Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “nerd-lit”

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #37: Ready Player One (audiobook) by Ernest Cline, narr. by Wil Wheaton

Look, I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to read this book again immediately after I read it the first time, because that’s exactly what I did. I reserved the audiobook at my library, and when it came in, I rushed my fanny over there to check it out. It was a glorious three weeks of listening to Wil Wheaton’s gravelly nerd voice driving back and forth from work, and the story held up wonderfully on re-read.

Actually, probably the closest comparison I can make for having re-read the book so soon is like that thing you sometimes do (or maybe you don’t, I don’t know, but I definitely do) when you go and see a movie and you love it so much that you immediately go out and watch it three more times. The last time I did that was for Star Trek back in 2009. God, I love that movie.

Coincidentally, Wil Wheaton did the voices for all the Romulans in Star Trek — that dude is just really good at his shit. So not only did I get to listen to this book and its awesomeness all over again, but his performance is wonderful. It’s one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to (some of my other favorites are Ron Perlman’s narration of City of Thieves, Stephen Fry’s narration of the Harry Potter books, which I MUCH prefer to the Jim Dale versions, and Lenny Henry’s performance of Anansi Boys. Henry’s performance actually elevates the book, and I’m convinced it’s the reason it’s one of my favorite books, when everyone I know who’s read it and NOT listened to the audiobook merely enjoyed it. Longest parenthetical ever). Wil Wheaton has actually narrated a bunch of John Scalzi books, and since I’m on a Scalzi reading kick right now, I hope I can track some inexpensive or free versions of those books down sometime soon. Any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated, as my library system is being a huge buzzkill at the moment.

Anyway, let’s all just take a moment and give thanks for Wil Wheaton. Wil: I appreciate you. I like your beard and your gravelly voice and how super super nerdy you are. I also secretly like Wesley Crusher, but don’t tell anyone or I’ll lose all my internet cred.

LurkeyTurkey, #CBR4 Review #14, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Ah, Neal Stephenson, how I love thee in general, but perhaps a little less in this book. 

Snow Crash was written in 1992, a fact that makes it ground-breaking, in that it essentially describes a metaverse (or internet in common speak) with Second Life type applications.  Pretty cool and mind blowing for a country that was obsessed with Ace of Base at the time. 

The plot is, like the other Stephenson novels I’ve read, complicated and fun.  Hiro Protagonist is, wait for it, the protagonist.  His business card reads, “Last of the freelance hackers and Greatest swordfighter in the world,” and that is an accurate description.  The United States government has ceded nearly all power and control to corporate sponsors- the military, judicial system, and even other countries are run by private industry.  The only major exports of the former US at this point are: micro-programming, movies, music, and pizza delivery.

While delivering a pizza, Hiro gets ‘pooned (short for harpooned) by a Kourier, Y.T., short for “Yours Truly,” a 15-year-old streetwise gal.  He crashes his delivery car (provided by the Mafia, the owners of the pizza delivery service), and she offers to deliver the pizza for him, which she does.  This turns into a partnership between Y.T. and Hiro, which is based on their ability to collect intel for the CIC (a for-profit CIA), and thus begins their journey together. 

Hiro’s friend, a computer hacker, gets infected with a pseudo drug, Snow Crash in the metaverse that also manages to cause extreme brain damage in the real world, or Reality.  Hiro and YT decide to search for the cause and source of Snow Crash, which is becoming prevalent in the metaverse, but which only impacts hackers.  At this point a slew of other interesting characters comes into play.  Here’s a short list:

Uncle Enzo, the head of the Mafia pizza industry. 

Raven, an embittered Aleut harpoon master and  overall badass.  He is lethal and incapable of being killed, as he has a hydrogen bomb wired to go off in the event of his death.  Whoa- talk about an insurance policy.

L Bob Rife, a fiber-optics monopolist and scary dude with big plans that are, as yet, unknown.

Juanita, a hacker responsible for the creation of facial expressions on avatars in the metaverse.  Also the first love of Hiro, and dedicated to solving the Snow Crash problem through a different path.

Rat things, semi-autonomous guard units, are about the size of a Rottweiler, with a long, whip-like tail for which they are named.  They are pretty cool, and play a unique role in the story.

All in all, this was a fun book, though the 50 pages of exposition on the Sumerian culture got a bit much at times.  I love Stephenson, and his ability to go off on tangents about math, linguistics, and programming is usually right up my alley.  His re-imagining of the Tower of Babel is interesting and inventive, but just gets kind of silly toward the end.  The climax was also a bit of a let-down for me, which is why this gets 3 stars instead of 4. 

A fun read, if you want to geek out on programming and linguistics for a spell, just not my favorite Stephenson to date.

 

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #11: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I loved this book. It was magical. Everyone should read it right this minute.

Is that not enough of a review? Fine. Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, as the humanity pressed into an over-crowded Earth takes refuge in an immersive virtual reality program called OASIS, invented by reclusive genius billionaire James Halliday. But when Halliday dies, he leaves behind him a massive Easter Egg hunt through the many worlds of OASIS and through the many facets of late 20th century pop culture that he loved most —  the person to be the first to find the ultimate clue will inherit Halliday’s entire techno-empire. Enter our young hero, chubby and poor Wade Watts, whose dead father gave him an alliterative name like Peter Parker or Clark Kent so that one day he too might be a superhero. Wade is a gunter, or full-time egg hunter, and he’s made it his life’s mission to find Halliday’s hidden treasure.

You guys, I loved this book so much I wanted to start it again immediately after I finished it.*

*Actually, what I did do was request the audiobook from the library, because it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, who is himself a minor character in the novel. (I mean, WHAT.) So there’s a good chance — and by “good” I mean 100% — that I will be listening to that audiobook shortly.

This book contains in its 384 pages everything I love about stories. Great characters, ridiculous worldbuilding (details out the wazoo), clean, entertaining prose, and passionate imagination put to good use. If a writer is talented enough, there is no limit to what he or she can conjure up in the mind of a reader, and Ready Player One takes full advantage. While Wade is on his quest, we’re right there with him . . . reading this book was more like having the experience than reading about it and that’s one of the many reasons I couldn’t put it down. But what’s really genius about this book is that Cline has managed to find a way to combine the pure imagination and wish fulfillment of fantasy and sci-fi with the stark reality and disappointment of the real world. Wade and his friends (and enemies) use the OASIS in much the same way that we as readers are using Cline’s book. The two worlds comment on each other in this beautiful dance of nerdy joy: games and stories are ways for us to shape and re-experience the world around us, to experience the things it is impossible for us to experience in our limited lifetimes, but games and stories can’t hold your hand.

I’ve heard a lot of people express the opinion that if you weren’t born in the right time-frame, you wouldn’t understand any of the references, and thus wouldn’t enjoy the book as much. I call bullshit on that one. I am just a little bit too young for most of the references in this book, but I still enjoyed the shit out of it. It works even if you don’t know the references, because Cline lays everything out in such a way that the plot is never affected negatively if you don’t “get” a reference. Instead of being alienated by the references I didn’t know**, I found myself becoming more and more curious about them. So the way I look at it, if you know the references, Ready Player One is a nostalgic joyride, but if you don’t, it’s a magical journey of pop culture discovery. Both feelings are intoxicating.

**I do feel the need to point out that I was familiar with nearly everything Cline wrote about, so my nerd-cred is firmly intact.

As with all books I really love, I feel that I’m having a hard time expressing exactly why, so again I say to you: just read the damn book. Because it’s flipping awesome.

[Link to original review here.]

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