Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Book Review

ready-player-one-book-cover

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

It’s been a while since I did a formal structured review and I’d like to work though my thoughts on this book. (For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.)

I devoured Ready Player One in record speed (for me) and despite being addictive, I’ve got mixed feelings.

**Warning Spoilers**

ready-player-one-book-cover

Characters

I liked

I greatly enjoyed the characters of Halliday and Ogden. They were obviously based off of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, with more than a little Gandalf thrown in for fun.

I liked the over the top villain Sorrento. True mustache twirling baddy, who pulled no punches and didn’t do anything particularly stupid.

I didn’t like

Any of the main characters. The main character was a whiny undereducated obsessive with an extremely unhealthy crush. The love interest was a fantasy geek girl who had similar interests to the main character. She was a wilting flower embarrassed by her appearance and in the end enamoured with the protagonist’s ability to look past it. There was also the token 80’s obsession with the honorable Japanese characters.

The only character that could have been interesting was Aech. Unfortunately what could have been a source of tension and actual character growth was tacked on at the end to show that the main character is an okay guy.

Each character is a stereotype of 80’s movies, tv, and books. I’m not sure if this was intentional but it certainly wasn’t effective at creating well developed or relatable characters. Add in the odd transphobic, sexist, or homophobic comments and I really didn’t like these characters.

For characters, I give it 1 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The book suffered from the biggest strength and weakness of the first person narrative. It’s biggest strength is urgency and quick pacing.

The author was great at referencing nostalgia without needing to explain it. The world building was well executed.

The word and sentence construction was perfectly balanced in the exciting bits.

I didn’t like

The biggest weakness of a first person narrative is the narrator. If a reader doesn’t like the main character, it hurts the book, which leads authors to give their characters super-powers that either make no sense or are too convenient. In this case the character had perfect luck and the ability to play any classic video game at an expert level.

For writing style, I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

I absolutely loved the puzzles and the quest. It was a perfect combination of trivia and classic MacGuffin hunt. The nostalgia was pretty well done and it actually informed the story instead of controlling it.

I didn’t like

It was predictable. It was a classic MacGuffin quest. I could tell you all the notes it would hit and how it would end by the end of the first act.

The nostalgia was awesome but at some parts I wanted to move on with the story not hear more about John Hugh.

I give the story 3 out of 5

Fun

I liked

The world and puzzles were fantastic. Both of them drove the plot and the interest. The author did a great job of capturing and referencing the feel and excitement of 80’s nostalgia. The excitement of the hunt was expressed in such a way to make me feel the same need to continue. It’s the mark of an author who really knows how to excite their audience.

I didn’t like

The characters and plot were predictable. The love story was painfully bad and partially toxic. I hate the “demure woman who is obsessed with her appearance” trope. As in all 80’s media where they tried to have a love interest that was the equal to the character, she was better qualified then he was in every way to win the contest.

I give it 4 out of 5 for fun

Overall

This is a fun and quick book with quite a few problems. Its thick slathering of nostalgia, exciting puzzle game, and interesting world are the only things that saves it from a weak 80’s quest with weaker 80’s character tropes.

Final score is 60%

Five Things Suicide Squad Did Wrong

Suicide Squad

I saw Suicide Squad and it wasn’t as bad as I expected (not a high bar). I’d give it at solid 3 out of 5.

The frustrating thing about the DC Cinematic Universe isn’t that they’re making mediocre movies but that they have so much potential.

Let me say that everything I know about DC is from these movies.

In that vein here are five things that they did wrong, concentrating on story and structure. I’m not going into the bizarre wardrobe choices or racist themes.

*Warning Spoilers*

Suicide Squad

5. Not enough death

The movie is called Suicide Squad and only two team members die; one to show the stakes and one to tug on your heartstrings. It had a dark atmosphere with creepy monsters and a distinctly “Survival Horror” feel to it, which made me want to re-watch Pitch Black.

Unfortunately these characters are all precious to DC and they didn’t have the guts to kill any of them off (seems like a trend). There were enough useless characters in this to have left 2-3 plus soldier boy for the big fight and then have only Harley and Deadshot walk away. It would have given the action scenes more bite if we thought these characters could die.

The only non-dramatic death was to prove that the head-nano-bombs could actually kill. It was so predictable that I rolled my eyes. The character had no backstory, he shows up at the last minute with bland coloured clothing and was native. In a movie where the black guy is Will Smith and the Latino has a mysterious backstory. You know the poor native will die. It’s a trope, it’s lazy writing, and it’s borderline racist.

4. Happy Ending

For a movie universe that is supposed to be “Dark and Gritty” following a group of villains, its ending was borderline saccharin.

Sure, I get you need to set up the sequels with Harley and Joker, but almost everyone in this movie got happy endings. Deadshot deserved it, Harley needed it, but soldier boy and witch puppet? Really?

3. Weak Antagonists

If the antagonists (not the villains, those were the protagonists) were any more two dimensional, they’d have tried to papercut everyone to death. The only motivation for them was revenge because the Aztecs (maybe?) turned against them and trapped them in dolls. There was also Amanda Waller being herself which pissed them off.

They were only there to have the Squad do something. They were the traditional Bond / Fantasy overlord. “I will destroy the world in order to rule it!” Even Lex Luthor in BvS had a more nuanced character.

If they wanted something simple, they should have gone for a force of nature or a big dumb animal.

2. Too many characters

The amount of characters and the amount of time spent on some of them was not only self-indulgent but boring. We get it DC, you like these little pieces of intellectual property. The movie spends almost the entire first act in a series of vignettes explaining who each character is and what they do. It made it long and killed any pacing they were going for.

Not all the characters got this special treatment, letting us know they had plot immunity.

Some other characters added literally nothing to the plot (looking at you Katana girl and Boomerang-Dude). If they had any character development it was left on the cutting room floor and awkwardly alluded to.

1. Too much useless information

“With great backstory comes great useless detail.”

There’s a rule in writing called Chekhov’s gun, by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Unfortunately the backstories for the characters trumped this rule, several times. It’s as if they decided that the movie was less important than the characters.  The witch could be killed by destroying her heart but Amanda Waller didn’t burn the damn thing… Why tell us so many times?

Katana’s sword ate souls but was never used to kill the body possessing entities. Katana’s backstory was completely at odds with her her actions. (Most likely because any character development was axed.)

The Joker and Harley “love” story was pointless backstory that could have been cut for more emotional build up.

All the scenes with the “mean” jailer were pointless. Why have the “Honour Bound Assassin” threaten someone and then let the Joker kill them off screen?

Conclusion

I might be being generous with my 3 out of 5 score but I did have fun despite the issues in the movie.

 

What did you think of Suicide Squad?

Éric

Quickies: Book Reviews for Aurora Prize Awards – Best Adult Novel

I have to admit I didn’t get a chance to finish all the books in this category. There are even 2 that I didn’t have a chance to read at all. I feel terribly guilty about it.

I’ll have to do better next year and look for the books before the voters pack comes out.

Destiny’s Fall by Marie Bilodeau

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 2/5

Overall: I found this book really easy to read. The characters were well rounded and interesting and the world was fascinating. Having not read the first on the series was a huge handicap however.

60%

Healer’s Sword: Part 7 of the Okal Rel Saga by Lynda Williams

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Having not read the first 6 books in this series wasn’t much of a problem. The characters and the world are introduced clearly and quickly. I had the feeling that I was missing some history but not much. The characters were fascinating and I can’t wait to read the whole series.

70%

The Silvered by Tanya Huff

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: If you enjoy fantasy, steampunk, or reading you’ll love this book. Everything from the characters to the world are perfectly put together. It took me a chapter or two to fully grasp what was going on but from there on I couldn’t put it down.

85%

Triggers by Robert Sayer

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: This was a fantastic concept and flowed beautifully. Sawyer is a master, whose genius is overwhelming for an aspiring writer. He weaves lives and stories beautifully. This is a perfect meld between a political thriller and a science fiction.

80%

Quickies: Book Reviews for Aurora Prize Awards – Best YA Novel

I’ve been franticly trying to finish all the books before voting time. Darn you Skyrim for distracting me…

There are 2 books in this grouping that I’ve only read half but I plan on returning to them in September.

Above by Leah Bobet

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: I found this book really hard to get into but I really enjoyed the world it was set in. I’m hoping to enjoy it more when I finish the second half.

60%

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Addictive story. If I didn’t have the adult category I’d jump right into the third in this series. The characters felt a little underdeveloped but overall it was a great story.

80%

Dissolve by Neil Godbout

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 2/5

Overall: This was an impressive idea and I look forward to re-reading both this one and the first in the series. I also reserve the right to change this when I’ve read more than half.

60%

Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero by Michell Plested

I already reviewed this book here.

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: I highly recommend this to anyone who likes superheroes, coming of age stories, or reading.

85%

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

I already reviewed this book here.

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: Like A Princess of Mars this is an enjoyable read but I probably won’t re-read it anytime soon.

Good solid writing and ok story.

65%

Under My Skin: Wildlings Series (Book 1) by Charles de Lint

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: I loved both the pace and the style of this novel and I’m looking forward to reading it’s sequel.

75%

Quickies: Book Reviews for December 2012 to March 2013

I read a lot of books while I was writing my last novel and I didn’t get a chance to write reviews. Here are the quickie reviews for each of the books I read.

The Colorado Kid – Stephen King

Characters: 5/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: Great book that proves you can have an interesting story without it resolving. Not recommended for those of you who really don’t like loose ends.

75%

WWW Series – Robert J. Sawyer (Wake, Watch, and Wonder)

Characters: 5/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: This isn’t just an amazing sci-fi series; it’s a beautiful story and an educational experience. I highly recommend it. Easily my favourite Sawyer book so far.

90%

 Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss – Justin Richards

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Fun little book. If you like the new series of Doctor Who and like River Song, you’ll enjoy this book. The plot is predictable and River is a little overdone but it was fun.

65%

Doctor Who 50th anniversary Books

A Big Hand for the Doctor – Eoin Colfer

Doctor Who: The Nameless City – Michael Scott

Doctor Who: The Spear of Destiny – Marcus Sedgwick

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: These novelettes are written by people who truly understand the doctor’s they’re writing. I feel like I’m reading a Doctor Who, mini special. That being said, they’d be a little confusing for someone who doesn’t know the Doctor in question.

75%

Over my Dead Body – Teresa Wilde

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: I found this on Kobo on sale for 97 cents and I regret no having paid more. This was a great story filled with a great world and wonderful characters.

75%

Assimilation Squared – Scott Tipton, David Tipton, and Tony Lee

Characters: 2/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: As much as I wanted to love this series they were just ok. I found the portrayal of the Doctor to be spot on but the Star Trek TNG crew to be lack luster. It was a quick read but if it wasn’t my two favourite geek properties I wouldn’t have bought these.

60%

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: By far my least favourite of the Sherlock Holmes collections. It truly felt like Doyle was tired of Holmes and had to prove that his beloved character was flawed and not as great as we thought. And then he kills him off with no foreshadowing.

65%

Doctor Who: Summer Falls – Amelia Williams

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: This book was shown in an episode of Doctor Who and was “written” by one of the characters who are no longer on the show. It has some surprises for fans but the book is strong and stands on its own. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy or science fiction.

80%

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: This is a classic and the archetype for carnival horror, but I don’t think its Bradbury’s best book. I enjoyed parts of it but it felt like a short story dragged too long. It had some fantastic ideas but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a huge Bradbury fan.

70%

Devil in the Smoke – Justin Richards

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: Another Doctor Who novel but this one is unlike any of the others. It was brilliantly written, every character spot on, and the story was so much fun. I could only wish that this author would write a series with these characters.

85%