I’ll start with a couple of admissions: 1. I’m a big fan of Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold-Newton novels/biographies. 2. I’m a big fan of the work Meteor HI’ll start with a couple of admissions: 1. I’m a big fan of Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold-Newton novels/biographies. 2. I’m a big fan of the work Meteor House has done to continue Phil’s legacy, with the backing of Phil and Bette Farmer (before their deaths) and the Farmer family (since). 3. It’s been many a year since I’ve read The Other Log of Phileas Fogg. Those three facts are pertinent, I think, to reviewing MP’s latest Wold-Newton novella.
There’s a lot of talk lately about sequel novels “sanctioned by [family of original author],” but I can’t think of any recent such situation where the family has been involved the way the Farmer family has been with Meteor House (extending back to Phil hand-picking certain authors to continue certain worlds/stories before he passed on), and I think such involvement lends books like this more than just an air of authenticity. Of course, the family stamp of approval doesn’t guarantee the sequel/continuation will be well-written or even connect with the spirit of the original work (I was notoriously vocal about how little I felt Dacre Stoker’s Dracula continuation followed his grand-uncle Bram’s original, for instance, as compared to how much it owed to versions like Francis Ford Coppola’s film). But Meteor House does a solid job of matching authors with the works they’re going to continue (Christopher Paul Carey on the Opar books; Win Scott Eckert on the Patricia Wildman stories) and Josh Reynolds is a great fit to continue Fogg’s adventures.
It having been years since I last read The Other Log, I can also report that Reynolds does a fine job filling in enough background that I didn’t feel lost or confused as to the main characters and their histories (both individual and shared) while also not so over-burdening the story with background and wink-wink-nod-nod cameos that the novella loses momentum. (This latter is a tendency some New Pulp and “crossover fiction” authors have; I love cameos and small nods to other characters, but I don’t want them to overwhelm the story I’m currently invested in. They need to be pertinent, as they are here.)
Character-wise, this is absolutely the Fogg I remember from Farmer’s novel: self-possessed, aware of his weaknesses, more concerned about family and friends than about the War he has long since left behind. It’s also the Nemo/Moriarty I remember (Farmer posits them as the same person). I don’t recall Sebastian Moran being quite so blood-thirsty, but time and a large number of Holmes pastiches could have erased that from my memory.
Plot-wise, Reynolds doesn’t waste a page of the space he’s been given. He starts with a slam-bang action scene that both serves to set the tone and to remove our hero Fogg from his support systems. While I was initially sad that Passpartout is written out of the story so quickly, I also understood why it was necessary: this installment is about Fogg being drawn, however unwillingly, back into a shadow war on the world stage – subplots involving his sidekick or his family would only work against the urgent nature of the plot. As the first installment of an intended series, War of Shadows sets a bunch of intriguing stuff in motion, but it also feels pretty complete in and of itself. If the remainder of the project were somehow not to see print, I’d still feel satisfied that I read a rollicking good adventure yarn with a strong ending. ...more
I have to admit right off the bat: I really really really put off reading this book. I do this sometimes: a book/movie/show/band gets so hyped, so oveI have to admit right off the bat: I really really really put off reading this book. I do this sometimes: a book/movie/show/band gets so hyped, so over-hyped sometimes, that I just know I'll be disappointed so I delay checking it out. Most of the times I've finally given in and read/watched/listened, I've ended up enjoying. And Ready Player One is no exception that experience, as you can tell by the five star rating.
I could natter on for paragraphs about all of the 80's pop culture references. Plenty of other reviewers have already done so at greater length. As a child of the 70s-80s, I enjoyed all of the references I picked up on. I wasn't much of a computer-game player, although I did enjoy D&D and the cabinet arcade games, so some of those references didn't immediately click with me. I had a Trash-80 as I believe my first computer (I remember the tape deck); I also think we had a Commodore and I know we had an early Atari game system, and enjoyed those references. And of course the movie and music references brought smiles to my faces. (Sorry, Aech, but I'm with Wade: Ladyhawke and Legend rock.)
And if the book were nothing but pop culture references, it would still be a fun read -- but it would also get old very quickly. Cline's real strength is in marrying all of that well-researched detail to characters that we care about. Wade is personable and interesting from the very beginning, while the book is still set in the real world and we see how badly everything had deteriorated. We get a strong sense of who he is, how he relates to other people -- so that when the bad guys make their inevitable first move, we feel Wade's reaction authentically. We also recognize and understand his reasons for making his online avatar look more fit/handsome than Wade is in real life. The same is true as we meet Art3mis, Aech, Shoto and Daito -- they are real people, regardless of the fact that this being a first person narrrative from Wade/Parzival's POV we are only meeting them as avatars in a world-wide video game. We come to care about them despite knowing in the real world they are probably not who they say they are. Wade has his real-world secrets, and so do his best online friends. Along with Wade, I was worried about what would happen if (or rather, when) they would all meet ... which is another indication the author has done a great job investing us in the characters.
I also enjoyed the fact that, like so many of the movies and books referenced, the main villain is a Super Evil Conglomerate (IOI) and that the face of that Conglomerate is a smarmy, snazzy-suit-wearing, jackass. Nolan Sorrento IS every classic 80's movie bad-guy: he's Walter Peck, Gordon Gecko, Carter Burke, Hans Gruber, and so many more, rolled into one, and like those gentlemen you're just waiting for him to get his but good.
This one is definitely worth a read, and maybe also a re-read or five. Most of us don't get all of the references on the first read, I suspect....more