Monday, January 30, 2012

Random Thing I saw today

It doesn't really get me until the baby. It's always the baby.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown (Aug 16, 2011)
Brief (from 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?

My Awful Review:

Ready Player One is the story of Wade Watts, a poor-but-brilliant white trash high school student who has one obsession in life: OASIS. This online world has become reality for many people like Wade, allowing them to go to school in its virtual confines, make their purchases, and live out their lives, away from the reality of the harsh world they live in. And for Wade, his every moment is occupied with finding The Easter Egg, the clues that will allow Wade to have access to the fortune of the now-dead creator of the game.

This book is full of pop-culture references from the 80s, and plenty of gamer nostalgia. And yet, it's still a very well-written book, for the most part. All of the 80s references and videogame playing, and movie watching could have very well been the death of this book, but instead it's cleverly weaved into the storyline, allowing it to feel natural and ultimately enjoyable.

The book was the kind that I couldn't put down, and read through it in a little less than a day. For me, the only weakness comes at the end of the book. Without spoiling it for all of you, let's just say that the final point of conflict between Wade and the antagonist just wasn't what I was expecting. It was too quiet for me, just not personal enough. There was this great conflict, and then the last 25 pages of the book were all downhill. It was supposed to be the critical, sphincter-clenching, ultimate confrontation between protagonist and antagonist, between good and evil, or at least not so good and slightly better. Instead, it's over all-too-soon. A couple of old videogames get played and we call it good.

For me, this was the only major blemish on this boy gets the girl, pop culture 80s extravaganza, but it was a pretty big one. When an ending feels like the author was being chicken, I'll always be the first to stand up and cry, "Fowl!" I don't think the author was actually scared to do it, but for me, he just didn't give me the face-to-face...well, avatar to avatar, confrontation I'd been waiting for the whole book, and it was a pretty big letdown.

Don't get me wrong, this book was a great read. Fun, imaginative, and something that I think a lot of people in their 20s and 30s could really get into. It certainly made me want to find the closest laundromat and bang out a new high score on Ms. Pacman, my own personal love of that time period. However, the ending threw up flags for me, and maybe it will for you as well.

  • The pop-culture references. It was a really fun way to pack a book full of nostalgia and make it seem relevant to the crisis at hand.
  • The characters were enjoyable and interesting. Some chances were taken by characters that left me pleasantly surprised.
  • It's always fun to read about videogames
  • The non-confrontational ending. Seriously, an entire book where the bad guy never gets punched in the face? Phaw!
  • The love story seemed a little weak to me. It was realistic, but the ending was a little quiet for my liking.
Overall, Ready Player One gets a 7.75/10. There were some very good things here, but there were also a couple of things that disappointed. It's not the kind of book that should ever get a sequel (unless the big-wig publishers smell a cash cow), so for a single read it's probably worth your time. Just pretend that the good guy punches the bad guy at the end and you'll be fine.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Much do Writers REALLY Make?

Today Jim C. Hines posted his 2011 writing income (he has a full-time job also), and some folks in the comments were surprised that he didn't make very much.

As a blogger of fantasy and Sci-Fi reviews, and someone who wants to eventually get a book written and try and break into the business, I did my homework several years ago and came to the conclusion that for 90% of the population, it's not as glamorous as the 10% make it seem (Occupy Keyboards?).

Hines' post is just further confirmation of this. If you're interested in this sort of thing, there are also excellent posts by Tobias Bucknell and Myke Cole on finances and how to make it as a full-time author. John Brown also has an excellent breakdown of a lot of this information. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Author: Stephen King
Genre: Science Fiction Time Travel
Publisher: Scribner, November 2011

Stephen King is a big name, but one that I don't often read. I've only read one book by him before, and though I enjoyed it immensely, I can't remember what it was. That said, I heard great things about this book and decided to give it a go. I'm really glad that I did, as it's become my favorite time-travel novel and is just a fantastic book in general.

Jake Epping is the average joe that starts this novel out. An English teacher, and recently divorced, he doesn't have a whole lot going in his life, until he heads to his favorite local diner. The owner, who suddenly looks like he's in terrible health and has lost a number of years off his life, shows Jake into the back room, where he discovers an incredible secret: the back of the restaurant lets you travel back in time to 1958. Sounds like a big reveal, right? Nah, that's the first 25 pages or so.

This book was a long one, as the main goal of Jake eventually becomes going back in time time 1958 and living there until 1963, where he will attempt to save JFK from being assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

The book has a little bit of everything and does them all well. Love story? Check. Horror? Check. Sci-Fi? Check. You even get cameos by other King characters from his other well-loved works.

The love story was really what sealed this book for me. I will be reading this one again in a few years as a study in how to write long fiction, and I'm fairly certain that I'll enjoy it just as much the next time around. Unlike Reamde by Neal Stephenson, which I got halfway through and put down, this book kept me interested in the fate of the main character throughout, and even though there are some dull moments (it IS a book about history, of course), they were very well done and the suspense of "what happens next?" kept me going late into the night. I read this book like an obsession, and when I was finished I was sad to see it go, though my wife assures me that it's good to have me back.

What I loved

  • The love story was wonderful, and the ending very fitting. There may or may not have been man-tears in my totally manly eyes.
  • The secondary characters were very real, and it really helped strengthen the story.
  • The mystery of the Yellow Card Man was great.
What I hated

  • The book got a tiny bit slow in parts, especially as the character was waiting around for things to happen, and during his time teaching, but it wasn't so bad it took me out of the story.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles: Review

Author - Larry Correia
Genre - Urban fantasy Noir Alternate History
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Baen

If you missed it, please go and see what I thought about Book I: Hard Magic here

Correia began this series last year with Hard Magic, and this second book continues the tradition of X-men style powers in the 1930s alternate history United States, where a lot of things are the same, but plenty has changed because of the different magical powers running around.

This book also stars Jake Sullivan and Faye Viera, the same two main characters from the first book. It's always difficult to review a sequel without either giving too much away from the previous book or just saying that it's more of the same, but I'll do my best to make this an actual review and not just a quick recap of the first book and "it's basically the same." Here goes.

After the events of the first book, our heroes find themselves wrapped up in a plot to make all the Actives (the people with magical abilities) into little more than slaves. This starts with an attack on the President Elect, with the Grimnoir Society being setup to take the fall, and being written off as little more than terrorists, bent on ruling the world because of their belief in the supremacy of people with magical abilities over those without them. This isn't true, of course, but the with some big political figures moving to make all Actives have a lot of restrictions on them (think WWII Germany, and replace the Jews with Actives) things aren't looking good for the Grimnoir at all. There's a lot more to the plot than that, but anything else would really give away too much from the first book, which is a great read all on its own.

Spellbound is an improvement in almost every way over Hard Magic, which was already an excellent book. The characters are deeper, the story more complex, and in this installment we finally get to see inside the head of some of the Japanese characters, which is very interesting and fun.

If you loved the first book, then you're going to love this one as well. The feel of this book doesn't change much from the first book which is good since its author has been busy writing in a few different genres and could have easily have made this book feel more like his thriller Dead Six or some other story he's been working on. Instead, the characters are sharp, the world feels very accurate to the time, and Faye, as always, is really fun to read.

This book did end on a bit of a low note, but that's to be expected in this series. People get hurt, people die, and that's just how life is.

What I loved

  • Correia just keeps getting better and better, and so does this series.
  • The characters are developing. I love that about second books. Getting to see the characters progress and grow a little wiser and a little more understanding of the big picture is great.
  • The Imperium. In the first book they were the quiet, menacing evil, and in this book we get to really see what they're about through the Chairman and Toru.
What I hated

  • Honestly, there's not much to put here. I'm a big fan of this series, and it improved in every way. If I wanted to gripe about something, I could say that the Advanced copy had a couple of grammar errors, but that would be just ridiculous nit-picking on my part.
  • There should have been at at least three battles with giant demons....oh wait, there were.