Ready Player One: Ernest Cline

The Ultimate Gaming story for any and all kinds of nerds.

Where to even being? I went into this book expecting it to be a good read, what i didn’t expect was for it to fulfil my every Geeky dream. While it was a slow burn, it was the kind of slow burn that made you glad you waited every second you did, because the ending is immensely satisfying. This story follows the journey of Wade Owen Watts, a kid with the coolest initials ever living in the futuristic equivalent of a trailer park (trailer vans stacked onto of each other high enough to tower over skyscrapers) who is attempting to be the winner of the ultimate treasure hunt. But first some context.

The world that Ernest writes about has basically gone to hell, there’s pollution, poverty, starvation, drug abuse and the eradication of society as we know it. Not exactly “Disney Land” material. Everyone’s way of escaping their crappy reality is to login to this gaming system called OASIS. This system works as an online digital world which people use as both a gaming platform, and education platform and a business platform. Its basically a world embedded in 1’s and 0’s. The man responsible for the success of this game is named James Halliday who is a billionaire in a world of poverty. Upon his death, instead of a will leaving the company, OASIS and his wealth to someone he knew, he left a trail of three keys leading to three gates that all lead to the final prize. To find a key, gives the clue to the corresponding gate and completing the challenge within the gate reveals the next clue to find the next key. This sparked a culture amongst those who live in the OASIS. The people who spend their lives trying to find the first key and being their journey to finding the final gate are called “Gunters”. These Gunters live by a shared code of respect for each other, Halliday’s creation and a love of 80’s pop culture. They also share a hatred for a group of people also on the quest to the finish line who are called “Sixers”. These “Sixers” work for a company called “IOI” and whose bosses wish to turn this free platform into a way of making money and making sure that only the rich could use OASIS.

The general flow of the book is a slow burn leading up to a satisfying ending was admittedly a little hard to read. As someone who has not yet picked up a gaming console the vocabulary was a little difficult to grasp at first; but once I got into the flow of the story it was relatively easy to understand the lingo and get into the character’s from of mind.  Wade Watts is a beautifully written character who is both relatable and sweet. He is a very dedicated and wholesome nerd who lives and breathes OASIS, being only in his teenage years he has seen a lot of what the world has to offer and is quite happy with living in a virtual reality, and has given up on any ideas of trying to save the world, in fact, he reveals that if he were to inherit Halliday’s fortune he would build a rocket-ship to try and find a new world to populate. So, essentially in the beginning he is an overweight, nerdy character with only one friend to calls his own and a low level character. Throughout the book he evolves as a character enormously, he is still loveable nerd, but his friendship circle has expanded, he started caring more about his health and safety and he found a home to call his own; he also power-ups his character enormously. his evolution is one that makes your heart warm, but is subtle enough to be believable and to have a strong emotive response as it feels as if you as a person and the reader are growing along with Wade.

Even though it feels at some point within the novel that the ending is pretty obvious, the book does not cease to surprise by adding plot twists and turns throughout the story that really turn all of your assumptions about the characters and story on your head. Each new character that Wade befriends or interacts with has a compelling outline that really evokes emotions within the reader and makes you want to get to know the world and the gamers within it even more. It is definitely a book I would recommend and consider re-reading.

 

Til next time,

L.K.

 

Jurassic Park & The Lost World- Michael Crichton (Spoiler Free)

The book series, turned movies that fascinated a generation with dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park and the Lost World are an interesting new perspective on the consequences of science and getting involved in the competitive market of the biochemistry industry. These two tales follow the sequence of events that follows when a company called “In-Gen” succeed in their endeavour to bring the extinct race of Dinosaurs back to life, and to features these creatures in a theme park that is believed will enrapture millions. Michael Crichton takes utterly believable scientific theory to create this utterly enchanting and horrifying world. However, amongst the creating of this story and following the plot line of the movies we all know and love; he gets caught-up in what I call the “World-Building” of his novels. See in my -admittedly somewhat unsupported- opinion there are three main ways in which an author writing a novel that has rules outside of reality can express how their world of fiction functions.

The first is the ‘Sporadic Approach’. The ‘Sporadic Approach’ as the title would suggest is when the author/writer introduces the audience to the rules of this reality as the time for such knowledge approaches. This is usually done through plot devices, and expressed in short bursts of a large amount of information being introduced with long gaps in-between in which the rules of this reality remain stagnant and applied to all characters. Then as the plot finds it necessary these rules are either challenged or applied to. This is commonly seen in TV shows such as Teen Wolf, Vampire Diaries and Once Upon a Time. It is also found in books such as, Vampire Academy, Mortal Instruments and Harry Potter. It can be useful in cases which the world being introduced has a lot of differentiation from reality, in order not to overwhelm the reader and allow for some semblance of understanding to occur gradually along with a relationship with the characters.

The second approach is called the ‘Gradual Scheme’. The ‘Gradual Scheme’ is essentially like a steady flowing river of information, where instead of small clumps of world building occurring throughout the book, there is an underlying plot line introducing the inner-working of the world. This is usually revealed through the eyes of a character new to the situation, in most cases the main character. It is also useful when there are organisations or small groups with a hierarchy involved directly in the plot. For instance, say the story is about a rebellion against a higher ‘evil power’. The rebellion would have its own hierarchy of people in power and its own inner workings of operations along with people important to 1) the main character or 2) important to the overall plot line. The ‘evil power’ would probably mirror this design. The main character who we as an audience learn through, would probably view these places as alien terrain and as such would observe things that someone who was used to this environment would glaze over. These details often give us an idea of how things work. Also, other characters might take time to explain things and events to the main character which is another method to introduce the situation. This method is commonly seen in Shatter Me, Star Wars, Divergent, Twilight and Avatar: The Last Airbender. It is a useful method to employ in story wiring when there are multiple plot lines and character developments to consider whilst still making sure the world structure makes sense.

The third and final method, which is employed by Michael Crichton is called the ‘Info Dump’; and again with a revealing name we can gather what it means. The ‘Info Dump’ is when during the story, usually at the beginning, the author takes the time to build the world before falling into the main plot of the story. This usually occurs when the main characters are other wise occupied and the plot has not even begun. It condenses all the rules and structure and in some cases the history before the event into one section so that there is no need for it later and there can be more focus on the action occurring. This is usually done in a round-about way in which the main character is not particularly involved at all. In the case of both Jurassic Park and The Lost World, Crichton takes the time to offer some opening history of the goings on before anybody really goes anywhere near the dinosaurs. Int he first book, most of the beginning chapters centre around the science of bio-engineering and how it is a competitive industry for people who set out looking for ways to profit from science. It also goes into the history of bio-engineering and a introduction into the company that is In-Gen and its competitors. Whilst it is sometimes essential for this information to be out there, in this case I believe it took away from the book.

While the science explored in both book is fascinating and something I wouldn’t mind reading about in a different context, it does indeed take away from the books in terms of its ability to keep the reader’s attention. What was revealed in the ‘Info Dump’ was important to the story as a whole and if told during the action sequences would’ve slowed down the book. But I can’t shake the opinion that this information could’ve been better revealed, perhaps through plot devices such as, speech between characters, the observation of other, an argument, or causal mention even. The biology could’ve also been implemented into the plot in a bit more of a subtle way that just was given. Nonetheless, it was a good book. I really enjoyed it and was quite surprised about the underlying scientific theory and how it played into the book as a whole which i didn’t realise until the end. Once the main plot line got started everything was smoothed out and became quite enjoyable; and even though I have seen the movies numerous times i still found myself loving the novels despite how closely in the beginning they aligned with each other. They were truly unique and i only wish that Crichton had considered writing some more to add to the series, though I suppose I can be satisfied with his involvement in the movies that followed.

Stranger Things: Review. (Spoilers Ahead)

What an incredible TV show!

I went into this show with admittedly some hesitation; as I am a gigantic chicken when it comes to all things Horror and Thriller. Sill I continued forwards, motivated entirely by the sheer amount of popularity this show had received, it had to all be for something didn’t it? So I strived forward, only to be extraordinarily surprised. It was a brilliant show filled with so much drama, unpredictability, hope and a serious amount of confusion and mystery.

In a way that is similar to a show like Neighbours, Teen Wolf and Katie Mcgarry books, the Story follows three to four different groups of people all, (except one) working towards a single truth that has been hidden from the world for a long time now. It all starts with four boys, who are essentially outsiders who have formed a formidable friendship are playing Dungeons and Dragons in one of the boys basement. The boys, Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas are in the middle of a campaign when a creature (in this case a tiny little figurine) called the Demigorgon stomps onto the board, and their game has to come to a close. That night when the boys separate and go to their own homes, Will finds himself stalked by a mysterious creature that trails hi to his house and snatches him. Vanishing without a trace.

From there on the story splits into many perspectives; one of Will’s mother as she try desperately to find Will, in sometimes unusual ways. The second perspective is of the three remaining boys trying to figure out how they’re going to try and find Will without their parents knowing their out and about. During their first night trying to find Will they stumble across a mysterious girl with a shaved head who’s name is Eleven. Eleven or Elle for short seems to have a serious mental mojo going on; she has Telekinetic and Telepathic abilities that are beyond comprehensible. Together the four kids grow closer as friends they also get closer to uncovering the mystery behind Will’s disappearance and Eleven’s abilities and how they’re all connected. The third and fourth perspective follows two of the siblings of the four boys. Nancy who is Mike’s older sister and Jonathan who is Will’s older brother. These two perspectives merge together when Nancy’s friend Barbara goes missing in the same way that Will did and Jonathan manages to get a picture of the creature that did it.

From there Will’s mum Joyce teams up with Sheriff Jim Hopper who discover in their own way secrets of their own, Joyce finds a way to communicate with Will where he is and a way to be able to tell when the monster who took him is close.  Jim Hopper discovers those who are behind all these supernatural occurrences. Together all three stories come together like puzzle pieces to reveal the whole picture; revealing everything, from the location of Will, to how it came to be, the creature that took will to the people who created Elle and summoned the creature. The season ends in a dramatic series of action packed events that leave the audience begin for more. Personally, I’m not entirely happy with the ending myself; don’t get me wrong I’m very satisfied with Will’s return and Hopper getting together with Joyce. I’m a little unsatisfied with Nancy ending back together with Steve (Her boyfriend in the beginning of the season) rather than Jonathan, and what makes me more upset was the fate of Elle, just after Mike admits his feelings. I mean come on!

Hopefully everything turns out better for Season 2. Which I will definitely be dying to watch this coming year, believe it! Trust me, this show is a must watch.

Til next time,

L.K.