Ken's Reviews > You

You by Austin Grossman
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's review

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction

** spoiler alert ** I was pleasantly surprised with You's opening: set inexplicably a mile from where I live, featuring a 28-year-old (not much younger than me) in 1997 as he becomes a game designer and attends his first Electronic Entertainment Expo. It was surreal to recognize the streets the main character walked down, or to think, "Hey, I was at that convention, too!" I really enjoyed having so many places, events, and experiences from my own life that I could identify and relate with.

But the deeper I got into the book, the more abstract and bizarre it seemed. I sometimes wondered if this was because I would read a chapter before going to bed and thus was remembering it from a hazy state of near-sleep — but no, the book itself is surreal. Fantasy bleeds into reality as the main character starts talking with, hanging out with, and even going on dates with the characters in his game. An aside about Alewife subway station being built by dwarves is a metaphor that served no purpose I could discern. It becomes hard to tell who's the player and who's the avatar.

Two other changes complicate the book, the first being the constant switching from first to second person. While most of the book is told from the game designer's perspective, in mid-thought the narrative will switch to "you", with the game designer becoming an avatar for the reader (I think). It's jarring and unnecessary except to give the book's title meaning.

Finally, in the book's last quarter, the designer starts playing through the entire history of his game company's catalog to hunt down a bug (that inexplicably has global implications, in a world before the mass adoption of the Internet and MMORPGs). These games span genres and settings, from fantasy RPG to Cold War first-person shooter to space colonization simulator. The detail in these chapters is extensive and hard to relate to the main story. By the time I got to the epilogue, which was a seven-page description of yet another rules system, I gave up and didn't bother reading it. The story was long finished, as far as I was concerned.

I'll accept the possibility that I read this book at too superficial a level and didn't appreciate the nuance and subtlety of the above literary techniques. But as someone who has worked in the games industry and who enjoyed Grossman's previous book, Soon I Will Be Invincible , I was surprised and disappointed by You.

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Reading Progress

December 27, 2013 – Shelved
December 27, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
May 1, 2014 – Started Reading
May 19, 2014 – Finished Reading
May 20, 2014 – Shelved as: science-fiction

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