Ready Player One

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Ready_Player_One_coverHere we have a geek book.  The main characters are geeks, the plot revolves around playing video games, and the book is packed with geeky pop culture references.  I’m somewhat geeky and like a handful of video games, but I’m no gamer, so I was worried that this book would go over my head and/or be boring.  So, did I like it?

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I did.  I was a tad worried at first, but I put on my +1 Helmet of Geekdom, dove in, and had a fun time.  I finished this book in three nights/reading sessions.

The book is set in the not-too-distant future, where civilization is swirling around the drain.  Climate change, overpopulation, and war have have all stacked up to make life shitty.  Unemployment is high, people are crammed into slums everywhere, and natural resources are stressed.  To avoid reality, people turn to OASIS, a global,  immersive virtual reality game.  People go to school in OASIS, work in OASIS, and some live the majority of time in the game.  This is true of the main character Wade, aka Perzival.

Like many others, Wade lives and breathes OASIS.  So when Halliday, the game’s creator, dies and announces that the winner of a puzzle/hidden teasure contest in the game will inherit his fortune and position as owner of OASIS, Wade is eager to win.  Of course, so are thousands of other OASIS players.  And an evil corporation.

The contest stretches for years, with all but the most die-hard players like Wade giving up.  Then Wade discovers the first clue and the race is on.

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Sure, there were some references I didn’t get, and the plot was very predictable, but I was still very entertained.  It made me want to go hop on a video game and beat some boss-monsters.  It also made me seriously think that it would be a good movie, and sure enough, a movie adaptation helmed by Steven Spielberg is supposedly in the works.

I do think the plot could’ve been a tad deeper, and a lot of the pop culture references weren’t exactly necessary, but this was a fun book.  If you have any interest in video games, D&D, or cult pop culture, I recommend you read it.

Rating: 9/10

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Locke & Key: Volumes 1 and 2

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LockeNKey

This series has good reviews, so I decided to give it a shot.  Considering the cover art and the fact that the first volume is called “Welcome to Lovecraft,” I should’ve known that this was a horror series, but for some reason I went in expecting something different.  I am not a horror fan, so the books were already at a disadvantage when it came to impressing me.

One of the main things that stuck with me about the books is the tone of them.  They almost feel like Tim Burton, but turning down the “pure weird” factor slightly and turning up the “violence” factor.  In some ways I feel these books were more violent than a lot of movies, because a movie keeps moving, so you don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the moment of decapitation, for example.  In these books, if a character is shot or stabbed or whatever, you’re seeing it out the corner of your eye the whole time you’re reading the panels on the open pages.

I felt the story got off to a slow start.  I just assumed the plot would be “move to old house, play with magic keys”; I didn’t realize there’d be more to it until at least half-way through the first volume, or maybe once I started the second volume.  There is a plot/mystery, and of course it’s creepy.

Do I like it?  Meh.  It’s kinda like, I dunno, peeling the dead skin off a sunburn; gross, but oddly fascinating.  I can’t say I like the books, but the story is picking up in the second volume and I’m still reading them, so I guess that’s something.

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Rating: 6/10

Blood Trail

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BloodPriceOmniThis is the version of Blood Trail that I own.  It’s technically an omnibus, having both Blood Trail and its prequel, Blood Price.  My reaction to these two books can easily be summed up with memes.

Blood Price:

NotSUreIf

Blood Trail:

FItGiveUp

You can read my review of Blood Price here, which I wrote before attempting to read Blood Trail.  I didn’t finish Blood Trail and had no desire to, which lowered my opinion of Blood Price too.

In Blood Trail, the biggest problem is Vicki.  I want to like her.  She seems like a strong female character, and she has a distinguishable personality.  Unfortunately, Vicki’s personality rubs me wrong.  She’s stubborn, argumentative, and a little hot-tempered, and not in a cute or funny way.  No, she’s the sort of person you hate getting in a debate with because you know it’s going to turn into an argument, and regardless of the outcome you’ll end up with your blood pressure raised.  I know people like this, and I avoid them, and now that I’ve made that association with Vicki, I can’t forget it.  The only parts of Blood Trail I liked were the parts that she wasn’t in, and since she’s the main character I figured that meant it was time to stop reading.

Blood Trail Rating: 3/10

Steelheart

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Steelheart

This is the third book/series I’ve read by Sanderson, and the first one I’ve read by him that is considered YA.  I’ve noticed a sort of recurring tone in his books, but first the general synopsis.

People with superpowers appear, but they’re all bad.  These super-powered people, called Epics, throw the world into chaos, destroy traditional government, and eventually establish their own fiefdoms/territories.  The Epic called Steelheart kills David’s father, and eventually takes over Chicago.  David grows up, joins a band of rebels, and get them to help him try to kill Steelheart.  We readers know it’s not an impossible goal impossible because they’re the heroes and book heroes usually win, but still, Steelheart is basically an evil Superman.

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There were parts I like and parts I didn’t like.  For the most part, I didn’t like Meghan, or David’s interest in her.  I kinda liked the idea of Epics having weaknesses, but I didn’t like how stupid/specific some of said weaknesses were; I understand parallels can be found in comic books, but I don’t like it in comic books either.  For example, David says there was an Epic that could only be killed by someone that was 37 years old; that’s almost on par with Captain Marvel Jr. and Wonder Woman for stupid weaknesses.

Stupid.

Stupid.

Newcago is pretty depressing.  In fact, that’s something I’ve noticed about Sanderson’s works: there has been something depressing or threatening in every book.  Steelheart is actually the lightest, most “fun” book by him that I’ve read, and I still wouldn’t really call it fun until the second half of the story.  That’s not to say his books are bad – quite the opposite – but if you’re looking for a light read and/or the book equivalent of a summer blockbuster popcorn flick, Sanderson is not your author.

The idea of all superpowered people being bad was different, and the end of the book was a significant improvement over the begining.  There was a love interest, but no actual romance or love triangles in sight (yay!).  The one character that annoyed me ended up having a reason for being annoying, so overall I’d say it was a good read.

Rating: 7.5/10

SpoilerAlert

I need to discuss the character Meghan, and there will be significant spoilers as a result.  Meghan really irritated me.  She seemed nice at first, but was cold/bitchy for most of the story.  This was particularly irritating because despite her mood swings, David had a crush on her.

She's just not that into you.

She’s just not that into you.

It turns out the Meghan is actually an undercover Epic, sent to spy on the rebels/Reckoners.  In fact, she if Firefight.  The mood swings are related to Epics are crueler when they’re actively using their powers, and at times Meghan was sneakily using her’s.  I like this explanation for her moodiness, especially since she’s not the only character that faces this problem.  My main concern is that it looks like the sequel is going to revolve around her and trying to save her, so I hope Sanderson continues to manage avoiding the sappiness/stupidity of many YA novels.

Utopia

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Utopia

I like amusement parks.  I don’t necessarily like a lot of the rides -roller coasters and other popular “thrill” rides don’t interest me – but I like some of the shows and tamer rides.  At Universal Studios, I particularly liked the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley section, in part because of how immersive it felt.  So how about a book set in Utopia, an imaginary theme-park made famous for its immersive visitor experience?

Utopia is a park with four themed sections: Boardwalk, Camelot, Victorian Gaslight, and Callisto/space station.  All visible crew members dress in theme-accurate costumes based on whatever section they’re in.  In fact, theme/historical accuracy is so important, that the park creators hired historians and specialists of all sorts; even the plants/landscaping is theme-accurate.  If Utopia was real, I would go on a pilgrimage to get there.

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plz make it a thing

I liked and cared more about Utopia than I did about any of the characters.  So naturally, Lincoln Child used Utopia not just as a setting, but as a hostage.  The bad guys and good guys duke it out behind the scenes, the bad guys killing people by tampering with/blowing up rides and the good guys quietly trying to stop them.  All the while, the park guests are blissfully ignorant.  So now I can’t fully enjoy imagining a park like Utopia, because I remember that Lincoln Child is having tourists die there.  And the next time a theme park ride breaks while I’m on it – which has happened (Men In Black at Universal) – I can pass the time wondering if it’ll blow up.

y would u do dis to me?

y would u do dis to me?

The book was fine for what it was.  I can’t say there was anything particularly good or bad about the plot, characters, or story-telling.  The only part that really stuck out in my mind was the park itself, but that was marred by the whole burning-and-killing-tourists thing.  Is my reaction to the book logical?  Probably notunless Lincoln Child intended for readers to consider the Utopia park a character in and or itself.  But that’s ok; reactions and opinions don’t have to be logical.  I read it, it was fine, and it’s time to move on.

Rating: 6.5/10