Tag Archives: sci-fi

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!

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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!

Comics Review: Moon Knight vol. 1: From the Dead

Right, my last posts were a reblog and a cop-out, so I decided to write a review of a comic I just read. It’s the first volume of All-New Marvel Now’s take on Moon Knight (this is just an aside, but is anyone else really annoyed with Marvel right now for all the now-ing and the rebooting and such? I love the comics they’re making, but come on, people!).

Okay. Moon Knight is Marc Spector. For various reasons, he’s possessed by the god Khonshu, which gives him a huge moon-boomerang arsenal, weird moony powers, and multiple personalities. Now that we’ve covered that: This comic is not Moon Knight. This comic is Planetary. Planetary is a comic, by Warren Ellis, in which a not-quite-sane man in a white suit investigates some very, very weird stuff. This comic, by Warren Ellis, is about a not-quite-sane man in a white suit investigating weird, weird stuff.

The difference, however, is Moon Knight punches more people in the face. And for that reason and that reason alone, I recommend Moon Knight over Planetary. Make your own choices.

The other thing: my brother detested Planetary, but loved this. Not sure why, maybe I missed something.

Until I work up the adrenaline to blog again!

TV Review: Doctor Who, The Curse of the Black Spot (spoilers)

Hi,

So I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who recently on Netflix (great show, look it up if you haven’t seen it, and read no further too), and I recently watched this episode. The plot involves pirates that are disintegrated by a mysterious siren with a hypnotic voice that can teleport through reflective surfaces as soon as they draw blood. Not the best of concepts, but it worked impressively, in my opinion.

The Doctor was as funny, brilliant and dramatic as ever, Matt Smith being sublime. Amy and Rory (his companions for this episode) were well done, with an interesting thing with Rory getting pricked and Amy being jealous of the siren, which Arthur Darvill played masterfully (and Karen Gillan wasn’t so bad either). Meanwhile, the guest-stars, like the pirate captain, crew and the captains son, a stowaway, were mostly spot-on, but one set of lines did make my eyes roll. The captain’s son, who believes his dad to be honorable is told by a mutinying crew member that “we sail under the Jolly Roger.” Seriously? No better way to rephrase that? Come on! Still, the captain in particular was excellent, with him doing the usual thing with the Doctor, bragging about their ships, and a great thing about turning to crime as well. I loved him. Hugh Bonneville triumphant, folks.

The reveal of the siren being a repair system from another universe was pretty effective as well. However, towards the end, when Amy gives Rory mouth-to-mouth, she gives up after like 3 seconds. It takes hours sometimes, Pond. Learn patience. Seriously. All in all, though, excellent episode, and I want to see those pirates again. I can only hope!

Very interesting reveal at the end. My wha? factor is off the scale. I can’t wait to see what transpires…