Oh boy, it's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but with that special Breaking Dawn-brand treacle added to make the story both derivative and sickly...moreOh boy, it's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but with that special Breaking Dawn-brand treacle added to make the story both derivative and sickly-sweet!
Yeesh. Thank God I only borrowed this from the library. (less)
NOTE: I received a publisher’s ARC of Erebos via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
One Sentence Summary: Erebos has a cool central idea, but...moreNOTE: I received a publisher’s ARC of Erebos via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
One Sentence Summary: Erebos has a cool central idea, but it’s weighed down by numerous instances of poor execution.
London high school student and All-Around Average Guy Nick Dunmore doesn’t really notice that some of his schoolmates are behaving oddly until his friend Colin changes overnight from a frequent companion to a hostile acquaintance bent on ditching him. Eventually Nick finds the source of the changes: an odd, intense, and apparently omniscient MMORPG called Erebos. Those of you who know your Greek legends are probably guessing from the name that Erebos the game is bad news, and of course you’re right. The game is first intriguing, then enthralling, and finally an overwhelming addiction. Players get little sleep, try to avoid meals and bathroom breaks, and eventually miss school to stay in the game. The short list of rules is spelled out at the beginning of the game, à la Fight Club. Break the game’s rules and you’re out, with no second chances. Most disturbing of all, the game is asking players to handle tasks in the real world – and it knows without fail if you’ve completed them....
Put all that together and you have an intriguing story on your hands – and for the most part, Erebos is an entertaining read. The plot is lively, interesting, and close enough to realistic at the beginning that by the time you realize it’s strayed from the path of possible, you’re having too good a time to care. Author Ursula Poznanski believably portrays the different forms of social ostracism the game’s players mete out to those who aren’t yet in versus those who have been kicked out of Erebos. It was nice to read a book involving gamer culture that didn’t trip all over itself trying to make sure everyone reading it could easily understand it.
However, the frequent moments of clunky writing kept interrupting my fun. For instance, who calls someone “sister” in the 21st century? Not when they’re referring to a sibling or a nun, but as a supposedly everyday piece of slang, i.e., “Forget it, sister”? There are times when it feels as though the author’s throwing in random expressions out of the 1930s. I was waiting for one character to say to another, “Now you’re on the trolley!” (10 points if you get this Simpsons reference). To be fair, this book was originally published in German, so I don’t know if the odd expressions and slang are just a translation issue or if they’re a decision of the author, but they’re out of place in Erebos.
Even more off-putting are the harsh transitions: one minute Nick’s at school, and then, boom, he’s suddenly at home eating dinner or playing the game, with no information as to how or why the setting changed. I was constantly backtracking and trying to find the part I’d skipped, until I realized that’s just the way the book is. The transitions are irritating enough that my resulting frustration kept knocking me out of the story. I had much less of a problem with the constant changes in tenses (while Nick is playing the game, the story is told in present tense from the perspective of his character, whereas Nick’s life in the “real world” is written in past tense). Yes, it was odd to keep switching, but I liked the distinction the change made between the game world/Sarius and the real world/Nick.
The plot becomes less and less believable until about the last fifth of the book or so, when it goes off the rails entirely. The climax of the story is oddly small-time in scope, the ending is unsatisfying, and don’t even get me started on exactly how insane the explanations about the game’s designer and all the things he supposedly invented to make the game work are. I was also very frustrated by the fact that no main characters and only two secondary characters face any long-term negative consequences. If you wanted to consider what happens to Nick’s best friend a long-term negative consequence for them both, I suppose you could, but by the end of the story everything’s all hunky-dory. Judging by the last 10% of the book, I can easily imagine the kids brushing off everything that happened during the game and forgetting about it after a few months. On the other hand, I wasn’t invested in what most of the characters thought anyway, because the vast majority of them were throwaway, paper-doll stock stereotypes – the “depressed mom”, “bully dad”, “bitter fat chick”, “angry nerd”, etc.
Erebos has quite a few defects, but its compelling central idea is enough to keep those who start it reading until the end. The book is at its best when offering us a story of a school taken over by a maliciously addictive new trend and the choices the characters face in dealing with it. My thanks to the people at Annick Press and NetGalley for the ARC! (less)
After some internal debate, I'm giving Ready Player One three stars as a compromise. The book's overall plot and ideas were in four-star territory for...moreAfter some internal debate, I'm giving Ready Player One three stars as a compromise. The book's overall plot and ideas were in four-star territory for me, but the writing was clumsy and unpolished enough that I often felt as though I were reading the first draft of a self-published novel.
The story itself is entertaining enough - the death of a billionaire who was basically a combination of Bill Gates and Howard Hughes sets off an enormous contest in which gamers of all stripes compete to win the billionaire's fortune and control of the corporation that owns and operates the world-dominating OASIS system. They have to use their knowledge of the billionaire, who was apparently obsessed with music, television, movies, and gaming from the late 1970's through the mid-1990's, to decipher his clues and complete the trials he set for each level. I genuinely enjoyed many of the details about the world Cline created. The ad-hoc transformation of trailer parks into violence-ridden "stacks" where poor Americans live 15 to a double-wide was extremely disturbing, while the description of mega-corporation IOI as an entity with its own police force and the power to force those who fall behind on their bills into a lifetime of involuntary indentured servitude was believable enough to make me shudder.
However, it appears Cline either never heard the dictum "show, don't tell" or was too lazy to care about it. His protagonist, Wade Watts, spends much of the book telling us virtually EVERYTHING. And the sheer amount of infodumping, particularly in the first half of the book, is unbelievable and really takes away from the story.
Cline definitely had the seeds of a great book in Ready Player One, but all too frequently lapsed into lazy storytelling. For his next book, I hope he finds an editor who can help him work through his weaknesses. (less)
**spoiler alert** One more warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
You have to be kidding me. Aliens are making and controlling the androids??? And they're doin...more**spoiler alert** One more warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
You have to be kidding me. Aliens are making and controlling the androids??? And they're doing it to control those in power, like the president? This is the big shocking reveal at the end of the story, setting up the inevitable and oh-so-suspenseful YA second installment cliffhanger? ALIENS??? Come on, Robison Wells! That idea was worn out in 1955. Today it's just pathetic.
Full review to come when my disgust has cooled into contemptuous amusement. (less)