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Constellation Games

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  833 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
First contact isn't all fun and games.

Ariel Blum is pushing thirty and doesn't have much to show for it. His computer programming skills are producing nothing but pony-themed video games for little girls. His love life is a slow-motion train wreck, and whenever he tries to make something of his life, he finds himself back on the couch, replaying the games of his youth.

ebook, 385 pages
Published November 2011 by Candlemark & Gleam
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Aaron Gertler Any 13-year-old who is mature enough to pay attention until the parts with sex is mature enough to read the parts with sex. (There's very little sex,…moreAny 13-year-old who is mature enough to pay attention until the parts with sex is mature enough to read the parts with sex. (There's very little sex, and some of the sex is aliens having sex, which seems like it shouldn't count.)(less)

Community Reviews

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Aug 07, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Disclaimer: I'm a friend of the writer, and in fact, read earlier drafts of this before publication.

Richardson has a wicked sense of humor. His protagonist, Ariel, has a sharp tongue, a serious case of self-deprecation, and not a lot of motivation to get off the couch and on with his life. Which means he has a very different spin on first contact that most science fiction characters. This is what alien contact would be like for most of us--a weird backdrop that doesn't keep us from screwing arou
The galactic civilization has arrived in Earth orbit. They've turned a big chunk of the moon into a smart-matter space station, and they come in peace. While others see the arrival of the Constellation as a watershed event in the history of humanity, Ariel Blum's greatest ambition is to find out what kind of video games ETs play and write about them on his snarky game-review blog.

The book is lush with science-fictional thought experiments; the entries in the "Constellation Database of Games of a
May 02, 2013 Parker rated it really liked it
This book took a little while to warm up, so if your tolerance for goofy sci-fi is low you may never get to the payoff. For about the first half I was enjoying it as a fun read that might as well be in the same universe as Ready Player One or Year Zero. Lots of pop culture injokes and references for video game fans, pretty well executed to seem fun if you get them and not be too intrusive if you don't.

In the second half (or so) though, the characters seem to open up and expose a whole level of d
Mar 01, 2013 Dan rated it it was amazing
Constellation Games made me mad. That is why I liked it.

Say I am driving to work after reading a bit of the book in the morning. I am mad. Why the hell would Ariel (main character) do THAT?!?! It doesn't make sense. What the hell is going on here?

Sometimes I feel this a bit when I read a sloppily written book. Some hack "author" will write a book and then have the protagonist execute a series of random, unlikely decisions. That is just trash. It doesn't stay with me and instead serves as furth
James Stephenson
I am a big science fiction fan. One of the most seen tropes in the genre is the First Contact Scenario, in which humanity is faced with the existence and arrival of aliens. I really enjoy good first contact stories, from The Day the Earth Stood Still to Carl Sagan's Contact. Constellation Games is by far the most entertaining first contact story that I have ever read. One of the themes of just about every first contact story that I have ever encountered is that of finding a commonality between h ...more
Jan 16, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
This is a book that's brilliant enough that I don't always get it, whether because I miss some of the references or because I'm just not thinking at the level of the author. It's the kind of book I want to read again sometime to see what else I can get out of it.

It's true speculative fiction. What I mean by that is that it isn't just another genre sausage, with the same basic shape and contents as all the other sausages in that genre; it actually has a new angle. This is first contact as seen th
Kristen McDermott
I bought this after reading Cory Doctorow's rave on Boing Boing, and was not disappointed. A truly original plot in which our narrator -- a hapless but very appealing video game designer -- becomes the inadvertent ambassador for humanity to a loose confederation of aliens who have approached Earth to see if it's ready to join the Constellation. In reviewing the Constellation's archive of long-defunct games, Ariel Blum gains insights into its ancient culture and its plans for the Solar System. Ri ...more
Michael Scott
What a beautiful book! Constellation Games is a sci-fi that's a love story, a coming-of-age novel that's a comedy, a computer games fest that's serious. Get it, read it, savor it!

The background story seems at first our typical aliens-contact-Earth, but quickly dissolves in a discussion about bigot and liberal, Aliens and Earthlings playing in both camps. The storyline gets messy very quickly, but there is an optimistic line that makes it beautiful.

The epistolary style (should I call it blogary
Mar 02, 2013 Will rated it it was ok
The plot: aliens visit, and they call themselves the Constellation. They're kinda strange, but they want to help, even if they don't understand humanity all that well. A video game programmer who also reviews old games writes to them, and for some reason they write back and start sending him alien games to play.

Maybe I'm old. Maybe I'm tired. Maybe I'm an emotionally hollow shell of a man. But this book isn't all that great.

The idea of starting off with an alien first contact and somehow establi
Apr 10, 2015 Agnieszka rated it liked it
Constellation Games is an alien first contact story told via the medium of video game reviews.

Before I get all caught up on narrative structures and literary merit, let me just say this was a completely enjoyable book. It's full of in-jokes about video games, game design, and the early internet, and if you're the kind of person who is in on those things, you'll get the jokes and feel gratified. It's also a really funny book, though it gets darker as it goes on. It's so funny and so enjoyable th
Jonathan H.
Dec 23, 2011 Jonathan H. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, scifi
A fantastic book about First Contact with aliens, from the perspective of a game developer/blogger who really never grew up. Lots of swearing and sex makes this inappropriate for kids, but it's a great scifi story for adults.
Jonathan Simpson
Sep 03, 2015 Jonathan Simpson rated it really liked it
Well, it's interesting. I picked this book back up to bring with me on vacation, where I started it from scratch and really liked it! The idea is so innovative, and brings a maturity along with the geekiness that is refreshing. The tagline on the back about how Ariel "will have to grow up" is so corny, but it really works here! It's really true! And with that growth comes a new way to confront problems and conflict that is, in itself, perfectly in-tune with the stealthy critical examination of v ...more
Joe Mahoney
Jun 14, 2012 Joe Mahoney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
First contact has happened. The Constellation, a large, diverse group of aliens, has popped out of a wormhole and turned a large chunk of the moon into a space station. Now they visitors want our two civilisations to get to know each other in the hope that one day, maybe in a couple of thousand years, humanity might join the Constellation too.

Constellation civilisation has been around for hundreds of millions of years. Their technology is unbelievably advanced. And it occurs to twenty-something
Kate Sherrod
Jul 26, 2013 Kate Sherrod rated it really liked it
Shelves: candlemark-gleam
I've kind of overdosed in historical fiction lately, what with my Napoleonic War summer and all, and felt myself in need of an antidote to all of that highly mannered costume drama. I found it (Oh did I find it!) in Constellation Games, a book on which I've had my eye since I first spotted it at publisher Candlemark and Gleam's website really just based on that cover. So eye catching, even before one realizes it's actually depicting an exotic video game controller!

And I do mean exotic. For this
An interesting, funny first-contact novel clearly written by someone with both a love of SF and gaming. Aliens show up, want to give humans stuff and/or integrate them with their civilization(s). (The aliens are made up of multiple species, all of whom are named "alien" in some language. It was getting a little old by the time I got to "peregrini.") Anyway. The main character is a video game blogger who wants to play, review, and port alien games. So the aliens send him alien games. The whole th ...more
May 26, 2014 Barbara rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
I normally don't like first contact stories so I avoid them, but I read this on the recommendation of a friend and I'm very pleased I did.

The author's sense of humour suits me well and I found this wickedly funny. The viewpoint character made this book for me, as he wasn't part of some official "first contact" Earth delegation. Instead, he was just a guy trying to make sense of his world that has suddenly and drastically changed.

The aliens were truly alien. This point was made clearly but withou
Jeff Raymond
Jul 18, 2013 Jeff Raymond rated it really liked it
What a weird book.

It's a first contact story, for one. It's a celebration of old video games, for another. It's a government conspiracy, it's an interstellar war of sorts, it's a book that ultimately tries to be a number of things and doesn't entirely succeed at them all, but is still extremely enjoyable and entertaining enough where it doesn't matter.

Part of the issue might be based on the fact that it's geared toward adults with adult characters, even though the tone is more young adult. I alm
Oct 08, 2012 Marion rated it really liked it
I started this as a serial, getting a chapter a week via email which I read on my phone; but I missed reading some weeks and then decided to wait until the serial was finished. The purchase (from Candlemark & Gleam) included the full eBook when the serial was done. So now I've started reading the book again.

I got about one-third through the first time around and I'm almost caught up with where I stopped last time. I'm enjoying it as much the second time around as I did the first time. I'm th
Kelly Flanagan
Dec 22, 2014 Kelly Flanagan rated it it was amazing
I really have to give this book 6 stars. It has to be the funniest book I've ever read. I won't rehash the plot, it honestly makes the book sound a bit lamer than it really is. Now I have a dry sense of humor, I was raised on Monty Python and the Muppet Show. So you might not have the same reaction I did to this book. I was laughing at almost ever page for most of the book. Beyond the humor, the plot as actualy quite good and there were some fresh ideas and situations I was totally not expecting ...more
Richard Magahiz
Jul 31, 2012 Richard Magahiz rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adventurous SF fans
Shelves: sf-f, read-in-2012
A hugely ambitious book with multiple distinct types of aliens, technologies well beyond our ability of extrapolating from the current state of knowledge, narrative chunks with alternating disparate styles, and (human) characters with a completely worked-out set of conflicting aims plus a propensity for hiding the truth. It's all quite a lot to consume in the form of a weekly serial, which is what I did, and I am planning to go back and read it again as a whole to try to understand just what was ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it
I'm conflicted over this book. Not because it was bad, since it wasn't. Rather because it didn't end as the same book that it started being.

It starts out as a funny book. And it is, often extremely funny. Slowly though, it becomes apparent that this is a serious book, no matter the funny clothes its wearing.

And this is why I'm conflicted. See, I like this book. I was expecting something funny with aliens though, and I got an exposition on how cultures are forced to change and adapt, and some i
Apr 03, 2013 Anne rated it really liked it
David Brin fans will like this easy-to-read "first contact" novel by Leonard Richarson. It features appealing main characters (some alien) within a complicated and interesting tech-based story, all told with a funny and confident voice. I like that the author hid his story arc cards well, plus sprinkled little easter eggs for sci-fi fans in the prose. Reading the reviews on this site may reveal plot points better left to be discovered organically. That said, I was really pleased with the resolut ...more
Danny Bobby
Aug 20, 2014 Danny Bobby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, even though I initially thought I wouldn't. I don't usually like the "written from the point of view of a blog" style of book, but after a few chapters, the story was interesting enough to me that I just got over it. This book is a candidate for purchasing my own hard copy to have in the library!
Jeanne Thornton
Jul 31, 2012 Jeanne Thornton rated it it was amazing
Constellation Games is a space opera epic--one told largely through blog posts, faux twitter feeds, and reviews of extraterrestrial video games--about a first contact event with earth. Plot points (mild spoilers): climate change crisis, chase sequence involving gravity wells and an art museum, extraterrestrials playing MLP-themed casual games and Halo and deducing facts about our civilization from these. The game reviews alone would be worth the price, and famous ZZT programmer and professor Ada ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Enso rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful book, as I was told it would be. It is also a silly book in that the premise is that the main character is a game programmer with a blog reviewing crappy old games. When the aliens show up, he asks to review their crappy old games, which they give him. Through this and subsequent events, we explore the aliens, what is going to happen with human civilization, and the aliens at the times when they went through first contact. As a computer geek who plays game, this was close to ...more
Aug 30, 2015 Michel rated it really liked it
Een verrassend goed boek, vond ik. AA++ would buy again.

Nabije toekomst, aliens landen op de maan, nemen contact op met Aarde. Aliens blijken een hele reeks verschillende soorten aliens te zijn. Het gaat van humanoïde tothive mind, in allerlei maten en vormen,elk met een eigen achtergrond, psychologie, sociologie, etc.

Ariel Blum is een gamesprogrammeur die het niet echt meer ziet zitten: zijn laatste project was een zoveelste versie van een pony-spel (genre verzorg een pony, koop er kledij voor,
Sean Llewellyn Williams
Feb 24, 2013 Sean Llewellyn Williams rated it it was amazing
I really want to give this four and a half, but five stars it is. A marvellous, entertaining, inventive, thought-provoking book marred only by being a tad too long. The best first-contact novel I've read for a long time. The best novel about gaming I've ever read. It's funny and surprisingly moving. Highly recommended.

(Thanks, Cory Doctorow, for giving it such a rave review on Boing Boing that I felt compelled to read it immediately:
Victor Milán
Jul 10, 2014 Victor Milán rated it liked it
It's a good book, no question. Entertaining, fun. Interesting characters - especially aliens. And some nicely-drawn alien cultures, as part of well-realized, 100-million year old "post-scarcity anarchy" culture.

The end disappointed me. I can't on conscience say that it fell apart, since I think it went where the author intended.

For me much of it hinged on the fact that the author either fails to recognize the difference between coercion - initiated force - and self-defense. Or simply fails to be
Jun 07, 2014 Cassandra rated it liked it
Shelves: genre-sff
This was quite fun, which did much to make up for its first-novel flaws. It was not art, it does not even really attempt art, but it entertained me and made me laugh, which is not so bad.

My two real problems with it were (view spoiler)
May 24, 2016 Charles rated it liked it
Smart, flip, alien contact story.

This book vaguely reminds me of something Douglas Coupland may have written, like a new Millennium, science fiction, JPod only set in Austin, TX and not the Pac-NW. Other times, particularly when the aliens are involved, it reminds me of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The writing is good. There have been several times, where I've laughed-out-loud.

There is also a certain amount of edu-tainment, involved. I've managed to learn a bit about the '
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Leonard Richardson is an expert on RESTful API design, the developer of the popular Python library Beautiful Soup, and a science fiction novelist.
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