Shelf Aware - Ready Player One

Originally published 11/14/11

Did you love the 80's? Do you like MMORPG's?

If you answered yes to both questions you should stop reading this immediately and go read Ready Player One.

If you're not into MMORPG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games, like World of Warcraft or EverQuest) this book may not be entirely lost on you. As long as you have a basic understanding of what they are, or at least a point of reference to other virtual worlds like Second Life or PlayStation Home, you should be fine.

If you answered no to the 80's nostalgia then this book is most definitely not for you. In Ready Player One a rich software designer dies and leaves the clues to his fortune in an MMORPG called OASIS. It's similar to Daniel Suarez' Daemon in premise, except replace killer robots in the real world with killer humans in a virtual one. Confused? That's OK. Beneath the mountain of 80's references and nerd lore, Ready Player One is actually a pretty straight-forward quest story when you get right down to it.

Just like the 80's this book wasn't the greatest but ended up growing on me and just like the 80's I'm going to miss it now that it's over.

But you don't have to take my word for it (Da-Dum Dum)!


Shelf Aware - Robopocalypse

Originally published 11/2/11

As a novel that wears it's premise on it's sleeve (in it's very title, even) Robopocalypse is not necessarily just a one-trick pony. Obviously you can surmise that this book is about the end of days as brought about by ceaseless and unflinching machines. 

However, Robopocalypse succeeds in taking a familiar formula--killer robots, humanity coping (or not coping) with disaster, malevolent artificial intelligence playing humans for fools--and combining it with some interesting story-telling techniques. It also combines most of those familiar killer-robot tropes together in a pleasing way that did not come off as derivative.

Make no mistake, Robopocalypse borrows/pays-homage-to many old stories and movies from The Terminator to The Matrix and beyond. If these kinds of stories aren't already your cup of tea you may as well not waste your time here, but if you are a fan of some similar works then you should dive in giddily.

Stylistically, Daniel Wilson's novel resembles another seminal work of apocalyptic fiction, World War Z. Presenting itself as a factual document, Robopocaylpse is a transcription of the war from the databanks of the evil machines in an effort to create a historical record for the remnants of humanity. Unlike World War Z, which used a similar approach (a journalist interviewing survivors), the accounts in Robopocalypse are culled from security cameras, audio recordings, etc, but quickly break down into omniscient narration. While this can be a little off-putting (read fake) at times, the novel is still very well-written regardless of style. Chapters are short with frequent breaks, technical jargon is kept to a minimum and the presentation is accessible.

Another key difference between World War Z and Robopocalypse lies in the scope. While World War Z is exhaustive and thorough in it's examination of the logistical implications of worldwide cataclysm, Robopocalypse--albeit epic--sticks with a small cast of geographically diverse characters. Seemingly unrelated, the central characters all contribute in some way to the climax of the story.

As a robot enthusiast, I was down to the read this novel after simply reading the title. However, I was delighted to find that the robot uprising was not simply used as a gimmick to capture the attention of mecha-minded people like myself. Robopocalypse contains interesting characters and a good, well-presented story.


Shelf Aware - Carte Blanche 007

Originally published 8/14/11

With every property getting a reboot these days 007 was one that sorely needed it. The resulting work ushers in a new era for James Bond and modernizes his world to be contemporary, complex and compelling. 

Carte Blanche re-establishes James Bond for 2011 and gives us actual insight into his character. A veteran of Afghanistan, recruited into an off the books division of MI6 known as The Overseas Development Group, Jeffery Deaver goes to great and effective lengths to balance the mundane paperwork of something like the Department of Homeland Security with the high impact exploits of what we've come to think of the 00 section. He even goes so far as to include a glossary for all the 3 letter acronyms. 

As for the plot itself, Bond finds himself traveling to Serbia, London, Dubai and finally South Africa. He spends most of the novel in Cape Town which was interesting because to my knowledge Bond has never had an adventure in South Africa. I won't give away too much, but the threat that James Bond is battling against never looms too large. Obviously Bond must save the day, but the "epic-ness" of it all never really hits home. Some 007 novels have plots where Bond has to save the entire world and others are a bit smaller in scope. This would be one of the "smaller" novels, although the ramifications of his actions do have broader implications. 

Had I not known better I would have been convinced that Jeffery Deaver was British (it's amazing how far replacing a few z's with s's and mixing in some colloquialisms can get you). Although, the Harry Potter and Dr. Who references felt a little forced. 

Deaver, a massively famous mystery writer, does a great job ratcheting up tension, dangling clues and delivering plot twists (of which there are plenty). My only complaint is that the novel is backloaded with an info-dump in the last couple of chapters that explain everything you've been reading up to that point. Although, it will definitely make a re-read of this novel more fun. 

Jeffery Deaver was a perfect selection to write 007's new beginning and I am definitely looking forward to his next foray in the series (if there is a next). His writing style is sophisticated but not overly flowery and he was a much welcomed change of pace from the Raymond Benson 007 novels I have read up until now. 

If you've never read a James Bond novel or you prefer a bit more realism in your spy fiction, this is definitely the place to start!


On to Neopology!

This blog has moved to www.neopologist.com.

"According to my thesaurus, an apologist is the opposite of a critic but that sounded a little too defensive.  Neopologist, made me think of anthropology, the study of humankind and 'neo' made me think of the future (something I often find myself thinking about).  Neopology seemed like a good name for the study of the future (latin pre-fix specialists need not correct the way I put that one together) and by 'the future' I am of course referring to consumer electronics and video games.  Naturally." --Ahren