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.
I spent the weekend watching and waiting for news of the Hugo awards; authors I enjoy, people I know, and some online acquaintances made their way to the 2013 LoneStarCon to engage in some socializing, pick up their awards, and participate in some panels.
Tobias Buckell posted an in-person write up of his experiences at the Con. It gives a really nice first person account of his time in San Antonio and makes me just a little bit jealous. I’m looking forward to seeing (if someone had enough forethought) or hearing more about the Future Energy panel that Buckell and Naam were part of. It sounds like there was some good debate about space solar (including discussion of the economics of shooting mass into orbit to have it return energy, and the potential of weaponization of space solar). I also wonder how much power economization played in this discussion. And, to wit, if anyone is looking at ways to reduce the role profit motive plays in projects of this nature. If you have this video please send me a link.
Also, there were a number of writers’ workshops, and boy oh boy what I would not have given to have been a fly on the wall in at least one of them.
Kudos go out to all the winners, in fact, all the writers and the many people who were considered this year. I’ve read three of the five novels that made it into consideration and I can imagine that it was a tough choice in the end between these. If you follow Bujold‘s serial you may be wondering how this will impact future Vorkosigan contributions. I sure hope there is more coming.
Critical mass … John Scalzi wins the 2013 Hugo award for best novel with Redshirts. Photograph: Jon Shapley/Demotix/Corbis
Scalzi walked away with the honors this year and he deserves it, Redshirts was pure JS. The slapstick, the sarcasm, and the constant twisting of tropes only got better with Wil Wheaton reading. Redshirts delivered where some of Scalzi’s more recent fuzzy contributions fell flat, and I hope I can smack him a hearty high-five in person some time soon.
- Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi (Tor)
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
- 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
- Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
- Blackout, Mira Grant (Orbit)
- The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
- After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
- “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
- On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
- San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit)
- “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
- “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
- “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
- “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
- “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
Best Short Story
- “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
- “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
- “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
I posted the rest of the contestants and winners who are wordsmiths because a) these are publishers (including self publishing) which I need to keep better track of and b) because I need to read a lot of these authors.