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.