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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
September 6th, 2017 
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. Science Fiction. epub, equivalent to 608 paperback pages. (2011)

This has been on my to-read stack for a few years. I finally got to it this weekend on the recommendation of a co-worker who listened to the audio book narrated by Wil Wheaton.

Let me start with the good/acceptable/decent about the book. The world building is good as well as easy to grasp. We are dropped into the greater Seattle area in a massive post-fuel depression that isn't quite dystopian but feels very tired and crowded. More and more people are mentally fleeing to the OASIS, an immense virtual reality universe that allows for everything from attending high school - which our hero does - to competing in tournaments. The plot is a decade-long set of quests with a bit of a computer thriller added into it, while the quests themselves are built as an immense homage to 1980's geek culture trivia. The "hero" (narrating in first person - ugh!) is decently believable if a bit too well spoken during the mental narrative.

But there was a lot wrong with this book. It's got a horrible set of gender stereotypes that just get worse as the book progresses. About half way through the story, a painful pseudo-romance that has descended into stalker behavior is used as plot motivation for the "hero." And rather than build up the final fight scene to a beautiful starburst ending, the book ends too late, and finishes while focused on that same weird obsession that the narrator confuses with love. Also, in order to actually get to the final fight scene, the Great and Powerful OZ - I mean Og - shows up to rescue the heroes and heavily influence the competition/quest.

So, do I recommend it? "Depends." If you want to play around with the idea of an MMO/VR world that is chock full of 1980s trivia, sure, it's a fun romp. If you've become more aware of what is acceptable behavior for relationship-building and gender acceptance, then I recommend you give this a big fat no.

This entry was originally posted at http://reedrover.dreamwidth.org/2104801.html and has comment count unavailable comments so far. Please comment there using OpenID or here if that is your preference. I'm still reading both journals.
In Other Lands, by Sarah Reese Brennan. Urban Fantasy/Fantasy. Hardcover, 432 pages. Keeping it.

This book is what would happen if Gordon Korman's No More Dead Dogs got crossed with Ilona Andrews' On the Edge and everyone got real about the fluidity of sexuality and the absurdity of stereotypes of all kinds, especially gender.

The focus of the novel is on Elliott Schaefer, a short, mouthy, sarcastic pacifist who knows too much, is intolerant of stupidity, and has far more determination than sense to keep his mouth shut. He teams up with a golden boy (of perfect lineage and amazing physical prowess) and the first (and most beautiful) elven warrior that he's ever seen. Maybe they can stop the Borderlands from having so many fights. Maybe they can get the various races and species to even just talk to each other. And maybe they can do this without tearing themselves apart on the metaphysical rocks of being teenagers.

The point of the novel is that growing up is hard no matter who you are, what you want, or where you go. Sometimes chosen friends can make up for broken family, but only sometimes. And knowing yourself is a great place to start when confronted by a bewildering set of conflicting expectations and prejudices, some of which aren't even aimed at you.

Recommended: Yes.

This entry was originally posted at http://reedrover.dreamwidth.org/2105071.html and has comment count unavailable comments so far. Please comment there using OpenID or here if that is your preference. I'm still reading both journals.
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