twist that never happened). All-in-all, this is a decent read for fans of the 80s or video games or pop culture or all of the above.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

read: Without a Summer (3 stars)

Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories, #3)Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been enjoying these Glamourist stories, but this one didn't quite do it for me. The writing is still top-notch. The characters, their conflicts, and the world they inhabit are well-rounded and true feeling. This one just lacked enough story to really pull me in.

Mostly, the problem is probably my own. I'm not really in the target audience for stories that revolve around the crises of society, love and marriage. There's a lot of that to endure when all you want is to get to the 'good parts' of intrigue and global cooling.

It turns out the true cause of the 'year without a summer' is only briefly touched on in the book. I wanted there to be more of that. And more debate and conflict about it. Instead, the unseasonably cool weather is widely blamed on the coldmongers with only token protestations by those who know better.

Those who go in for this sort of thing will certainly enjoy it. As for me, give me something more like the previous volume, Glamour in Glass.

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