Wednesday, 23 March 2016

#ReadyPlayerOne mini spoiler free book review


Ready Player One has been on my radar for a while. With my excessively geeky browsing history on Amazon, they sure seem to know me pretty well by now, so Ernest Cline's book appeared in my recommendations a while ago. I'm hella glad it did.

Set in a realistic, debilitated economy of a year 2044, where resources are few and far between and humanity is gradually deteriorating. Wade Watts like the rest of humanity seeks an escape from the difficult life of actual life by submerging himself in what has become so much more than the most epically scaled video game of all time, but a reality away from reality known as the OASIS. A person can craft their OASIS avatar to be whatever they like - fat people can become skinny, ugly people can become hotties, and people can be warriors, sports personalities, musicians, or simply live a different life within the realms of the many planets and destinations within the OASIS framework.

A story not a million miles a way from the tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the OASIS designer James Halliday has left in his will the mass of his fortune to the sole player who discovers a unique easter egg, hidden somewhere within the OASIS. When Wade Watts as his alter ego and avatar Parzival suddenly makes a breakthrough in discovering the way towards unearthing the prize, the contest once again gains momentum, and the race is on for every player to discover the egg for themselves. And not everybody plays fair...

Ready Player One appeals to me as a gamer, a sci-fi nut, a geek, a film buff and everything inbetween. It has a barrage of references to retro gaming consoles, computing, 80's pop culture including movies and music, whilst intertwining this with an up to date and believable vision of the near future. Cline clearly has a lot of affection for all of the geeky elements that make their way into the story; Star Wars, Star Trek, GhostBusters, Space Invaders, Pac Man, Amiga, Spectrum, Nintendo, Sega,.. The list is seemingly endless.

BUT it's worth noting that the story is also really well written! It's captivating, interesting, with lovable and memorable characters, interesting and believable bad guys and genuine relationships that I found myself really investing in. The plot has twists and turns, and the progression feels like advancing through a Legend Of Zelda game, with several climaxes like little bosses as the story vamps up to it's epic conclusion.

Whilst you're appreciation of this novel will be helped if you're as massive a geek as I am, it's definitely not a prerequisite, and I think the well written story alone should be enough to get anyone even remotely interested in good writing and geekdom.

So, blow your cart, power on and player 1 press start, to begin this truly excellent adventure. MTFBWA.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

#BigFish spoiler free mini book review


I am yet to see the film adaptation of Big Fish, but I'd heard possitive things and decided to give the book a go first. The tale of the prolonged death of William Bloom's father, diagnosed terminally ill, the book explores the relationship between a father and son through a series of conversations between parent and child, utlising a unique mixture of both humor and sadness, creating something that is completely neither, but that is curiously melancholly throughout. I enjoyed this type of empathic story telling, and felt very connect to William throughout, feeling his frustrations, regrets and joys along with him as he struggled to find out more about his father, who seems determined to present himself through a facade of well told, bad jokes and stories of his past, which we are never quite sure how many of which are actually true.

Not a difficult read, despite the complex issues dealt with here, and nicely paced throughout, the stories within the story model works well at delving into the relationships William's father has with the wider world, and with his son, and I was capitvated by the book for a few solid days. I recomend to anyone who like me, from time to time at least, enjoys that melancholly feeling.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

#PoetAnderson by Tom Delonge and Suzanne Young mini spoiler free book review


Poet Anderson was drawn to my attention, as I'm sure it will be for many, by the involvement of ex blink 182 frontman Tom Delonge. As a big fan of all things blink related, I am already familiar with Tom's obsessions with the occult, conspiracy theories, sci-fi and so forth, and make regular visits to his website Strange Times, a page dedicated to the exploration of unexplained phenomenon. As a big fan of Science-Fiction I was immediately intrigued by the premise of a novel with contributions from the musician.

The character of Jonas in the story is immediately likable and relatable with a downbeat back story - his parents died when he was younger, and his guardian and brother Alan is currently in an unresponsive coma after an accident en route to their old home town where Alan was hoping to begin work in a hotel, and Jonas would enrol at yet another new school.

Alan and Jonas are Lucid Dreamers and are able to directly effect their surrounding environment within their dreamscapes simultaneously, both being apart of the other dreamers world whilst they sleep. Jonas is determined to find his brother in the dreamscape, and becomes obsessed with the idea that his brother is lost there, which is why he is unable to wake from his coma. During his search, Jonas meets other, intricately described lucid dreamers and realises that they all actually enter into a shared consciousness together whilst they sleep. He explores many similarly detailed environments, all of which are expertly described with a grungy realism. He must deal with Nightstalkers, Dreamwalkers and his own personal night terror, as well as the attempted Harbinger of destruction to the dreamscape: REM (as in Rem Sleep), who is hell bent on entering the 'waking world' to wreak his malice upon it.

The relationships created throughout the book feel realistic, and are not always straightforward. I particularly found Young and Delonge's description of love interesting particularly captivating and well told. I also found the entire premise of the story to be well founded and believable, and I found myself feverishly turning pages and even making myself late in my desire to see the story through to it's surprising conclusion.

There are some slow passages, but in all I was glued to the epic and original tale crafted by Young and Delonge, and would highly recommend the story to anyone with an interest in well told tales of science fiction. It is also accompanied by a comic book and audio EP which only serve to enhance the multimedia project that Delonge has embarked upon. Role on the next book!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

#TheRosieEffect spoiler free book review


After really enjoying the first book, 'The Rosie Project' I was really looking forward to reading the follow up' The Rosie Effect' by Graeme Simsion, although I was a little apprehensive after my friend (weirdly, also named Rosie!) said she hadn't got on with this one nearly as well as the former, which was a witty, romantic and well told story about a socially inept professor of genetics and his quest for the ideal partner.

The follow up see's the titular Rosie and Don struggle their way through a new onslaught of awkward social and life changing predicaments, many of which are massive life milestones.

The writing at the beginning of the story feels like Simsion is trying a lot harder to make the character of Don feel more Autistic, and I found some parts quite difficult to read. This does seem to settle down, and eventually I was back to being addicted to the lives of the characters old and new, struggling once again to put the book down.

In places this book is laugh out loud comical; tooth grindingly tense and tear-jerkingly sad, and it's not just Don and Rosie's situation you become eager to discover the outcome of, but also new characters from their new life in New York.

As I really want to avoid spoilers, I shall leave this mini review extremely mini! And say that I thoroughly recommend this book as a successful follow up to the previous entry, and for anyone who likes a multi-emotional well told tale about social ineptitudes. Superb.

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