Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Good Reads for Geeks

Hey, long time no talk... Here are some good reads for you sci-fi-techno-robot-lovin'-gamer geeks out there...

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - This is mandatory reading if you grew up in the 80s. The setting is a realistic future where most of society has entertained ourselves to death, depleted all of our natural resources, and is now addicted to a massively multiplayer online game. In this future, virtual worlds are preferred over the slum-like existence of real life. When the fabled creator of this game dies, he leaves his fortune up for grabs to his avatar-based universe. All people have to do is solve the multi-level quest that he's developed, most of which surrounds his obsessions with 80's technology, video games, and popular culture. Of course, there's the pre-requisite large corporation beating down on the rebels - but it is really well done. If you ever fallen prey to addictive MMORPGs you'll really enjoy this ride. Essentially, Cline has produced a love letter to the 80's in the form of an epic adventure quest. However, underneath the high speed chase there is a sly commentary about life online - how we make our online personas appear more interesting than they really are (ahem... facebook), the depressive qualities of comparing online skills/physique to the stereotypical obese and clumsy gamer, and ultimately the acceptance of who you are sans virtual reality.

Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel Wilson - This is one of those books where the plot is so tight and momentous that it is hard to put the book down once you get started. Told from the perspective of a soldier who is archiving events after the end of the ultimate humans vs. robots war, we get small interrelated stories that show the start of the robot revolt all the way through human triumph. Wilson does a great job creating robots that are both hilarious and creepy. It's not hard to imagine that we would give so much of our boring, task-focused lives over to automatons. More difficult is the notion that we are trusting machines to do so much without realizing that we're ultimately giving up control of our world. This book has larger than life characters, an evil robot overlord, and an ample serving of ass kicking revenge. It's the classic theme of a dwindling human race with their backs against the wall fighting back... Loved it.

REAMDE: A Novel by Neal Stephenson - Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. If I sound like a fanboy please forgive me. A while back I did a post about his last book, Anathem. This novel is set in the Pacific Northwest and features some of my old haunts, so it's such a joy to build an image in my mind while I read this book. REAMDE is also focused on gaming, and specifically a MMORPG named T'Rain (think of World of Warcraft on steroids). REAMDE refers to a virus that infects online players. It's primarily delivered through Microsoft Outlook (hilarious) and encrypts victim's hard drives and requires them to pay a ransom to young and brilliant Chinese (online) gold farmers which they convert into real cash.  Stephenson is the master of weaving several story lines into a huge ball of compelling madness. There are so many bizarre and wonderfully complex characters in this book, you could easily make many movies out of all the story lines. I'm 3/4 of the way through this epic 1,056 page novel and it's maddeningly intricate but hard to put down.

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