Once upon a time I was forced to read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein for my junior-year college-bound English class. I hated every minute of it. WhichOnce upon a time I was forced to read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein for my junior-year college-bound English class. I hated every minute of it. Which was quite surprising considering that I was heavily into my science fiction and fantasy reading phase at the time. But I suppose there's something about being force-fed books that makes them unpalatable. I totally get what Ms. Troop was doing (now)--and I couldn't have asked for better preparation for college than what she gave us. But there are very few books from my junior and senior English classes that I can honestly look back on without fear and loathing. 1984 by Orwell, Siddhartha by Hesse, and Wuthering Heights by Bronte are pretty much the only ones to escape. Moby Dick? Ick! The Old Man & the Sea? Felt like I was dragged kicking and screaming through the eons we spent on that thin volume. The Hobbit? Just seemed like one long, drawn-out, rambling tale.
So...when one of Megan's Semi-Charmed Reading Challenge categories called for us to read a book read by another challenger and I saw that Kalyn V @ Geez, Louise was tackling Tolkein's classic, I thought it a good time to give this much-beloved book another chance. And what did I think of it this time? Funny you should ask....
Since the movie came out not too long ago and this is such a well-known story, I'm not going to bother to give a full run-down here. Suffice to say that this is a Quest novel with a capital Q. Mild-mannered, home-body hobbit Bilbo Baggins goes on the journey of a lifetime and learns that he's braver than he'd ever suspected and certainly more than adequate for all the adventures in store (just like Gandalf said). So it's also a coming of age novel and all those other high-falutin' English-majorly things we talked about back in college-bound English. There's lots of adventure, sword-fighting with spiders and goblins, and some daring trickery with barrels. A lot to enjoy.
But...it is also one long, drawn-out rambling tale. Tolkein is a story-teller. I'll give him that. But there were quite a few points where my attention was wandering...and most particularly in the last quarter of the book where you'd expect the action and the wrap-up to be at its most riveting. I found myself skimming over whole sections and apparently not missing anything because the story kept making sense.
I will say that I enjoyed myself much more without Ms. Troop constantly at my elbow asking about motifs and metaphors and symbols and meaning. I do wish it hadn't been so long and drawn-out. ★★★ for a nice adventure story. I had hoped to give it more. The edition I read was really quite lovely. I adored the illustrations by Michael Hague.
Eleven-year-old Sam Carnabie is not looking forward to a family trip to visit his Great-Aunt Roberta. Great-Aunt Roberta likes cats and china ornamentEleven-year-old Sam Carnabie is not looking forward to a family trip to visit his Great-Aunt Roberta. Great-Aunt Roberta likes cats and china ornaments; she doesn't much like children. And there isn't even a proper park near her oppressively tidy home in Reading. Why can't the Carnabies be headed out for an adventure somewhere exciting instead. You know what they say: Be careful what you wish for....Because when Professor Ampersand and his adopted children Zara and Ben zoom up on a yellow motorcycle and sidecar to whisk Sam away from the proposed dreadful visit in Reading, the adventure is well on its way. And it will be more adventure than Sam could possibly imagine.
Sam barely has time for a quick investigation of Professor Ampersand's awesome inventor's digs when one of the professor's colleagues arrives with news that the evil Professor Murdo is out to kill the rest of the original "7 Professors of the Far North"--a group of brilliant scientists who were once going to teach at a university on Nordbergen, an island in the Arctic Circle--as well as making preparations to take over the world. The other professors are called for a meeting at Ampersand's home--but before Professor Gauntraker can fully explain the dangers, Murdo's henchmen arrive and kidnap the professors. Sam, Zara, and Ben manage to hide and Gauntraker leaves a clue behind that will allow the kids to follow to Nordbergen. But how can three children take on an evil genius and his armed minions? The fate of their friends...and the world...is in their hands.
A wonderful adventure book for the nine and older crowd. The opening immediately grabs the reader and the story provides an exciting ride. This is definitely the type of book that I would have devoured in my younger days and I found it quite enjoyable now. It reminds me of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories--written as a straight narrative. While the idea of three children defeating an evil genius may be a little hard to believe, the story as told sweeps you right along and the kids have enough doubts and get just enough help along the way to make it really easy to suspend your disbelief. Great fun and interesting story. There is also a parallel story about Marcia and her parents that works well as it dovetails with the adventures of Sam, Zara, and Ben--and it serves as a nicely done morality story about being happy with who you are and letting others be exactly who they are as well. Good, solid story-telling.
The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse is an epic title. That would be why this book jumped off the shelf at the library, into my hand, and inThe Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse is an epic title. That would be why this book jumped off the shelf at the library, into my hand, and insisted that I needed to take it home with me. Which I did. Sadly, the book did not quite live up to its epic title. The book is good. The book is funny--as I expected it to be. But it's not that good. And it's not that funny. There are places in it where I am sure there are jokes and I'd get that feeling that I was supposed to laugh--like Robert Rankin had paused expectantly waiting for the audience to provide the laugh track. But then I'd be like Sherman in the Mr. Peabody & Sherman movie (which we just saw at the drive-in last Saturday) and I'd look up and think to myself I don't get it.
Rankin has created an interesting premise. A young man named Jack is on his way to the big city to seek his fortune--he's heard stories that that's where all the fortunes to be made are made. But when he gets there, all is not as glamorous as he's been given to believe. First off, the "big city" is really Toy City (aka Toy Town). Everybody is a toy except for the rich and famous nursery rhyme characters like Little Miss Muffet and Little Tommy Tucker and Ole King Cole, etc. And there is a serial killer loose who is knocking off the Mother Goose celebrities one by one in rather gruesome methods based on their rhymes. The Toy City police are stumped and Bill Winkie, a Private Eye who has starred in his own series of crime novels, has mysteriously vanished.
Jack runs into Winkie's sidekick, Eddie Bear, and Eddie convinces him to partner with him to solve the murders and collect a fabulous reward. Because you know, Eddie was the real sawdust--er, brains behind the P.I. business. Eddie leads Jack into underage drinking, high-speed car chases, in and out of jail, and into encounters with mysterious spider women. There will be quite a few more deaths and some high-tension drama before Eddie and Jack can find out who's really behind the nursery rhyme murders.
The book is a fantasy-style riff on the noir genre and private eyes in general. It is very self-aware and that is part of the fun. Jack and Eddie discuss how "if this were one of Bill Winkie's private eye books" then "we'd have met all the important characters by now" or "we'd have gotten hold of the MacGuffin by now." They also talk about whether or not the decisions they make along the way would be what a true detective in a crime novel would do. Lots of in jokes (and, as discussed, plenty that go right over my head) and plays off of the nursery rhymes. Excellent premise that manages to fall just short of being a fantastic story. Good solid entertainment, but not extraordinary. Three Stars.
My take: This is a difficult review for me. I almost always can give high marks to the review request books and virtual tour books that I read becaus My take: This is a difficult review for me. I almost always can give high marks to the review request books and virtual tour books that I read because I carefully screen the books I agree to review. The synopsis really grabbed me. Roland Hughes has developed a fantastic premise. I liked the idea of tying in all kinds of SF writing and television shows into a fantastic piece of fiction. I had great expectations....
But, I have to be honest (and I only do honest reviews), this book was not, ultimately, for me. The interview format really got on my nerves. The entire book is all tell and no show. No action--none. Even when John Smith is describing what happened it has little effect because it's all dialogue and he sounds like he's giving one long lecture about absolutely everything from what a computer is to why the Hebrews had dietary laws to where the Atlantians went to how the Druids and Mayans figure in to finally answering the question his interviewer came to ask in the first place--what happened in the Microsoft Wars. And he does it all in such a condescending manner.
I also did not care for the antagonistic tone against the sexes. The reporter obviously doesn't care for men although her comments are few and far between and John Smith repeatedly makes incredibly misogynistic remarks about women throughout the book. My "favorites":
The longest lifespan known, or at least told to me, was roughly 250 clock years for a man and 325 clock years for a woman. The stress of living with a woman really does kill a man. That much has remained universal throughout all cycles. (p.133)
Women can't resist making things up for no reason at all and being mad about them for years but that isn't the story we are telling here. (p. 150) [So, your point in saying this is?]
The tone is bad enough...but it might be useful and understandable if Hughes explained why these people are like this. What motivates them? But he doesn't--we're supposed to accept this, apparently, just because that's the way it is.
There are also great inconsistencies...for instance, the reporter supposedly lives in a society that has developed after the Microsoft Wars. Everything has been destroyed. Pretty much all knowledge of what came before is gone--Smith has to explain what computers, dvds, satellites, submarines, etc. and ad nauseum are--even hard copy encyclopedias and maps--and yet the woman knows what socialism is? Seriously? Her people have retained no memory whatsoever of tangible physical objects and yet she understands an obsolete abstract concept.
If you like unusual story-telling formats, then this book is for you. If you like incredible amounts of dialogue, then this book is for you. If you are interested in conspiracy theories and an explanation of what happened to Atlantis and the "truth" behind every UFO siting ever....then this book is for you.
I really am sorry that I cannot give this book a stellar review. But it just did not live up to my expectations and, overall, I just didn't become engaged with the characters. I'm giving it two stars--all for fantastic concept.
**This book was sent to me as part of the Premier Virtual Authors Tour in exchange for my honest review. I have received no compensation whatsoever.
Any project that involves Harlan Ellison really is a mine field...of explosive ideas, earth-shaking revelations, and mental confrontations that are noAny project that involves Harlan Ellison really is a mine field...of explosive ideas, earth-shaking revelations, and mental confrontations that are not for the faint of heart. Link him up with the provocative artwork of Jacek Yerka and you wind up with something very special indeed. Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka/The Fiction of Harlan Ellison does just that. An extraordinary collection of 30 images by Yerka with short pieces by Ellison which tell his story about Yerka's artwork. As Ellison says, "...after you've read my interpretation, you can come back to Mr. Yerka's art time after time and invent a new story each visit."
As one might expect from Ellison, his interpretations are generally rather dark and nightmarish--but beautifully written and exquisitely detailed nightmares direct from the author's fertile imagination. Ellison may have an extraordinarily different point of view--but one thing is certain. The man can write. My favorites in this collection were among the shortest pieces ("The Silence," "Darkness Falls on the River," and "Paradise") with "Between Heaven and Hell" and "To Each His Own" closely following.
Cold Earth is a debut novel by Sarah Moss. It is set in Greenland with a team of six archaeologists and researchers from the United States, England anCold Earth is a debut novel by Sarah Moss. It is set in Greenland with a team of six archaeologists and researchers from the United States, England and Scotland spending a few weeks at the beginning of the Arctic summer searching for traces of a lost Viking settlement. While they are on the expedition, there is an epidemic of some sort going on and they gradually lose contact with family at home and the outside world in general. In response, they each write what may be their last letter home.
Added to their increasing distress at what might be happening to the world around them is the unease created by Nina. Nina isn't really an archaeologist--she's an English major trying to tie Vikings into her research...and a friend of the team leader, Yianni. Nina begins seeing and hearing things and believes that the ancient Vikings are not pleased to have their resting place disturbed. With their connection to the outside world lost, food running out, and the possibility that no one will come back to get them, the possibility of a haunted burial site may be the last straw.
Described on the back of the book as an "exceptional and haunting debut novel" and a "heart-pounding thriller," it does sound like there's a lot of cool things going on. Doesn't it? Well....there's a lot of really cool ways that this story could have played out. And it doesn't use any of them. The ending is incredibly disappointing. After creating all this tension regarding the "epidemic" back home, we don't really ever find out how this epidemic affected them. Or affected anyone, really. After building up this atmosphere of a haunted archaeological site, we never find out if it's really haunted or if Nina is just one disturbed academic. There's the suggestion that it might all be in her head or that she's even behind the odd things that happen (somewhat reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House), but it's even vaguer than Shirley Jackson's novel on that point.
This was a fairly decent read. It kept me going to the end. But I was thoroughly dissatisfied when I finished. I had very little sympathy with any of the characters--and two of them--Yianni, the team leader, and Ben--get very short shrift indeed. Nina gives us 103 pages for her letter, Ruth--79...and the letters get shorter and shorter. While both Yianni and Ben (the last of the writers) give us a mere four pages apiece. The team leader has only four pages to relate about one of the most important digs of his career?
So...this is represented as an apocalyptic, end of the world tale with dash of ghost story for added flavor. It comes off as rather bland and certainly not "thrilling" in any sense of the word. I didn't hate it--but I can't say that I'll be recommending it.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a beautiful, science fictional love story that pretty well knocked my socks off. A complex work--tolThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a beautiful, science fictional love story that pretty well knocked my socks off. A complex work--told from alternating first person points of view with constantly intersecting and overlapping time limes--that, at its heart, is about relationships and the price (emotionally) one is willing to pay for them.
Henry DeTamble suffers from a genetic disorder (related to the genes that give us our sense of time, circadian rhythms, whatnot) that will eventually become known as Chrono-Impairment. From the time he's very young he finds himself traveling through time without warning to places and times within his own life or that of his wife (sometimes to-be) Clare Abshire. He has no control over when it happens or when/where he goes....and he can't take anything with him, so he appears naked--sometimes in the most inconvenient places. This is not only disturbing for him emotionally and temporally, but physically as well since it sometimes places him in dangerous situations.
For Henry, the first time he meets Clare is in "real time"--he is 28 and she is 20 and they meet at the Newberry in Chicago where Henry is a librarian. Clare has been waiting 14 years....because the first time she meets Henry is when she is six and Henry's 36 year old self magically appears in The Meadow out near her house in Michigan. From that point on, their lives intersect off and on until Henry is 43...living a "real time" life together, using their real time to develop a relationship, marry, and after much trauma and several miscarriages having a daughter together. They both know through the interactions with the various "editions" of Henry's time-displaced self that their relationship is limited by this chrono-disorder and that sometime in the future Henry will face a danger he may not be able to overcome. It is up to them to determine that their love....their connection through time has no limit.
As Clare says: “I won't ever leave you, even though you're always leaving me.”
As I mentioned, this book is about relationships and the price one is willing to pay for them. Henry must go into the relationship knowing that he must leave the woman he loves unexpectedly...and, depending on how dangerous the time leap, possibly forever. Most of the time he also has knowledge of the future that he can't share with Clare. Clare must play the waiting game....waiting to meet Henry in real time, wanting him long before she can have him, and waiting for him when he makes his time leaps.
This book also take a look at the nature of time itself along with cause and effect and whether we have free will or everything is predetermined. Henry spends most of the book telling Clare that what will happen has already happened and that they can't change anything. Even when they decide to deliberately do so. The story causes the reader to consider whether Henry and Clare have a choice at the moment of choosing or if they are compelled to make the choice simply because it is the choice they will have made. Some rather deep philosophical waters.
Niffenegger handles this with great aplomb. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and my interest and emotions were completely engaged. I became invested in the characters and had to know what came next. I'm glad I finished the book at home because I was a bit weepy at the end. This is a book of over 500 pages that I simply whizzed through. My only complaint is that Clare's character isn't quite as fully realized as Henry's--and even a few of the supporting cast are fleshed out a bit more than Clare....which gives us a rating just verging on four and a half stars.
Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos is a rare thing for me...a graphic novel. But, being the Ellison fan-girl that I am and having read the synopsis of tHarlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos is a rare thing for me...a graphic novel. But, being the Ellison fan-girl that I am and having read the synopsis of the book sometime last year, I promptly put it on my Christmas wishlist, my own personal Santa came through, and I found it under the Christmas tree last December 25th. I was very excited that two of my category challenges called for a graphic novel, because I knew I had the very thing just waiting on the TBR pile.
Sometime in Earth's distant future, the planet is in danger--not just physical danger, but the very fabric of reality is being ripped apart. The elite call on once-decorated, but then disgraced General Roark to gather six others with special abilities to save them. With elaborate promises of rewards to come, Urr, the renegade robot; Mourna, the Amazon-like woman with steel claws for hands; Tantalus, the incredibly swift insect-man; Ayleen, a Venusian woman with quite literal fire-power; Hoorn, the stealthy and adept cat burglar; and Kenrus the brilliant, outcast technologist all agree to join Roark on a deadly journey to Earth's past on a mission to save its future.
As a graphic novel, the book is pleasing. It has an old-fashioned feel and reminds me of the comic books I used to buy when I was a preteen. I have a certain nostalgia for those stories--I would read everything from those with a science fiction feel to the mysterious and creepy (think Tales from the Crypt). I enjoyed those far more than most of the graphic novels I have tried in recent years. Paul Chadwick's artwork is fabulous.
The story, however, is a bit clunky. There are instances of Ellison's brilliance, but, as other reviewers on Goodreads have noted, there is a certain lack of continuity as if panels or even pages are missing. I'm not sure if that's a result of Ellison writing in short bursts for each panel or what. One can see the bones of a good story, but it is never completely covered with flesh and made whole. It begins with a bang--and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of how Roark gathered his colleagues for the e journey. The trip through the black hole is well done and enjoyable as well and there are moments when the Seven face the villain of the piece that are quite good. Over all, a three star outing for an interesting story and great artwork. A more cohesive storyline would have brought up to four.
Triumph by Philip Wylie is a terrible book. No--I don't mean the writing. Or the way Wylie tells his story. Or anything to do with Wylie's craft as anTriumph by Philip Wylie is a terrible book. No--I don't mean the writing. Or the way Wylie tells his story. Or anything to do with Wylie's craft as an author. That is all top-notch. Five-star reading material. What I mean is...this is the most horrific rendering of World War III, of nuclear holocaust, that I've read. To think that any member of the human race could possibly commit themselves to the wholesale slaughter of the entire Northern Hemisphere just so they could say that they "won." I can't imagine. Or, rather--now, thanks to Philip Wylie, I can.
And that, in a nutshell, is what Triumph is about. It is the 1960s and the height of the Cold War. The Russians have long been plotting the ultimate assault that will lead to control of whatever remains of the earth. Russia's Red army marches into Yugoslavia to "liberate" its people and an ultimatum is given to the President of United States and the leaders of England and France telling them they have two hours to confirm with Russia that they will not interfere. The President barters for time to negotiate, but it really doesn't matter if he has two hours or six. Because at the appointed time, Russia begins attacking the U.S. with everything they've got.
No one ever believed that either of the superpowers would go all-out. If nuclear war came, only certain strategic targets would be hit in order bring surrender. Russia isn't interested in surrender--they want to remove any possibility of any Americans (or any countries in the Northern Hemisphere) interfering with a plan for world domination. So, they play dirty. Literally. Using dirty bombs loaded to the gills with material that is hundreds of times more radioactive than necessary and then setting off special bombs that will send radioactive salt into the atmosphere to clean out anyone the missiles might have missed.
Russia's plan also includes secret, hidden bomb shelters specially designed to preserve a few thousand of the elite, super-Russians (sound familiar? master race anyone?) who will come forth to take over the earth once all phases of the war plan have been carried out. But Russia doesn't reckon on a few specialized submarines that the U.S. navy had managed to keep hidden up its sleeve...or bomb shelter fortress prepared by a Connecticut millionaire which saves the lives of fourteen Americans.
It's not just the idea that anyone could be so hell-bent on power that they would systematically eradicate everyone in the Northern Hemisphere (including, through what retaliation the US and its allies can muster, their own people). And, of course, the U.S. is not portrayed as the white-hatted hero. There is plenty about how our stock-piling of weapons and contributions to the Cold War made this event possible. All adding to the horror of the nuclear onslaught. What is also horrific about Wylie's story is the detailed descriptions of what happened on the surface of the northern part of the earth during the missile strikes and their aftermath. Realistic and terrible. And even knowing that we are no longer living in the Cold War Era doesn't prevent the shivers and the question...what if? What if another Hitler-like madman seizes power in a country with nuclear capability? Would that person be willing to go all-out just for the chance to say, however briefly, "I'm the winner! I rule the world!" It's a very sobering thought.
It is also very interesting to read Wylie's 1960s take on race relations and gender. Yes, it's dated. Yes, there are a few stereotypes that will bother modern sensibilities. But it very much represents the time it was written while allowing Wylie to examine those stereotypes and give them a bit of shake. He allows his characters to learn and change and grow through this horrible experience. Is it realistic to expect that all fourteen of the survivors would miraculously break through whatever hangups they brought with them to the shelter? Perhaps not. But it does provide an excellent character study. As mentioned--five stars for every thought-provoking moment and every horrific shudder at the thought of all-out nuclear war.
Harlan Ellison is an author who likes to shakes things up. He is well-known for his own dangerous visions and his skill at twisting the everyday and mHarlan Ellison is an author who likes to shakes things up. He is well-known for his own dangerous visions and his skill at twisting the everyday and making it thought-provoking. And just when you think you've figured out what kind of writer he is...science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, black comedy, psychological...he throws you a curve ball and does something completely different. Those qualities made him the perfect person to collect and edit the Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions collections back in the 1960s.
Dangerous Visions #3 is the paperback version of one-third of the stories which appeared in the original hardback collection, Dangerous Visions. In it you will find stories by SF greats such as Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard and Samuel R. Delaney. You will also find names that may not be quite as well-known to you (this was at least the case with me): Kris Neville, Jonathan Brand, Sonya Dorman.... A total of fourteen stories which are every bit as disturbing and thought-provoking as when Ellison first tossed them out to the reading public in 1967.
My personal favorites:
"Judas" by John Brunner: where a man thinks he's defying and dismantling the mechanical "god" of his times...only to find that he's playing right into the myth.
"Test to Destruction" by Keith Laumer: A rebel leader is tested to the limit--both by his opponent and by alien forces. He manages to use one against the other...but at what cost to his own humanity?
"Encounter with a Hick" by Jonathan Brand: A young man's explanation to the court about why an elderly man dropped dead in a hotel bar. Some people just can't take the demolition of their cherished beliefs.
The stories are a mixture of styles and subject matter...as well as producing a mixture of reactions. There were a generous portion that I enjoyed and found interesting and through-provoking as well as those that just didn't touch a chord with me. And one that I just sat and thought "What?" the entire time I was reading it. Good solid science fiction selected by a master...three stars.
We scientists have been responsible for many of the world's ills for a longtime. We've failed to understand that science moves fast, it is revolutionaWe scientists have been responsible for many of the world's ills for a longtime. We've failed to understand that science moves fast, it is revolutionary, while the human mind is slow, evolutionary. As a result, we have a gap of thousands of years between scientific achievement and the human capacity to use it wisely. ~Dr. Dawson (p. 144)
The Big Eye was written by Max Ehrlich in 1949 about the future...the near-future of 1960. In Ehrlich's vision, mankind has learned very little from the two world wars of its recent past--even less than we who have survived the '60s (and '70s and '80s and...). The Cold War has resulted in everyone having a piece of the atomic action and Russia and the United States are playing a nervous game to see who will drop the bomb first. It isn't a matter of "if," but "when."
Dr. David Hughes is a young astronomer sent by his boss Dr. Dawson to meet with the top US officials in an effort to determine if it is in the nation's best interest to be the first to launch the attack. At the last minute, Hughes is called to return to the Palomar Observatory where Dawson has made a discovery that will change everything. The days of the Earth are numbered. A rogue planet, "Planet Y" is speeding through the galaxy on a collision course with Earth. A collision that will take place in exactly two years on Christmas day 1963. Dawson has gathered the world's astronomer's to verify his calculations and they make the terrifying announcement to the people of Earth.
In the wake of the horrible news, David finds some happiness with the woman he loves; and, ironically, the world is able to settle its differences creating a world at peace with the problems of war, hunger, and even cancer solved in the shadow of doomsday. When Christmas 1963 comes, David and Carol go out into the open (along with most of the citizens of Earth) to face The Big Eye (as Planet Y has been named) and meet their doom. What happens next is not a miracle, but a very believable twist that brings the story to a very satisfying conclusion.
This was a decent look at what a writer who has just been through World War II saw as the near-future of the 1960s. The basic story line was interesting and believable--although the viewpoint is old-fashioned and somewhat preachy (particularly as viewed from the 21st Century). I like the idea that mankind when faced with a common threat might actually pull itself together and look beyond our petty fears and disagreements--it would be nice if we could that act together without a catastrophic event looming over us..... Three and a half stars.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is the ultimate 70s/80s pop culture, video-game-loving, geek overload of a book. There are references to everything fReady Player One by Ernest Cline is the ultimate 70s/80s pop culture, video-game-loving, geek overload of a book. There are references to everything from Pac Man to Max Headroom, from Star Trek to Star Wars, from War Games to School House Rock. If it doesn't make your nerdy self explode in a Dungeon & Dragons frenzy, then I don't know what will. Oh....and it works for those of us who aren't quite so into video games and pop culture too.
The story takes place in a rather bleak future. Fossil fuels have finally run out and the entire world is in a pretty depressed state economically speaking. There are few jobs and little hope and most people spend as much of their time as possible in the virtual world...a place called OASIS. The OASIS was developed by super-geek James Halliday and his partner Ogden Morrow. This virtual world/gaming paradise places all sorts of worlds at the player's fingertips. Via one's avatar, Vulcan and Endor and probably even Arrakis of Dune are all possible destinations. And every game a gamer can imagine is ready for playing. And access to the OASIS world is free--well, virtually. A one-time fee of twenty-five cents gets you in.
But Halliday's passion was the 80s (and 70s)--he was obsessed with the decade and when he died he left behind a will that said that whoever could find the easter egg hidden in the OASIS would be his heir--an heir to all of the OASIS stock and billions of dollars. The easter egg could only be found by playing "Halliday's Game"--the ultimate treasure hunt with an initial clue given in the will. Every gamer out there has been working for years to try and figure out what that original clue meant--there are Halliday scholars and books and online resources detailing every moment of Halliday's life. Notebooks and journals that tell about all of his obsessions--from early video games to his favorite 80s movies and TV shows to the science fiction novels he loved. No self-respecting gamer (or "gunter" as they're known in the book) would dare enter the game without being able to recite whole movies from Halliday's list of must-see films.
Our hero is Wade Watts--a teenager who is on the low-end of the social strata. He has spent his life in the "stacks"--trailer parks where (since real estate is such a premium) the trailers are stacked on top of one another like apartment complexes. He is the first to break the code in the first clue and soon he and the High Five (four other individuals) are off and running on the treasure hunt of their lives. And it just might cost them their lives--because individual gamers aren't the only ones with their eye on the prize. Also in the mix is the Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a mega-corporation that intends to win the game, take over OASIS, and start charging regular fees and cluttering up the virtual world with advertising. To this end, IOI has hired gunters to work for them--regular paychecks, benefits, gaming supplies all provided and all you have to do is sign away your right to the prize. Wade and the rest of High Five become the target of the Sixers (those in IOI's employ) and it becomes a race to claim the final prize before the Sixers can eliminate the competition--permanently.
This was a very fun book. I'm grateful to all the fellow bloggers who have read this over the last two years and put it on my radar. With so many folks mentioning it, I figured the book would qualify for the "Everybody But Me" category in Book Blogger Bingo. Lots of action and great ride all along the way. I am deducting one star, however, for the rather tedious game explanations (info dumps) that occur periodically along the way. I finally started skimming and can't see that my lack of knowledge about how some of the old video games really hurt my understanding of the novel. I also really enjoyed the characters and the way the High Five group interacted. There was just the right mix of friendship and friendly competition. Four stars for a really good read.