Book Review: Ready Player One

RPO

What’s it about: When eccentric and introverted billionaire James Halliday dies, he leaves an “Easter egg” hidden in his online game OASIS that grants the finder his fortune.   Egg hunters (gunters) devote their lives to seeking out his egg using clues left by Halliday.  As Halliday was a child of the 80’s, the best way to work through this scavenger hunt is to become completely engrossed in 80’s pop culture, gaming, and music.  For five years, no one finds anything and only the most hardcore gunters continue to look. Then the narrator, Wade Watt (yes, the alliteration is a shout out to comic book heroes names) finds the first key and the hunt fervor starts up again.

My thoughts: As the USA Today quote on the cover says, the story is “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix” populated by a wish list compiled by a geeky male child of the 80’s.  The bulk of the story, three-quarters perhaps, is spent with Wade walking though clues and having pretty stereotypical interactions with the “all knowing evil company”, and “hacker dream girl” complete with rubenesque figure and cyber punk outfit.  This is heavy on getting you though the plot and very light on character development.  Wade himself seems an avatar for the reader, if the reader is a 30-40 year old male who played a lot of early video games and was into geeky pop culture.  As a lady reader, I found this isolating despite being in the age range and having the subject matter interest, which was unfortunate because I’ve also seen Real Genius enough times to quote it (and do).  It’s not that this book bashes female gamers, in fact it’s more the opposite.  Wade places his gamer girl crush, Art3mis, on such a pedestal that she doesn’t feel real, therefore the main female character is reduced to male stereotypes, even being perfect in her imperfections.  I suppose it’s a question of being able to relate to characters.  While the story subject matter may be in my wheelhouse, there wasn’t any opportunity for me to see much of myself in the characters and Wade is a bit of a Gary Stu.

Cline spends a lot of time telling you what is happening – this is where his screen writing experience becomes more apparent – and not much time showing you how or if it affects or influences his characters.  I could give Cline the benefit of the doubt on this lack of character development and say this is because Wade and his team of gunters spend the vast majority of their life online in OASIS interacting via avatars rather than in person.  They don’t know who they are outside the game, so how can we?  But in all honesty I’m not sure if that’s the case.  Another reason for this could be that Cline is rushing to the 3rd act for the big climax.

The third act is where things really start to come together.  This is also where characters do meet in real life.  There is a fun reveal here (I’ll keep this review spoiler free) that made me wish for more back story and a broader view of the implications of OASIS, but it helped me to understand more of the richness of the universe Cline is trying to create.  Unfortunately it doesn’t get explored as much as I would have liked, as the final battle takes center stage.  And the final battle is fun, and cinematic.  Cline seems more relaxed in writing it and as a reader I felt I hit more of a flow here.  The actual ending itself is a bit cliché and doesn’t really surprise, especially if you are familiar with the source materials Cline is inspired by.

This is Ernest Cline’s first novel.  As mentioned he also writes screenplays and this book has already been optioned by Amblin Entertainment to be made into a movie.  So, take that as a tip all you screen writers – write your novel first.  And yeah, Steven Spielberg is going to direct it.  Which does seem pretty perfect.

I did enjoy reading this book in spite of itself, and myself.  I do wish that the clues were written in a way that the reader had more of a chance to participate, and I could have done with at least one less deus ex machina.  But it was still a fun beach read (literally, I was on the beach), and I think if done well this could be a rare instance where the movie is better than the book.

Three Things: To Read On a Picnic Blanket

After a particularly brutal winter here in the northeast, a fantastic spring is finally upon us. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming (much to the chagrin of my sinuses) – it’s the perfect weather to grab a blanket and a good book or three and just sprawl around in the sunshine. (With appropriate hydration and sunscreen, of course.)

But what to read, you ask? Fear not, I have some terrific suggestions for you! And in further good news, they are all upcoming Comicazi Book Club selections, which means that if you’re local and decide to try one or all of these, you can come and talk about them with other people!

So shiny, how can you resist?

So shiny, how can you resist?

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Pretty Pretty Pancakes

Pancakes have been on my mind a lot lately.  Part of it was looking over some of my past posts in search of motivation, but the larger part of it was probably the epic Facebook debate Tiny Doom and I had over the superiority of pancakes or waffles.  I am staunchly on Team Pancake.

And so I wanted to prove the versatility and superiority of pancakes in a very Ladies of Comicazi kind of way.  And so help me, that way is going to be fancy!  It’s time to do some Pancake Art. *cue awesome power ballad

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I have become an immortal pancake!

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Daredevil: A Netflix not so Hidden Gem

WARNING:  This post contains mild spoilers for the Netflix series Daredevil.  While I won’t be revealing major plot points I will be talking about the series in terms of things I liked and or noticed about the look, feel and characters.  If you wanted to stay 100% spoiler free, you might not want to read this until you have finished watching.
netflix-daredevil-teaser DD image

Netflix has figured out how to stay relevant in an ever-changing media landscape.  If you have seen House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, or The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt you know that they have made some really good content that people want to see. They have also made it affordable (I think we pay $18 a month) and easy to do. If you are reading this post you are likely aware of the deal Netflix has made with Marvel to create various series featuring Marvel street level defenders Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage (Power Man), and Danny Rand (Iron Fist).  With the first of these series now available for public consumption, fans have had the chance to see Marvel characters on the small screen outside of network television’s control. Continue reading

The Red Menace Watches: Wolf Hall

Cast

So many brooding stares! So much Mark Gatiss in a RIDICULOUS hat.

Around these parts I am probably not the first lady you’d expect to be writing about a period drama. I’m not even a likely suspect for reviewing television in general. But I knew as soon as I heard that they were making a Wolf Hall miniseries for Masterpiece that I wanted to watch it and that I wanted to write about it, because that book haunted me. Continue reading

3 Things: Comic Books Based on Movies

Commence impressive movie trailer voice:  In a world littered with film sequels, Smalerie finds herself on an unexpected journey.  Join her as she bravely reads three distinct titles designed to work as a continuations of films, in hopes of discovering…if they are any good!

edwardreturn ghostbusters_monthly_2_250066

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Cartoon Sara Draws Stuff – Smalerie’s Birthday Card 2015

I haven’t done an art process post since the Usagi Yojimbo one almost two years ago. My output remains sporadic, but I did just undertake a project where I’m pretty pleased with the results. So it’s time for round two.

Tools

Not much has changed since the Usagi pic. I still work almost exclusively digitally on my Cintiq monitor, and I still use Pixelmator. My Mac Mini remains fairly functional and my desk is still a mess.

Subject

I sometimes draw digital birthday cards for people I like, including the other Ladies. I had an idea for a Labyrinth themed one for Smalerie kicking around for a while. So when February rolled around and her birthday was approaching, it was time to get to work.

Process

Reference

Sir Didymus movie reference

I have never drawn any of the characters from Labyrinth before, so reference was essential. I quickly discovered that the internet does not have sufficient Sir Didymus and Ambrosius reference. Most of the image from the film I found were on the small side, fanart is of questionable accuracy, and – as Smalerie pointed out when we visited the Center for Puppetry Arts – the remaining puppets are not all in the best condition. So I had to dig out my DVD and get some screencaps of my own to sort out what Didymus’s hat looks like or how his knee guards are attached to his legs. (They really aren’t.) Continue reading

The Ladies of Comicazi Convention Survival Guide

Despite that stunt Mother Nature pulled with snow on the first day of spring, I’m calling it: winter has passed.  It’s now time for us to get back into the world, mixing and mingling with like minded folk to celebrate stuff you love.  And thus, convention and show season is upon us!  The Boston area has already seen PAX, one of the bigger conventions for this area, and more are coming up fast and furious.  I haven’t been to a ton of conventions…thought I did survive the most recent RI Comic Con and many years ago, made it to the mega convention – San Diego Comic Con.  I love the excitement of conventions but do not love the crowds, nor the crowd related byproducts.  So, I’ve come up habits that help me to have fun, stay sane, and get what I want out of attending conventions.

Here goes……

  • Nourishment
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    This is what people brought for Con lunch in colonial times. These days I would recommend PB&J, or maybe some ham.

    • Food is fuel and you’ve got a long day ahead of you, so have a good breakfast, especially if you are going to be lining up outside for some time before you even get to the convention floor.
    • Many Cons have food.  Super bad for you, super overpriced food.  Your hard-earned cash can be spent on something much better, so go old school and pack a brown bag lunch. Consider something simple and light like a sandwich and an apple. (Apples are durable, provide liquid and fiber and they are good for you.)

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Honorary Lady of Comicazi: Kelly Link

Kelly Link writes the kind of short stories I wish I could – little gems of speculative fiction in which movie stars are haunted by demon lovers, rabbits aren’t to be trusted, and superheroes share convention space with dentists. They’re dark and funny and sad and weird and they do what all of the best fiction does – they reveal who we are as humans to ourselves, unearthing all of the creepy secrets we’d rather keep hidden and the everyday miracles we’re all capable of. I’m not the only one to think so – the New York Times agrees with me and Neil Gaiman thinks she should be declared a national treasure. And yet, I feel like only a few folks in my circle have read her work.

"Kellylink1b". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia.

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