Friday, September 09, 2011

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Pages: 384 pages (Hardcover)
Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition
Released: August 16, 2011

What do you get if you took World of Warcraft, the Sims, and The Surrogates and mixed them in a blender for 80 seconds? If you said that you’d get a world where you could control your own ‘Sim’ in a huge massively multiplayer online world, where you can go on quests, hang out with friends, and even go to school. And in this world, it allows players to be anything that they wanted to be. A hotter body, sure. An awesome warrior with cool weapons and has huge muscles, of course. A player, in both senses, whatever you want you can get. The world offers a better you, a better life, a better world, so much so that some people spend their entire time in the online world that they forget about the real world.

If this was your answer, then you’d be correct. You’d also be correct if you said that you’d get the delightful debut novel, Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.
When James Halliday, the creator of OASIS, passes away it kicks off contest like no other. Since he was never married and has no offspring or friends, his entire fortune is up for grabs. And what better way to do this then with a game? In his will, he left a puzzle. Solve it and you get to do a quest, once you do that, you get another puzzle. Solve that and you do a question...I think you get the idea.

The only way to get this is if you immerse yourself in all things Halliday. He loved the 80s, so even though the year is 2040, the 80s made a huge comeback. The more you know the better chance you have at winning the inheritance and gaining total control over OASIS.

The main character, Wade, goes on this quest, but finds that the further he gets into this puzzle, the deadly it becomes for him, not only in OASIS, but in the real world to.



Ready Player One has a lot of great things going for it. As a gamer, I loved reading about the world that Cline created and seeing how it affected everyday life. Even though I didn’t grow up in the 80s, I did get a lot of the pop culture references and what not. Just a note, there is a lot of 80s references. A lot.

The story, as a whole, is fairly interesting. On one hand, it’s exciting and seeing how Wade figures out the puzzles was fun to read. But on the other hand, the book did tend to tell you things instead of showing them to you. I think with this book it was a bit hard to not have an info dump here and there, because of the nature of the story. I just wish that the info dumps weren’t so much. I wanted to read more about what Wade was doing and even learn more about his dystopian world.

The characters are a bit hit and miss too. I found Wade annoying and stupid, but he was an interesting character. But I think the main problem is that the good guys are clearly labelled; and therefore, they don’t have as much depth to them as I would have liked. The same goes with the bad guys. The Sixers, minus the head honcho, had no personality. The main villain was a touch over the top. You do get some development, but not as much as I'd like.

I think my biggest con of this book is the first few pages. In the prologue, Wade tells us that he was the winner of the competition and is writing this book in order to set the record straight. I felt like this kind of took away from the climax of the story. Instead of wondering whether Wade makes it or not, I already knew that he got it. The sense of surprise was taken out.

This may seem like I hated the novel, but I didn't. I actually liked the story and felt like Cline did a great job for his debut novel. There are problems, but I did like the premise and the gamer in me had fun reading this. I'll be looking forward to Cline's next novel. Definitely check this one out.

3.5 stars

ps. There is a movie coming out about it soon.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Review: The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

The Lake

A major literary sensation is back with a quietly stunning tour de force about the redemptive power of love.

While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.

It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.

Pages: 192 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Melville House
Released: May 3, 2011

Before I start, I just want to say that if you see this book at amazon, goodreads, book depository, the library, the book...basically anywhere that you can find this book. Do not, under any circumstances, read the synopsis past the point that I've posted here. Why? Because the synopsis kind of spoils the book. So if you plan on reading this, don't read the synopsis.

I've only read one book by Banana Yoshimoto, Asleep, which I enjoyed. I love her writing style and how it gives off a very dreamy sort of style. I'm still not sure if it's correctly translated, but I think for the most part, Michael Emmerich did a great job.

The story is about Chihiro and Nakajima and their complicated relationship. Chihiro is still suffering from the death of her mother and it's clear that Nakajima has a painful past that no one could ever imagine. (unless you read the synopsis, so don't!) The more Nakajima learns to trust Chihiro, the more she wants to heal him. It's a complicated relationship, but one that both of them want and need.



The Lake is a relatively short book. It's only 192 pages. But after reading Asleep and now The Lake, I've noticed that even though her books are short they feel longer. I remember reading this and feeling like a long time has passed, but I was only on page 70. Now, whether this is a bad thing or a good one is entirely up to the reader.

As far as the story goes, it's okay. There is a sense of loneliness, grief, and pain throughout the pages. This is a pretty dark book, but one that I thought was quite good. Like I mentioned before, I became a fan of Yoshimoto's writing style after reading Asleep and I was glad that the same translator was used for both books. When I read her books I feel a sense of disconnect from her characters, but they still keep me engaged. It's weird, but it's one of the things that I like about her writing.

The Lake does start off slow and I did feel like it dragged on at some points, but I still enjoyed my time reading this.

ps. Did I mention that you shouldn't read the synopsis?

4 stars

This was provided by netgalley

Review: Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

Practical Jean: A Novel (P.S.)

Jean Vale Horemarsh is content, for the most part, with the small-town life she’s built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (aside from that terrible falling-out with Cheryl years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if unextraordinary man. But it is only in watching her mother go through the final devastating stages of cancer that Jean realizes her true calling. No one should have to suffer the indignities of aging and illness like her mother did—and she, Jean Horemarsh, will take it upon herself to give each of her friends one final, perfect moment . . . and then, one by one, kill them.

Of course, female friendships are quite complicated things, and Jean is soon to discover that her plan isn’t as simple as she initially believed it to be.

Pages: 320 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Released: October 18, 2011

When I first heard about this book, I was excited. The blurb sounds like a fun dark comedy, the cover fits the blurb to a tee, and overall I knew that I would have a great time reading this. Then I read it and it only left me with mixed feelings.

Jean Vale Horemarsh had to take care of her dying mother, during the ordeal she realized that the entire process was horrible and didn’t want to see anyone else go through that. When her mother finally kicks the bucket, Jean is left with this feeling and wondering what to do. Her husband is worried that she isn’t showing any grieving signs and her friends keep telling her that they’ll be there for her, but Jean just can’t shake this annoying feeling.

Then it hits her. Dying, the way her mother died, was horrible. Dying, when you’re happy, is best. So she comes up with the plan to kill all of her closest friends, so they don’t have to suffer like her mother did. She meets with them, one by one, and tries her best to give them an evening of happiness before she murders them. It’s the least she could do for someone she cares so deeply about.



This was kind of hit and miss with me. The concept, the cover, and the synopsis made me feel like this would be a fantastic dark comedy to read, and for the most part it is. The very idea that Jean would feel compelled to kill her friends and make sure they are happy before death is a morbid topic. But every so often Cole will add some comedic moments that do make you laugh.

Sadly, I felt like the book dragged on at some points and I did feel bored. Jean was a character that I didn’t really care for. I don’t need to like the main character in order to like a book, but there has to be something interesting about them. Jean seems like a very nice woman, who decides to do something horrible in order to fit her own selfish needs. This sounds interesting, but I don’t know if it carried well in the book. At least for me, it didn’t.

The Cheryl side story was interesting at the beginning, but Cheryl has to be one of the most pathetic characters I've ever read. Reading her parts, even though it was needed in the story, did pull me out of Jean and her plot to kill her friends. Actually, I don't even think the Cheryl plot was needed, now that I think of it.
This is still a fun little book to read and if you like black comedy then you’ll definitely want to check this out.

3.5 stars

This book was provided by net galley.