Tag Archives: Reading List

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one-coverReady Player One by Ernest Cline is a 2011 dystopian sci-fi novel set in the not so distant year of 2044. I’m a little sorry I missed this one when it first came out, but better late then never. The great thing about art is you can enjoy it any time. It does’t have to be new. Because I spend a lot of time driving I grabbed to audio book, which is narrated by Wil Wheaton.

That’s actually one of the reasons I decided to check this book out. I’ve enjoyed Wheaton’s delivery of several John Scalzi novels and thought this one sounded interesting. The other reason it caught my eye right now is that it’s currently in production to be a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg. Along with its dystopian, ’80s nostalgia, virtual reality premise, these were factors I couldn’t pass up.

I can hardly think of a better person to read for the audio version of Ready Player One than Wil Wheaton. The material is tailor made for his geek image that he has cultivated so well on social media and his blog wilwheaton.net. His reading even becomes meta at one point.

Wheaton’s reading is enthusiastic and I like the way he tries to distinguish the characters by using different vocal styles for them – of course now that I know Simon Pegg has been cast as Ogden Morrow in the Steven Spielberg film adaptation I had a hard time hearing Wheaton’s booming voice while picturing Pegg.

For the most part I loved Ready Player One. I loved the futuristic world that’s stuck in the past. I also the idea that gaming, avatars, living online, and “real life” have all become meshed together so that one is hardly distinguishable from the other.

Wade Watts is a fairly typical loner anti-hero. He’s a frustrated teen with nothing in his life besides the virtual world of the Oasis. He lives in “the stacks” with his disinterested aunt and longs for a way out. The world has been in permanent recession since the turn of the century.

Wade is on a quest to find an Easter egg that, recently deceased, Oasis creator James Halliday has hidden somewhere in his virtual world. The finder of such egg is set to inherit Halliday’s billions. That’s where the ’80s nostalgia comes in. Halliday was a proud member of the Gen-X generation and  immersed himself in childhood nostalgia. The secret of the hidden egg lies somewhere in a sea of old Atari games, Rush songs, and Blake Lewis films among other Gen-X touchstones.

The youth have become so obsessed with the entertainment Halliday’s youth that they don’t seem to have have built anything of t heir own. So what becomes of a society that’s built on futuristic technology that’s stuck in a virtual reality past? A huge identity crisis. People can be anything they want in the Oasis, but are nothing outside of it.

Ready Player One as one of those books that I never really wanted to end. Granted I loved the nostalgic references, but I also found this futuristic society fascinating, although as I keep seeing ads for virtual reality goggles I can only wonder how close we will actually get to this.

We all know how boring it can be to watch someone else play a video game, but Cline makes his video game world exciting. You never quite know where things are going to end up. I thought the big battle at the end wasn’t quite as exhilarating as the earlier sections, but overall the story wrapped up nicely. This is one of my favorite new discoveries in a long time.

Now Reading: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

About half way through Finders Keepers by Stephen King it occurred Finder Keepers Stephen King coverto me that it’s a bit macabre for an author to depict a fictional author being brutally murdered by an obsessed fan. Not that King is any strange to the macabre label. In fact I’m pretty sure that’s where I first learned the meaning of the word.

But usually King writes about more fantastical horrors than something that could easily happen to him or anyone else. But that makes the scene all the more chilling.

Finders Keepers is the follow to King’s 2014 novel Mr. Mercedes. I haven’t written about Mr. Mercedes yet, but I totally loved it. Both are crime novels and there isn’t anything supernatural about either of them.  They are also not horror, but I do think King’s knack for the twisted and horrific is a great complement to the crime genre.

I’m into the final act of Finders Keepers right now – right at the point where it’s getting harder and harder to put down.

Reading List: The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

The Nerdist Way by Chris HardwickI’m not sure what made me pick up Chris Hardwick’s 2011 book The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) on a whim a few weeks ago. Up until a few years ago, I knew Hardwick as the guy who hosted the MTV show Singled Out and that was back in the mid-90s (and now I feel kinda old). Having missed things like the PBS show Wired Science and something called Shipmates, except for catching him in Terminator 3, he was off my radar until he popped up on The Soup to promote his own show Web Soup. That wasn’t long before this book came out, but I had no idea it existed. I’m sorry I didn’t find it sooner because it’s really good.

The Nerdist Way is part memoir and part self-help. Hardwick chronicles his difficulties after his success on Singled Out. For a period of several years Hardwick let his life spiral out of control, saw his career go nowhere, and developed a drinking problem. What’s cool about this book is how honest he is about his mistakes. Most of us don’t like to remind ourselves about where we screwed up, let alone tell the whole world about it. In addition to detailing where he went wrong, Hardwick is very attuned to how he turned his life around and that’s where the self-help aspect of this book comes in.

Continue reading Reading List: The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

Now Reading: ‘Revival’ by Stephen King

Revival Stephen King CoverRevival by Stephen King is the first hard cover novel I have bought in years. That might not be that big of a deal, but I have realized in this digital age that when it’s on Kindle I don’t really own it. Yes, I love the convenience of my Kindle, but what happens to all those books I bought if I should ever stop using Kindle?

Those books will just be sitting in a Kindle cloud waiting for me to get a new Kindle – and it will have to be a Kindle because the DRM will prevent me from using some other device (at least not without a lot of hassle).

Continue reading Now Reading: ‘Revival’ by Stephen King

Reading List: ‘NOS4A2’ by Joe Hill

Since it’s Christmas Eve I figured it’s the perfect day to talk about JoeNOS4A2_cover Hill’s NOS4A2. If you wish it was Christmas every day you might change your mind after reading this book.

Charlie Manx is a vampire-like creature who lives in Christmasland. It might sound like a cool place and that’s exactly what Manx wants all the little kids to think. Manx is not of the typical variety of blood-sucking vampires. Instead he drains the life force out of his child victims, which gives him eternal life and turns them into murderous little demons.

NOS4A2 is the first book of Hill’s that I ever read and I loved it. I have since read Horns and several of the short stories in 20th Century Ghosts.

What I love about NOS4A2 is the very realistic setting Hill paints before thrusting his characters into the extraordinary. Manx’s adversary is a young girl named Vic McQueen. We first meet Vic as a child. Vic likes to escape her troubled childhood on her Raleigh Tuff Burner bicycle. It’s on one of these rides where Vic discovers she has an unusual power.

She can transport herself places via a covered bridge nicknamed the “Shorter Way Bridge.” The bridge leads her to things she needs. In her childhood that was mainly lost items, but as she grew other another purpose for Vic’s ability began to form.

We spend a lot of time getting to know Vic before she ever encounters Charlie Manx. Hill does a great job transitioning Vic from precocious child to a troubled teen and even more troubled adult. That transition is something I’ve thought about a lot during my life.

How many times do we see a child in a difficult situation and wonder at what point they will give up on their childhood innocence. When will they stop caring about school, their goals, and doing the right thing? We’ve all seen it happen, whether it’s friends or family, maybe even ourselves. In NOS4A2 we see it happen and we want nothing more than to see Vic gain back the strong sense of self she had in her childhood.

So we have a great lead character to root for and added to that a horrible villain we want to see her get the better of. Manx preys upon children just like Vic, the ones who are innocent and good in their adolescence. Manx steals them before they can become the troubled adults he knows they will. In his own way Manx thinks he is saving these children from a bad life.

NOS4A2 is one of those books I didn’t want to end, even though it’s pretty long. Despite the story wrapping up, I wanted to stay with the characters a little longer. This book is highly recommended.