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Novel Tease

Random meanderings about the books I love—or don't. 

Interspersed with observations about my hobbies: Beer & Wine, Bridge, Bikes and Bow-wows.

Currently reading

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Pontypool Changes Everything
Tony Burgess
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline I'm both amazed and perplexed by the success of this book. My borrowed E-copy claimed to be "Young Adult" - but it's clearly aimed at somebody exactly like me, because a "young adult" is going to be completely lost in the maze of AD&D and 80's pop-culture references. Now, the ALA gave it an "Alex" award, which is for books "written for adults that have special appeal to young adults", but really the only appeal to "young adults" is that all of the main characters are actually young adults.

otoh, it talks down to the YA crowd (well, it talks down to everybody, but nothing is likely to turn off the YAs faster than being patronized). More and more in recent months, I've been seeing people say "show, don't tell", and the narration contains far too much "tell". Apparently, the author felt that those who weren't around for the 80s would rather have all the references explained than have to work them out. And maybe he's right, but I was there, and it annoyed the hell out of me.

For instance, on meeting the character Art3mis, we're explicitly told it's '(pronounced “Artemis”)'. I've been around long enough to think that anybody who uses l33t is a poseur, but for heaven's sake - does anybody not know how Art3mis is supposed to be pronounced? Or "led many psychologists to conclude that Halliday had suffered from Asperger’s syndrome". Wasn't that obvious from what Cline showed? The one that really drove me nuts though was the introduction to his 'system agent software', Max. I thought, "great - that's Max Headroom, and he didn't feel the need to tell me." Then, on the next page, he told me...

Cline also shows a fundamental lack of understanding of a couple of things that are rather central to the plot.

For instance, "open source software". "The moment IOI took it over, the OASIS would cease to be the open-source virtual utopia I’d grown up in." Does he have a clue what "open-source" means? All indications are that OASIS is "free-to-use" but not open-source. If it was open-source, then as soon as IOI took it over somebody would release a "forked" version of the software that remained free-to-use, and there wouldn't be any hidden easter eggs.

He's weak on copyright: "Most of these items were over 40 years old, and so free digital copies of them could be downloaded." At the time (the 1980s), copyright generally held for 50 years after the death of the author. However, in the US this was raised shortly before the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney's death (the "Mickey Mouse" law) so as to ensure the Disney Corp. didn't lose the copyright to Mickey. There's really not much likelihood of that being eased in the society Cline describes.

I wondered about his knowledge of 80s music, when we were told "Halliday didn't seem to have had very discerning taste. He listend to everything... From the Police to Journey to R.E.M. to the Clash." That's not 'everything', that's the GOOD stuff. The 80s had Duran Duran, John Waite and Wham (all referenced later, thank you), Elton John without Bernie Taupin (and Andrew Lloyd Webber without Tim Rice, for that matter), and a ton of even worse stuff (Culture Club, anyone?). The really bad stuff just left a blank space in my mind.

Still, this book is aimed squarely at geeks like me. I knew all that music, played most of those arcade games (badly), loved those movies ("I saw my seat — the only empty one in the room. It was right behind Ally Sheedy". Ah... Ally! ), owned a Trash-80, and wasted four years of university tuition playing D&D.

Anyone giving Rush a central position in his plot has my vote (well, except maybe, Neil Peart, as I wasn't thrilled with [b:Clockwork Angels|13592828|Clockwork Angels The Novel|Kevin J. Anderson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1337657558s/13592828.jpg|19180940]).

I just can't quite understand why so many people who aren't me loved this book!

Early on, I really disliked the narrator. Elsewhere I called him a pretentious, precocious, prig, and compared him to that whiny Holden Caulfield. The big difference, though, is that Caulfield has no reason to whine; he's entitled to another alliterative adjective: privileged. Wade has reason to feel the world has dealt him a bad hand, and while he starts out a little whiny, he does grow through the story, and I have no doubt that Wade at the end of the book is a vastly better person than the one on page 1.