Because I enjoyed Dashner’s Maze Runner series, and am not-so-patiently waiting for the theatrical release of Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline), I thought this seemed like an audiobook I should probably check out. I mean, what’s not to like about a fast-paced technological thriller, right?!? Much like in Ready Player One, a lot of this story took place in a virtual world. Rather than just using goggles and gloves to connect to that virtual world, though, the people in this story use “coffins” that provide their bodies with physical sensations to make it feel as if they are actually experiencing the sensations (both pleasure and pain) of the VirtNet.
Michael is a gamer who spends more of his time in the VirtNet than in actual reality. And, who can blame him? Most of his friends are people he has never met in real life, and his hacking skills mean that he can be better, faster, and stronger with only a few lines of code. Rumors begin to circulate about a “bad” hacker who is using his skills to trap people in the VirtNet against their will, which causes the victims to suffer brain damage and memory loss in real life. Shortly after meeting a girl who claimed to be a victim, Michael was contacted by someone from the government who asked him to use his hacking skills for good by tracking down the perpetrator. Sounds simple enough, right? Yeah… Definitely not! If you want lots of action and adventure set in a high-tech virtual world, you’ll definitely want to read this one.
Devin never knew life before the Earth got too hot. All he knew of that time was what his grandfather told him. But, despite the fact that he grew up in the “after,” he wasn’t really aware of the hardships that affected most people. Growing up on the farm, he learned how to make due with what the animals and the land provided. As long as he and his grandfather worked hard, they had all they really needed. When his grandfather died, though, it became too much for a single person to manage. So, Devin set off to the city to see if he could find anyone to help him work the farm. For the first time in his life, Devin experienced true thirst and hunger. He was also exposed to the darker side of humans when he encountered people who were willing to hurt others and steal in order to survive as well as those who ignored the suffering of others.
After settling in with some other orphaned children who taught him to scam and scavenge enough to get by, Devin began to hear rumors about a special home for children. If the rumors were to be believed, it was a place in which children would have more than enough food and toys for all. Even better? There was a chance that the children could be adopted by families that could provide for them! Some of the orphans believed in this place, but others thought it was a mere fairy tale. When Devin met an older boy who promised to bring him to this home for children, though, he decided to take a chance. As it turns out, this home really did exist… but something was not quite right. This book is technically “middle grade” fiction, but teen and adult fans of dystopias should definitely check it out.
Danny Wright signed up for the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old because he felt compelled to both serve his country and to honor the memory of his father, who died while serving in the Army. At first, he was proud to wear his uniform and excited to get to train with high-powered guns… but that all changed only a short time after he finished bootcamp. Why? He was called in by the Governor of Idaho to help with protests in Boise (about a proposed new federal ID card) and things got very out of hand very quickly. One accidental shot turned into a firefight in which civilians were injured and killed, and people started making comparisons to the Kent State shootings that took place during a Vietnam War protest in 1970. Knowing that he fired the shot that started it all, and seeing how quickly people snapped to pass judgement when they did not have all the facts, he was glad that the Governor pledged to protect the identities of the guardsmen who were involved. But, how long would the Governor be able to protect them when the President of the United States of America was demanding answers?
I especially appreciated the way Reedy worked in both extreme news coverage and polarized social media reactions. I was impressed to see a YA novel tackle the very complex topic of federal government/federal laws vs state government/states’ rights, but the audiobook impressed me even more. Much like Countdown, this audiobook uses a variety of sound effects and multiple readers to create sound bites that mimic news broadcasts and to set apart the non-narrative portions of the book. The only “down side” to listening to this audiobook all at once (on a road trip) was that the “near future” setting seemed entirely too plausible and actually made me feel a little anxious as if I were really listening to the news.
As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home. All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on! I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES. I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school. I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend. It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did. For real… If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!
Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life! Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses. Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling. Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system. When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”
One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children. By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade. So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune. Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS. Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt. When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…
Posted in action/adventure, audiobook, book review, dystopia, GLBTQ, LOL, mystery, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, sports, you think you've got problems?
Tagged Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Jane led a relatively quiet life. She was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, who was an adjunct professor best known for her work as a wildlife photographer. Sadly, Aunt Magnolia was lost on one of her adventures in Antarctica, and Jane was left completely alone. Though able to make ends meet, Jane barely did more than mourn her aunt, work, and construct umbrellas. Construct umbrellas? Yes, you read that right. Jane was a bit of an artist, but her works were elaborately themed umbrellas rather than photographs or paintings. (One of her favorites, for example, looked like a speckled bird’s egg.)
Everything changed, though, when Jane was visited by an acquaintance named Kiran Thrash. Kiran insisted that Jane should come home with her — to her estate, Tu Reviens, for a gala. Though Jane was reluctant to go, she recalled a time when Aunt Magnolia had made her promise that she would go to Tu Reviens if she was ever invited. With nothing much to lose, she agreed. And this was where everything went wacky… Not only did Jane meet a variety of people — everyone from Kiran’s family to the caretakers of the Tu Reviens property — but she also found herself in the midst of a great heist. Right as everyone was ramping up and preparing for the gala, some very famous (and very expensive) artwork went missing.
This was nothing like the Graceling [fantasy] stories, though I don’t think fans of that trilogy will necessarily be disappointed. Jane, Unlimited was very much a mystery/spy story, but it had coming-of-age, romance, and science fiction elements as well. In fact, I can’t imagine having to pin it down to a single genre. Since it is very character driven, and there are SO MANY characters to get to know, it was a little slow for me to get into this one at first. I think that perseverance paid off, but I feel compelled to “warn” readers, nevertheless, that this book has a bit of a Groundhog’s Day feel to it. There were several times where I wondered if I had lost my place and read something over again only to realize that only some, not all, of that information had been revealed before. I can’t say much more without giving away any spoilers, so I will just have to ask you to trust me on this one and read it when it comes out in September. (Hope you like it as much as I did.)
A while back, I decided to stop posting about the subsequent books in the various series I’m reading. This was for a variety of reasons, but the two most important reasons were because (1) it was just too tough to keep up with all of the series I am interested in finishing and (2) I wanted to provide more variety for my blog readers. Well… I am going to have to break that rule today because I just have to tell y’all about Stars Above!
First of all, I think it’s important to note that some of this story takes place before Cinder, and some of it takes place after Winter. If you haven’t yet read the other books in the Lunar Chronicles yet, do yourself a favor and GO READ THEM FIRST! 😉
I really enjoyed the opportunity to look at the stories we’ve already read through the eyes of different characters (like when Kai first meets Cinder, as told through his perspective), and the fact that readers have a chance to get a little more background on characters like Michelle Benoit and Carswell Thorne. But I think my favorite story in the collection was “The Little Android,” which was a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Meyer’s unique adaptation of fairytale characters (Cinder from Cinderella, Scarlet from Little Red Riding Hood, Winter from Snow White, and Cress from Rapunzel) is one of the things I love the most about this series, so I was glad to get a “bonus” tale in this collection of stories. It’s hard to believe I waited almost a full year after it was published to actually get around to reading it, but I guess that is what happens when your TBR pile is out of control… 😉
If you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) fangirl like me, you will probably agree that Patrick Ness must be a huge BtVS fan too… I mean. You can’t help but get a Sunnyview/Hellmouth vibe from everything going down in Mikey’s small town! (I can’t seem to recall where, exactly, it was other than some hick town in Washington state… Did he ever mention the name of the town? Anyway…) I don’t make this comparison to BtVS lightly, by the way, because there are just so many parallels. Between all the supernatural creatures that randomly show up and attack the teenagers in their town, the fact that the adults seem to be in complete denial of what has been and is currently going on, and the fact that the story is a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of the classic “chosen one” theme, I can’t imagine a BtVS fan who would be disappointed in this story. Mikey even reminds me of my favorite BtVS characvter, Xander, who once said, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”
That being said, I don’t want people to think I’m saying this was just a BtVS ripoff, either. The characters in this story are most definitely unique, as is the plot of the story. I enjoyed the fact that the supernatural elements of the story were almost periphery to the main plot. I honestly think that the interpersonal relationships, dysfunctional families, and personal struggles of the characters could have kept this story afloat even without the battles between the chosen ones (who all seemed to be “indie kids”) and the supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the Immortals. It was rather ambitious of Ness to merge teen angst and tough issues with a lighthearted, satirical supernatural story — but it worked very well.