Also READY PLAYER ONE

I recently re-finished an excellent listen by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton, that I think will become a perennial entertainment.  One of my favorite elements of READY PLAYER ONE is the pacing. Not too fast, not too slow. The writing, especially when expressed through Wheaton’s voice, flows on by like a summer river.

Warning spoilers be here.

Cline is most definitely an 80’s-o-phile and READY PLAYER ONE is at once a semi-historical recollection of the decade and an excellent imagining of a future that carries its own baggage. The story’s hero is Wade Watts/Parzival, a dirt poor dude living in the stacks who manages to escape poverty and stupidity through his dedication to a virtual universe known as the OASIS. From start to finish, this story is about overcoming anything using nothing but perseverance.

Parzival makes his own success, from cobbling together trashed decks found in the waste piles of The Stacks to finding the copper key to a grand meeting battle with the leader of an evil corporation, the kid finds a way. It is an inspiring and, in no small way, enjoyable story because I found it soooooo easy to slip into Wades point of view. Wheaton’s voice acting has a lot to do with that as well. A very powerful story telling combination for this child of the 80’s.

 

My major criticism has to do with the cardboard dohicky above. Someone recently presented this as an alternative to the Oculus Rift while attending the Google IO conference and this sort of MacGyvering is precisely the kind of thing I wanted more of from the story. Cline gives Wade his OASIS rig and haptic gloves by sending him to school within the virtual space. I say, “too easy.” It felt like one of those fortunate effects of a world built solely for the advancement of the story. How I would have reveled had Wade found a way to use some ABC bubble gum, a Swiss Army knife and a trashed smart phone to cobble together his entrance into the OASIS.

Bonus points could have been awarded later in the story should Cline have managed to figure out a way to get Wade into IOI database using similar hacked methods. Again, too easy. Just having him scan the interwebs for access codes before he embeds himself as an indentured worker intent on destroying the company from within made me sad. I wanted Farris Bueller to tie slip knots to manikins. I wanted Mac to pull cables out of something and plug them into a cactus. I wanted hacks, improvisation, and pithy quotable phrases that I’d recite in my dreams. “Yippee Ki Yay Yeah, Mother Fucker!”

But, not my story. And I really like it.

Promise of Blood

Taniel “Two Shot”

I realize that I’m way behind the 8-ball with review. PROMISE OF BLOOD premiered almost a year ago and I’ve already pre-ordered the audio version of the second in the trilogy. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve been busy. Raising children, staying healthy, writing my own books and all that.

Here’s the deal though, there’s no excuse. Brian McClellan accomplished a wonderful juxtaposition with this tome of a novel, and his narrator Christian Rodska has the moxie to pull the reading off.

Time and Place

The story is set in mostly in the capital city of Adapest in a beleaguered kingdom with a corrupt and inattentive nobility. If I were painting set boards for this I would draw my inspiration from pictures of early Victorian wood cuts of European settings. McClellan sets a dark mood and maintains brooding and hopeless sense of place from beginning to end. Criminals, traitors and scoundrels flourish in this environment and they’re found in all walks of life.

Power and wealth are the possession of the nobility until Field Martial Tamas begins a bloody revolution that will change Adros. One of my favorite parts of this novel is the membership of the conspiracy that unseats the monarchy. You can find all the usual suspects, but McClellan writes deep plots. The leader of a labor union, an underworld business man who remains concealed in the shadows, even the head of a mercenary force said to rival the standing army.

As has been said in plenty of other reviews, McClellan’s systems of magic are very unique, and praise worthy. But the thing that makes these different schools of arcana so compelling is that these are integrated into a well developed social system. Brian is a smart author with  impressive world building acumen.

Prodige?

In the powder mage trilogy everyone has strengths and weaknesses, McClellan does a good job of picking at his main character’s weaknesses while slyly introducing gods into the mix. Honestly, I wanted the Field Martial to spend a few more chapters incapacitated by the gold star, but McClellan more than made up for this deficit when Taniel “Two Shot” puts two red-lines in the eye and chest of a god. No one has a ready made solution to the chaos that arrises through the story, there are no Bat belts and no one is indestructible.

That’s important to me, I don’t much enjoy stories where there is no struggle and PROMISE OF BLOOD is chock full of conflict and heartache. While there is fantastic power, in the form of Privileged and Powder Mages alike, no one, not even the gods, can rest.

The author Lifting a Horn

Summary

If you enjoy good fantasy you’d be at a sorry loss if you failed to pick up this book. This was an audio book read for me, but I found that the choice of voice actors only enhanced my appreciation for the story. I listened and re-listened time and again because of a skilled turn of phrase or a well written reveal. When the sequel comes out in audio format it will be top on my list of listens. Add to that, the ebook seems to be on special right now, only $1.99 and its huge!

Little Red on Big Red Buckle

Let me tell you, as an author, this moment feels a lot like being made. Andrea Johnson, over at Little Red Reviewer, just reviewed my first book THE BIG RED BUCKLE. There is a lot in here that makes me happy with the book, especially bits like this.

THE BIG RED BUCKLE certainly has a lot that’s endurance sports related, but I saw it first as an underdog story, a story of honest teamwork and intelligence vs who can spend the most money on high tech equipment.”

Andrea isn’t a sports enthusiast. She probably had never heard of paragliding before reading THE BIG RED BUCKLE so it’s a special sort of glee I’m soaking in right now. She got my story. A full on grok, fully.

Despite the all the lingo, the weather geekery, and the story’s endurance sport roots it is still just a story about people. That made me a very happy author.

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Buy The Big Red Buckle