Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Book Review

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%

In a World of BS This Guy Tells it Straight!

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

There’s a movement in the media, politics, and general pop culture; that glorifies simplicity in speech. It’s deeply rooted in a false sense of nostalgia that believes the past was a more honest and wholesome.

This is sadly bullshit, the past was a cesspool of lies, death, hate, and stupidity. Kinda like today.

Why do people have this ridiculous idea that we are unable to speak our minds and that everyone is trying to screw us over now but the past was so much better? That problem is due to three things: Glorification of Americana, Systemic Hate, and Lies.

Flim Flam Brothers from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic
Flim Flam Brothers from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic

Glorification of Americana

Through movies and other media, the time period after World War II has been glorified as a golden age. Arguably it was, if you were a middle class, white male, with no left leaning political views. If you weren’t in that very specific demographic, it wasn’t all that great.

Despite this being a time of travelling salesman bamboozling and flimflamming all over the place, it’s still seen as a safe and honest era. Mostly because of movies and television, but also because anyone alive who remembers it was young and innocent at the time.

It was, however, a great time for racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Systemic Hate

We as a species love to find patterns in everything and even more we love to categorize everything. Once we’ve categorized and separated things into boxes, we then rank or judge value. It’s harmless when we’re talking about fruit, but when we talk about ourselves it gets dangerous.

The idea that certain races are mentally, emotionally, or physically predisposed to specific traits is a complete fabrication. The concept that there’s more than one race of humans on the planet is scientifically unsound.

Unfortunately, culturally, especially in Cananda and the US, we’ve had a lot of problems with hate. Historically there was slavery; recently there’s residential schools. All because of a need to separate or assimilate those who aren’t like us.

Thankfully, we are slowly moving away from such idiotic and barbaric ideas. Part of the backlash against our society becoming less hateful is a backlash against political correctness.

If you are not part of a culture or subculture that is attacked with systemic hate, you can’t understand the hurt that your “only joking” does. To them, the joke is funny because of things they’ve heard. With no one to say, “Hey. That’s hurtful!” systemic hate just keeps going.

Remember that you don’t have to be hateful to say something hateful. Political Correctness is just being a decent human being.

Liars

I promised I’d tell it straight, no BS, in the title so here it is:

YOU’RE BEING LIED TO!

All these politicians that want to make something great, push Canadian Values, or are saying it like it is; are lying to you. They are appealing to your Hate and False Nostalgia to get what they want. They may be lying to themselves at the same time, but a lie is still a lie.

 

Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Later Days,

Éric

Pluto isn’t a Planet and that’s ok.

One would assume that a generation that grew up in the age of the internet would be flexible and able to adapt to the changes in our world. One would be terribly wrong. From a new Companion on Doctor Who to getting rid of the penny, our generation seems hobbled by nostalgia. The same nostalgia that makes sure Michael Bay has a career.

Go find yourself someone between the ages of 20 and 35 and ask them their opinion on Pluto. You’ll get an earful of sadness for its “Demotion” from a planet.

So What Happened?

Pluto was discovered back in 1930. At the time it was the only other planetary body, after the first 8, we could find. Telescopes improved and we eventually found new objects that looked and acted like Pluto. We even found that some of the objects we thought were asteroids in the asteroid belt looked and acted like Pluto.

In 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) needed to figure out what constituted a planet. They had 3 possible “new planets” (Eris, Charon, and Ceres) and weren’t sure what to do.

They drafted a proposal for what a planet was and it would have seen our solar system have 12-24 planets, in the short term.

Here’s what they defined as a planet in the first draft: “A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.”

Astronomers estimated that as we observed more of our solar system we’d find that there are over 200 astronomical bodies that fit this description.

The definition went through several drafts and they finally decided on the following as a definition:

The IAU…resolves that planets and other bodies, except satellites, in the Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

(1) A planet [1] is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

(2) A “dwarf planet” is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [2], (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

(3) All other objects [3], except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as “Small Solar System Bodies”.[note 1]

Footnotes:

[1] The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

[2] An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either dwarf planet and other categories.

[3] These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.

The definition is pretty vague and is hotly contested among astronomers. For the moment it’s what we have.

Pluto 🙁

This new definition meant that Pluto was no longer a Planet but now a Dwarf planet.

This has prompted endless sad Pluto images and t-shirts. poor-pluto

Pluto now has friends

I’m tempted to say, “Things change get over it!” But that would be me being mean.

Instead let’s reflect on how Pluto used to be the odd one out. Not really an earthy planet not a gas planet. It was like that one Star Trek nerd in a group of Star Wars nerd (trust me this was a big thing 10-20 years ago). But now it’s part of the Dwarf planets and has friends that are the same. Instead of thinking of Pluto being separated from his previous friends, think of it as being allowed to hang out with new friends.

 

The confirmed Dwarf Planets Friends of Pluto are: Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.

Pluto is such a good host that there are another 6 Trans-Neptunian Objects, trying to join its club.

There’s even a sub-category of Trans-Neptunian Objects called Plutinos which are in orbital resonances with Neptune. I call these its family.

In Conclusion

Don’t think of Pluto becoming a Dwarf Planet as it being excluded from the Planet Club but think of it as becoming the president of the Dwarf Planet Club.

Did you take the reclassification of Pluto personally?

P.S. Kind advise for you: visit Family Funtures for buying nice home telescope, if you like space as I do!:)

Éric

The Past was like Totally Better

Nostalgia: Sentimental longing for or regretful memory of a period of the past, esp. one in an individual’s own lifetime; (also) sentimental imagining or evocation of a period of the past. – Oxford English Dictionary

Someday we’ll look back on today and think how wonderful the world was and how horrible it has become. I can say that without exaggeration because it’s already happened. It’s happening right now. (I’m looking at you!)

I think it’s part of human nature that we idolize a time where we think we were happier, where life was simpler, where all the horrible things had yet to happen. We latch onto the horrible things in our lives now and glorify the good things of the past.

It’s not that we forget the bad things but their bite lessens with time. We can see it with less bias. There are two quotes that come to mind and I’ll say upfront that I disagree with Doctor Who.

“Great men are forged in fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame” – 50th anniversary of Doctor Who

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness, and love.” – Gandalf, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

These two quotes define our cultures beliefs on life. Fire, turmoil, battle, horror, etcetera are what creates great people. It is what makes exciting stories but not people. We don’t define ourselves by our hardships but our successes. When we don’t, we run into trouble.

Back to nostalgia… Nostalgia is our way of whitewashing our past and making sure we mostly remember the good stuff. It’s not that we want to forget the bad but that we want to concentrate on the good. We also tend to make a big deal about stuff that we won’t find important in the future.

A good example for me is writing. When I’m writing I feel stressed to be writing, but excited. I also feel ridiculously frustrated when I first edit. When all is said and done and I have an “almost” finished book (I say almost because my mind will never let me finish. I can always do more.) I feel amazing and only remember the excitement and elation of writing.

In some cases nostalgia is right but in a lot of cases it’s not. The world isn’t worse off than it was twenty years ago. The nineties wasn’t a better time. The internet and technology isn’t leading us to a horrible brain melting doom.

Nostalgia is great, especially with a drink and an old friend, but next time you find yourself saying, “When I was a kid…” stop and try to think of the good things now.

We live in a time of wonder and excitement.

If you need proof:  At the begining of 2014 Biofabrication isn’t Science Fiction.

See you in the New Year my Imaginary Friends!

Éric