Category Archives: Books

Book Review: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

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OKAY! Back to the blogging! I recently read, and am reviewing, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Hopefully it’ll kick off more reviews over the next few weeks: I’ve read a a lot of good stuff and I look forward to ranting about it. Anyway:

So Ready Player One is set in a future that isn’t quite apocalyptic or dystopian, but is well on its way. (That in itself was unnerving as hell: it just seemed about 5 years away, and it’s really the only novel I can think of that was that plausible. Shiver.) Society is slipping into “hellish” territory, and everyone escapes from that by jacking into a virtual reality game called the OASIS. The OASIS is, as far as I can tell, a virtual universe full of more or less every fantasy, sci-fi or video game universe imaginable. The plot centers around the death of the inventor of the OASIS. For some unimaginable but probably stupid reason, he decided to will his entire  (megabillion-dollar) fortune to whoever solved this massive, 80s-themed nerd puzzle in the OASIS. This is the story of one sixteen-year-old’s quest to complete that puzzle.

Things I liked about this book were many: the characters didn’t suck, the 80s pop culture was fun, and there were times when I literally could not put the book down. Also, like I said, it’s one of the only sic-fi novels in my brain at the moment (there are probably others) that feels like it could literally happen in a month, given the right push. The main antagonist, a corporation desperate to gain control over the OASIS (another prize for solving the puzzle), also seems vaguely linked to net neutrality. Because I really, really hate to blog about politics (I see the value, but I just don’t know what I’m talking about), I’m passing over the issue as much as I can, but it did feel like it could happen.

That said: who taught this guy to plot a story? He’ll just leave his character weak after a major event and then jump back in, a few months later, with the character explaining how he spent the last few months developing his avatar. We understand that you want your character powerful without the intermediate (another Spider-Man origin story, anyone?), and we understand why he has to start out weak, but you can’t just jump us out of his life. It’s a conundrum: the explanation is boring, but the lack of one would confuse the hell out of the readers. It wasn’t great. Also, Ernest Cline, like the rest of the world, can’t inject suspense into a description of an 80s video game. Valiant effort, Mr. Cline, but no go.

James and Brendan Dwyer read this book and were mad because it was in the 80s instead of the 90s. The result, Cult Fiction, which I reviewed elsewhere, isn’t quite as good as this. But I’d read it first: if you can survive those characters and that writing (all the same problems, but chose easier-to-dramatize video games), you can deal with this.

Okay, that was really long. Arrivederci!

Double Review: American Gods and Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

THESE BOOKS!!!

THESE BOOKS!!!

Okay! I have a spare minute to blog now, so I’m going to talk about 2 of the 3 Neil Gaiman books I just read, American Gods and Anansi Boys.

American Gods followed Shadow, a man whose wife died the day he got out of prison, while having car-sex with his best friend. With basically nothing left in his old life, he accepts a job offer from a mysterious Mr. Wednesday. I don’t want to explain much more, but here’s the gist: gods walk among us, and a war is coming.

If all that sounds cliche, don’t be fooled. This is not Percy Jackson or whatever. This is well put together, and fun, and deeply weird, and fairly original. And I have to say, Gaiman possesses the rare gift of endings-once he has a book going, he knows exactly where and how the end is going to go, and if he doesn’t, he’s a hell of a good faker. The protagonist was sympathetic-ish without too much of the book spent on making him so. Plot twists are unexpected and not too numerous. In case it was unclear, I loved the hell out of this book.

So then Gaiman decides that whether or not he’s done with Shadow (apparently not, he just published a new short story about the guy), he’s not done with the world, and along comes Anansi Boys. Anansi is the African spider trickster-god. Probably you’ve heard of him. He was featured in American Gods, and now we meet his kids. And they have to deal with each other, and a bunch of other gods wanting revenge for Anansi screwing with them in the past.

This book was a total stylistic change from American Gods. It was way lighter, and the protagonist (named Fat Charlie) was much easier to like. But the 2 books were both fantastic, and I recommend them to the entire flippin’ world.

Oh, hey, I just thought of a really good analogy. If these books were episodes of Doctor WhoAmerican Gods would be Blink and Anansi Boys would be The Lodger. That… is actually insanely spot-on. Well done me. Fans of the episodes should read the books, and vice versa. (Two of my favorite episodes as well).

What 10 Books Should Be In This Bookstore?

Think on this one...

Think on this one…

Howdy! Okay, this is quick. I need advice on the inventory of a bookstore (long story): if you could put just 10 books (I need sci-fi/fantasy mostly, but any books) into this bookstore, what would they be? What writers can NOT BE MISSED? I actually need input, so please respond to this.

Thank you in advance! Until next time…

Book Review: Cult Fiction, by James and Brendan Dwyer

Sooooo nerdy.

Sooooo nerdy.

Hi! Been kind of a while and I’m running out of things to think about, so I’m reviewing a book I read like last August. I bought it at a convention out of sheer curiosity. So anyway:

Cult Fiction is the tale of 2 Irish brothers who were sick of all the virtual reality stories and wanted to write one where pop culture was made actually real. So they up and wrote it. Set in a future on its way to becoming a dystopia, this book centers around Municipal City, a city-state where a bunch of rich geeks made every nerdy thing they could think of a reality: magic, Transformers, Pokemon, whatever. They simulate everything in this one area. After passing a fantastically nerdy 256-question test (get it?), new citizens can pick a character, and become that character as fully as possible (or just do their own thing). We follow a Tifa Lockhart tribute through the 90s sector (yes, decades have sectors) through the city as she interacts with the world.

This book… kind of made me uncomfortable. It was, like, the Dwyer brothers wrote the closest approximation to their entire souls they could come up with on the page, and now I’m reading it. You could tell how much love was poured into every page-as James Dwyer says in this interview (don’t know how to insert links into posts, so I’ll stick it at the bottom of the page), it’s “almost sexual, really”. All that makes it really, really hard not to love. On the other hand, it’s not written so well. Exposition is shoehorned in annoyingly and at really inopportune times, it was kind of cliched (I know there were times when it was supposed to be cliche, and I enjoyed that, but the rest of it was just annoying), the characters were… well, not bad, actually, but not great either. In the same interview, Dwyer suggests that inner turmoil and description are like a writer “masturbating his imagination on top of your face”, and he lives up to that. There’s almost none of either. All in all, it’s not a great book, but I love it anyway. I love the references, and it’s just so sincere you can’t help but enjoy it. (And the fight scenes are pretty good, too). I’m definitely reading Part 2 when it comes out.

Guess that’s it. Thanks for reading!

Link to interview: https://www.smashwords.com/interview/brendandwyer

Book Review: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

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Hi! This post was originally going to be about the news about Spider-Man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you already know that, right? (Awesome, and I don’t care what Marvel-Movie-Maniac says in the post I reblogged below this one-rendering my take on the news even more unnecessary. Grrrr. That post ruined my day.) Anyway, so I’m reviewing this book Station Eleven, which I read a while ago and really, really enjoyed. Here goes:

I encountered this book as “the postapocalyptic novel for people who hate postapocalyptic novels”, which is true. But it’s also the post apocalyptic novel for people who love post apocalyptic novels, and for those who’ve never read one before in their lives. It follows three lives at different times: a movie star and his love life in our world, a paparazzo in training to be a paramedic   and his life as a new and terrifying disease sweeps the planet, and a member of a troop of traveling Shakespearean actors and musicians after the apocalypse (it would have reminded me of The Walking Dead if I watched that show, so I guess it reminded me of… the way The Walking Dead seems to feel from the parodies I’ve seen? Or something). It’s so well written that I barely noticed the world crumbling for much of the book because I was too interested in the characters. Almost every character is sympathetic, compelling, and hard to stop reading about. My exception to this rule was the pre-apocalypse movie star, Arthur Leander. He wasn’t as fleshed out as I felt he could have been. We learn much about him from the eyes of others, which is an interesting device, but makes the others more interesting than him. Okay, he was interesting-ish, but you had to work to see any depth. I’m a lazy reader. I like the writer to show me where to find the depth in a character without a wild goose-chase. So flippin’ sue me. You’ll still love this book. Probably, Okay, this is getting long. Read the book. There. Done.

Thanks for reading! Join me next time, when I’ll review… something else, probably.

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu

Hi. I try never to reblog something without following up with something I actually wrote, so I decided to review a Chinese sci-fi novel I recently read. It was pretty big in China, apparently, and was just recently translated. I heard about it through a friend and decided to check it out.

This is one of the best sci-fi novels I read this year. It’s set in the near future, where the most major relevant development is a “v-suit” that allows one to play video games in virtual reality. Other than that, most stuff is the same. Actually, the book starts following a woman during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, as her father dies and she joins a mysterious scientific research project. Then it cuts to the future, where a young scientist is approached by the government to help them with a series of suicides in the scientific community. I won’t say more (spoilers). That’s really all you need at this point.

I really liked this book. The plot was really engaging and somewhat original. For the most part, the characters are multidimensional and relatable (although the dialogue can sometimes be stilted, which I kind of expected), and the translation, by Ken Liu, was actually way more fluid than I expected. I highly recommend it to anyone.

That doesn’t mean it was perfect, though. There were 1 or 2 characters who just didn’t translate well. And the first part, during the Cultural Revolution, wasn’t very engaging. Still, good book, highly recommended.

That’s all I have for now, thanks. Arrivederci!

More Skulduggery Pleasant Stuff: Book 8

Okay, the gaps between my stuff are getting a bit too large. Definitely gonna have to fix that.

Right, my second post was a plug for Skullduggery Pleasant, Irish horror series of awesomeness. I mentioned how there’s an 8th book, which I haven’t read yet because of publishing complications, but eventually will. (8th doesn’t count the spin-off or novella.)

Well, I’ve read it. And it’s bats.

The war the 7th book was spent trying to avoid is on. The Dead Men are back in gear. The reflection makes her/its/her/god dangit move. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Also be very confused because you don’t know who these characters are. So read the dang books. And prepare to cry.