Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

Okay. It's been about a week since I finished this gem of a book, I'm ready to attempt a review for it.

Ready Player One starts with one of the best prologues I have ever read.  We learn about a contest being held upon the death of the creator of the most immersive virtual-reality technology ever to hit the market, the OASIS.  James Halliday has an obsession with all things 80s, and with a video will broadcast inside the reality-numbing VR game, he drops the bombshell that his entire fortune - over 200 billion dollars, and the rights to the OASIS universe itself - will be left to the first player to find an obscure easter egg hidden somewhere inside the game.  After informing players that they'd need exhaustive knowledge of his favorite decade's pop culture, his death sets off a resurgence in 80s fashion that consumes the world.  This novel manages to be both a Farenheit 451-esque dystopian commentary, and an ode to the decade that birthed power ballads, cheesy movies, and the beginnings in video game advancement.  And, most shockingly, it is done well.  Very, very well.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Book Review - Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

When I first heard about Caraval, I wasn't as intrigued by it as so many others seemed to be.  But as more and more early reviews started trickling in and raving about the book, I admit to being swept up in the hype.  Even though I was skeptical, I just had to see what all the fuss was about.  I'm happy to say that I won't be the Black Sheep reader here.

Caraval is one of the most atmospheric books I've read in a long time.  It's basically what would happen if Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland had a demented love child.  There are so many twists and turns in these pages that I got mental whiplash just trying to keep up, and it was so much fun.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Review - Shadow And Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.

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