Friday, October 28, 2011

Book review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline's wonderful debut novel, was suggested to me by a friend, and just a few pages into this clever novel, I was hooked. Slightly reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this well-done science fiction novel is set in an entirely too plausible future in which the founder of the ultimate gaming/social networking site dies, leaving the ownership of his creation and his multi-billion dollar fortune to the one who finds his "Easter Egg," hidden somewhere in the world he has created.

Filled with references to 80s pop culture and plenty of nods to all that is geeky, Ready Player One warmed every nostalgic, nerdy bone in my body.

Wade Watts, aka, Parzival, is the protagonist of the story, and one of the first to figure out the first piece of the several puzzles that will move him a step closer to obtaining the vast fortune left by the former owner. (In a bizarre life-imitating-art twist, I happened to be reading this book at the same time Steve Jobs died, and the parallels between Jobs and Halliday, the creator of the virtual world in the book, were a bit uncanny.) Parzival is a likable character, and his insecurities and wry outlook on his life only make him more believable and likable. The antagonist, a faceless corporation personified by executive Nolan Sorrento, is perfectly despicable, and its (his) slick yet threatening persona only adds fuel to the fire.

The narrative flows easily and well, and I found myself eagerly wanting to move the story along, not because I wasn't enjoying it, but because I couldn't wait to see what happened next. This is one of those books where you can't wait to see what happened next, yet every turn of the page brings you agonizingly close to the end.

From Crown Publishers and available from your local, independent bookseller. (Make a difference: shop local; shop independent!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book review: Jim and the Flims by Rudy Rucker

One of the only real disadvantages of not being independently wealthy is that having to work does cut into one's casual reading time. Then again, it does make savoring that time so much the sweeter.

Jim and the Flims is the latest novel from prolific writer Rudy Rucker. This wonderfully bizarre novel reads like a dream you might have after a night of bad Mexican food, albeit a dream that makes you want to go out and eat that same exact meal again just so you can have that dream again. Jim is an out of work, biotech engineer surfer who doesn't really take the time to ponder the metaphysics or implications of his work until it punches him in the face. While experimenting one night at home, he manages to slice an electron, thus opening a portal into the afterlife but tragically killing his wife in the process. And then things start to get weird.

This quirky and fun yet thought provoking story is wrapped around several philosophical and quantum theoretical concepts yet does not get bogged down in the technical aspects of either. Rucker's characters are both believable and relatable, even for the oddest characters Jim encounters in his travels through the afterworld, and the story is evenly paced and cleverly crafted with a few twists and turns to keep you guessing just as you think you have it figured out. While this novel is my first encounter with Rucker, I know it won't be my last.

Looking for a fun, metaphysical, spiritual science-fiction read? (Yeah, it does actually break that many genre boundaries!) Want an unconventional story that will tug at those back corners of your brain after you've put it down? Pick up Jim and the Flims. You'll be glad you did. 

From Night Shade Books and available at your local, independent bookstore. (Make a difference: shop local and shop independent!)