Adventure story

Ready Player One

What’s it about?
There was once a man named James Halliday. He liked D&D, then he learned to code, and he and his best friend Ogden started a video game company. They eventually created an immersive VR called Oasis – a place to escape the real world. The real world kind of sucked, so everyone and everything moved into Oasis. James and Ogden became multi-billionaires. Eventually, James dies and starts a game (via his last will & testament) to find an easter egg that he left behind. The first person to find the easter egg will be his will’s beneficiary – they will get all his stuff and all his money. Including his half of the video game company. Parzival – the main character of the book – wants to win. So do a lot of other people.

Why should you read it?
There’s a lot to like about Ready Player One: the constant homage to 80s culture, the quest (I love a good quest), the dystopia that you can totally understand how we got there.* I like that it explores ideas about how slipping into a digital world removes you from the physical world. I do find the idea that life is a game to be won a bit disturbing – winning the quest means money and power. To get all hippy-y, life is necessarily about the journey – it’s about where you go and who you meet and some of what you do, but it’s not about amassing wealth and power. That’s in the book somewhat.

But overall, it’s a fun adventure that was a good story to read on vacation.


* As much as I enjoy Hunger Games, I do not understand how the US gets into a place where that society functions. It seems inherently unstable.

Sharing everything….

The Circle

What’s it about?
The Circle is about a woman, Mae, who goes to work for a company called The Circle. It’s what Google would be if it combined with Facebook and then everyone was eager to share everything about their worlds online. The founder of the company just wanted to solve problems; one CEO they brought in was very shark-like in exploiting everything for profit; another genuinely believes that if you share everything, the world will be a better place. Mae drinks the kool-aid. She starts broadcasting everything about her life. As you might expect, it doesn’t all go well.

Why should you read it?
The Circle isn’t realistic, in the same way that 1984 isn’t realistic. Nineteen Eighty Four is a more effective dystopia – the horror of the all-seeing state is visceral in 1984. The all-seeing company of The Circle is equally horrifying by the end, but the book eases Mae into the company (and the reader, as the book is told from her point of view) and so you can kind of see where the company is coming from.  It doesn’t make it better, mind you. My main quibble is that the Mae portrayed at the beginning of the book wouldn’t simply be eased along the path. She would rebel at some of the more outlandish things along the way.

The book isn’t great, but it did make me think about social networking, narrative structure, and characters – is it realistic that Mae is so needy that she makes the decisions she does? To that end: good job, book.