Saturday, August 1, 2015

LI832 - Reflection Journal Week 6

  • Cart, Chapter 8
  • Fink, Chapter 5
  • None


At this point, I have essentially given up on even attempting to read the textbook. Although I only had two books to read this week, I was already behind in reading the books from the previous weeks. It is a pity because the Cart textbook was interesting. For those following along, I have read only the first three chapters.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


And a heavy dose of existential disappointment...

I wanted to like this book. I really want to like this book. Not only did it reference 80s pop culture (which I grew up with) but it also tied into my love for video gaming and immersive MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games for those who don't know what I'm talking about or have been living under a rock). Unfortunately, in attempt to build off of that nostalgia, Cline ruined a good concept.

Yes, I said ruined.

The first thing we find out, is that our intrepid hero goes from zero to hero. He mentions it in the first chapter. Then the author spends the next several chapters info dumping. I was reading it on my kindle and I was 30% or more into the novel before the actual story started. I wish I was kidding. In addition to this blob of writing muck, none of it was really that important to the story. Yes, I'm serious. Cline spends 1/3 of his book tell us all about the inventor of this huge virtual reality world and how he was this awesome person, etc.


This is a consistent problem in scifi it seems. In an effort to introduce the reader to the world, the writer ends up spending too much time describing everything. Yes, the world Cline created was awesome. Yes, the story was interesting (if you skipped all the info dump), but ultimately, I was bored. What's worse? After all that build up? The ending was meh. The final fight had no sense of urgency. Wade and his fellow heroes end up with these uber OP (over powered for the non-MMO crowd) weapons/ships that totally kick ass without any real danger (despite the bad guys supposedly having super powerful constructs of their own). So big fight isn't that big. Yes, every player in the virtual universe shows up, but well, the fight is pretty quick. Not to mention a heavy dose of Deus Ex Machina to make sure the good guys win.

And of course, the good guy has to face off Mano e Mano with the bad guy...

Or does he?

Not really. Good guy, with the help of his friends and his unlimited knowledge of 80s pop culture and mad retro arcade skills, ends up doing all the "challenging" puzzles with ease. Then he wins and gets the omnipotent uber avatar. Which is ok, but eh. Oh that's right, he isn't the only one with it. The game's co-creator also has on uber omnipotent avatar...but he doesn't help out even though the bad guys could potentially win and get TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND TOTAL CONTROL OF THE VIRTUAL WORLD...but you know, he doesn't want to interfere with how his friend "wanted the game to work."

In all, Ready Player One was a major disappointment. Great world building, decent characters, and the story is pretty good when you aren't getting info overload. It could have been amazing, except it wasn't. I would suggest reading City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams instead.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I have wanted to read this book since it came out. Having read it, I am glad I finally got a chance. Neil Gaiman is a superb story teller. This story is so amazing and heartbreakingly beautiful. As I writer, I hope to achieve this level of ability.

I probably won't.

Gaiman wanted to prove that you could write a complete story in 50K words.

He did.

So, yes, I'm gushing. I'm a fan of his writing and him as a person. I'm biased. But it's easy to be biased about his writing.

Gaiman does a wonderful job of weaving the fantastical into reality in such away that all disbelief is suspended. You believe that there is an Ocean that looks like a pond. You believe that there is an evil force that wants to destroy everything...except it isn't evil so much as lost...but that's a bit spoilery. ;-)

No punches are pulled though. This story can be pretty intense, but all the while shown through the eyes of a 9 year old boy. Which is pretty impressive. It's hard for an author to convince a reader that we are in a young child, but he pulls it off very well.

And the end. Oh the word? PERFECTION.

I only read books once (usually) because I remember them too much. I will need to buy a copy for my shelves. It's that amazing.



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