Themes: / video games / treasure hunt / 1980’s / virtual reality /
(Since this was reviewed previously on the site, you can view the earlier review for summary and MP3 sample.)
Ready Player One is pure nerd candy, geek heaven, or whatever you want to call it – it was an experience I couldn’t stop if I wanted to and didn’t want to end.
It usually takes me quite a while to get through an audiobook and that’s usually because I only listen to it at certain points of my day – when I’m in the car or walking to or from a new destination. Otherwise, I either have other commitments or other reading material.
I listened to Ready Player One in about 3 days. That’s unprecedented for me. I couldn’t stop myself, it was too good. I’d listen to it in the car, then on the way, then I’d get there and have to listen to just a bit more. Soon, it was my entire lunch break, before bed, EVERY SPARE MOMENT!
In the near future, 2044, everyone’s connected to the OASIS, a virtual reality that lets you guide your avatar through a virtual world filled with a myriad of planets, games, and experiences. You can go to school, order a pizza (which gets routed to your local pizza joint of choice), and participate in other…adult activities.
The creator of the OASIS, is, of course, a mega-billionaire and our story begins with a short video (description) of James Halliday’s last will and testament…an elaborate egg-hunt designed to give everything to the one who can find the three keys and pass through the three gates already programmed into the OASIS.
Halliday was obsessed with the ’80s and promises that those who share his obsession are the only ones who have a chance.
This is the perfect example of write what you know. Cline’s created a future obsessed with the ’80s, the hairdos, the clothing, the games, everything. I was surprised by how much I knew given I spent less than a decade in that era and none of it paying attention to pop culture that’s for sure. Eighties knowledge is, however, icing on the cake, but far from necessity.
We follow Wade Watts in his journey as a gunter (egg hunter) as he finds time and means to get online, even amidst the squalor that is his home life, at least as long as he can get away without his Aunt trying to pawn all his stuff.
Wade begins the story in school, taking classes (mostly those that will help him on the hunt) and arguing with friends and foes alike over the best episodes of Family Ties and other Halliday discoveries.
Like many people on the OASIS, especially those in school, Wade is a geeky kid who doesn’t have too many friends and do I even need to mention his way (or lack of way) with women? Probably not.
While mostly a fun adventure with riddles and puzzles, fighting and leveling up, Ready Player One explores what is actual reality – do you have to do things in person or is it the feelings you get? And if so, can’t you get it all online?
The Audio Experience
Did I mention Wil Wheaton reads this here audiobook? Overall, he’s perfect for this. The quintessential nerd talking about dungeons and dragons and classic ’80s pop culture and video games. At one point, he even gets to mention his own name, how fun would that be?
His reading, however, isn’t all rainbows and fizzlepops. He reads a bit slow at times and en-un-ciates some words too slowly as well. The problem is that awkward silences (though very short) take away from the reading and pull you out of the story, making you realize someone’s just reading out loud to you instead of taking you to a far-off world. Rest assured, these problems were only toward the beginning of the story and did not last throughout.
Ready Player One is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Matrix, an instant classic right up there with Ender’s Game. Ready Player One is the best prediction of our future I’ve ever witnessed. Space ships and alien encounters? Yeah right. We’ll all be online.
5 out of 5 Stars (Brilliant!)
Review by Bryce L.
The SFFaudio Podcast #181 – The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions, read by Julie Davis (of Forgotten Classics and A Good Story Is Hard To Find). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novella (2 Hours 40 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Scott, Jesse, and Julie Davis!
Talked about on today’s show: Yay!, Scott has another busy year, The Odyssey, Beowulf, length vs. content, is The Beckoning Fair One too long for it’s material?, modern colloquial terms (for 1910), Stephen King, The Forbidden Books Group Presents, Necronomipod: The Lair Of The Bookish Worm did a podcast discussion of The Beckoning Fair One, The Shining, writer protagonists, Bag Of Bones, The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, surprise endings, ambiguity, a writer’s point of view, Julie’s sister can see ghosts, now is the time in the podcast for a personal ghost story, the ghosts of Logan, Utah, troubled or troublesome nuns, are ghostly experiences possible during the daylight?, doppelgänger, an urban phenomena, a haunted hotel room, a vivid vision of a drowning, a disappearing maid, nightmares, a premonition, Christine, why are there no haunted beach?, haunted cars, gremlins, hiking, a haunted hiking trail, machete vs. axe, ‘there’s something wrong with that bedroom’, there’s something wrong with that, the ontological argument, House, M.D., between the ultraviolet and the infrared, a great title, the dripping of a faucet, The Sarah Bennett Quintet, suicide, Oleron is unconscious of the things that he’s conscious of, who’s sleeping in my bed?, a ghostly brushing, “he wakes up to himself”, a harp cover, Oléron is an island in France, and Romilly is a city in France, is the house playing him like a harp?, the final chapter, Jesse’s not super swift, a shut in, vegetable refuse, wig-stands, a large lumpy pudding, the recurring “triangle”, it has esoteric meaning to Freemasons, how did Elsie end up in the closet?, “you get to decide”, an alternative suspect, the tramp in the basement, the Hobo marks, “don’t push the religious angle”, firemarks (fire insurance marks), starving artists, why men have to get married, a Jonathan Swift shout-out, Elsie had a Brobdingnagian complexion, “I need you and I want you to marry me.”, sticking with the spooky, maybe Julie’s in an insane asylum?, Community, Red Dwarf is an excellent Science Fiction show, The Booth At The End, H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon, The Colour Out Of Space, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, The Dunwich Horror, amorphous horror, a gelatinous voice, Gregg Margarite, The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe, this podcast is making me hurry for rosewater pudding, The Sixth Sense, Signs, Joaquin Phoenix, The Master, Baron Münchhausen, The Takeaway Movie Date, The Big Book Of Ghost Stories edited by Otto Penzler, Donald E. Westlake, the ghost of the paperback, Jesse has a guardian angel?, Parker, Jason Statham is a modern action movie star like they had in the 1980s, The Bank Job, Anarchaos by Curt Clark (aka Donald E. Westlake), Smoke, Humans, Firebird by Jack McDevitt, Will Duquette, Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
What was really going on in 1984, the introduction to the audiobook, 3 MB of RAM, Commodore 64, Apple IIe, TI-99/4A, the 10 Year Anniversary Edition of Neuromancer, video arcade vs. arcade, Tank War Europa, Spy Hunter, Sinistar, BBC audio drama adaptation of Neuromancer, cyberpunk, Jenny couldn’t connect with Case the first time, Alfred Bester, the revolutionary effect of Neuromancer, “a very special book”, Mexico City, “an important novel”, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, The New Yorker’s parody of Neuromancer, the New Wave, “one great new idea per book”, Samuel “Chip” Delany, The Einstein Intersection, The Lovesong Of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot, “The sky above the port…”, Blade Runner, “time to murder and create”, Hesiod, “And he never saw Molly again.”, an untethered morality, the Rastafarian religion, WWI, virtual worlds, Second Life, Gibson’s intentions, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, conspiracy, The Crying Of Lot 49, William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch, “the silent frequency of junk”, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy’s shoes, L. Frank Baum, “the face of evil is the face of total need”, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, “slouching through the streets of Paris”, Case is a “man of decided inaction”, God was Adam’s employer, Dixie Flatline wants to die, Free Will, Eric felt for Case, 1980s, Watergate, a totemic fascination with color and material, branding, Pattern Recognition, the Sanyo spacesuit, Hosaka is a computer?, a dead channel would be blue (today), Ian Fleming, James Bond, Walther PPK, “elegance and cosmopolitanism”, John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar, Escape From New York, Johnny Mnemonic, the fear of what technology is going to bring, Case’s youth, detritus vs. kipple, Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip, Galactic Pot-Healer, “you can’t prove that the United States exists” in Neuromancer, Case was a street-kid, Gibson has built something that has mythic power, the lame Braun robot, Molly -> Mother -> Mary, SSN vs. SIN, a Case study (pun), he has been assigned a SIN, Oedipus, they function as if they were physical, Case: “You know you repeat yourself man.” Dixie: “Yeah, it’s my nature.”, the Sprawl trilogy and “when it changed”, when is Neuromancer set?, “a rich kid’s hideout”, real kipple vs. fake kipple, “built by carpenters to look rustic”, 18th century fake ruins, Versailles (and the Hameau de la reine), the Tessier-Ashpool are fucked up, Mona Lisa Overdrive, cloning, Count Zero, “they dumped themselves into this matrix”, communication technologies begin with porn, A Chorus Line, SimStim gets short shrift in Neuromancer, Strange Days, Molly’s meat-puppet memories, 1-900 numbers, the lotus eaters, Circe, the Sirens song, The Lion of Comarre by Arthur C. Clarke, the heisters are motivated or moved by their A.I. puppet-master, Case’s motivation, Molly’s motivation, Corto/Armitage’s motivation, like Rabbit in Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End, these characters want to believe in their own free will, Neuromancer‘s motivation, “who’s the bad guy in this book?”, “who isn’t?”, the shuriken is the only moral totem in the book, dystopia vs. dystopic, “the wavelength of amphetamine”, spit instead of cry, Jenny is kind of cheating (because she’s read the sequels), is Molly wrong for Case?, Eric questions the new pancreas, it’s Noir (because everyone smokes), Jo Walton’s review of Neuromancer (see the top and comment 59.), Jesse appreciates the world (and the great motivation of the plot), Eric likes Case (in part) because he’s the only one who doesn’t want to physically hurt anyone else, O’Neil colony, the fake French youths, Case is not Neo, The Matrix is a fairy tale with a prophecy whereas Neuromancer is Science Fiction, the Sprawl Trilogy vs. The Matrix Trilogy, Star Wars, “stuck in bullet time”, V: For Vendetta is a fantastic movie, Jenny thinks we should listen to the soundtrack to The Matrix, “the machine and the moment”, Tama thought the second half of Neuromancer dragged, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is also Necromancer‘s antecedent ,”what do we owe to what we create?”
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Monster Of Florence: A True Story
By Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi; Read by Dennis Boutsikaris
8 CDs – Approx. 9.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Themes: / Crime / History / Mystery / Murder / Serial Killer / Conspiracy / Italy / Florence / Sardinia / The Renaissance /
In 2000, Douglas Preston and his family moved to Florence, Italy, fulfilling a long-held dream. They put their children in Italian schools and settled into a 14th century farmhouse in the green hills of Florence, where they devoted themselves to living la dolce vita while Preston wrote his best-selling suspense novels. All that changes when he discovers that the lovely olive grove in front of their house had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known only as the Monster of Florence.
If you’re a fan of Douglas Preston’s fiction you’ll be all into digging the biographical details he adds to this illuminating non-fiction account of a real monster and the labyrinthine twists and turns the investigation took. Those readers looking for insight into Thomas Harris’ Hannibal novels can find this story impactful too. Myself, I was most interested in the unparalleled access this fearsome story details, namely the historical forces that shaped Florence, Tuscany and Sardinia from ancient days, through the Renaissance, the 1960s, 1970s, and on up to the present. Preston, with help from Spezi, provides elucidating details about how the killer (or killers) got away with 16 murders that took place between 1968 and 1985. Their book, this audiobook, is an indictment of Florentine and Italian journalists, the Italian national police , the Florentine investigators, and one prosecutor in particular. In short, after more than 30 years of criminal investigation the case remains an unsolved mystery. Spezi and Preston do take a guess at the culprit, and they back that guess up with a logic chain that is a helluva-lot-more compelling than the official explanation. But, just thinking about it all, a week or two later, I’m still shaking my head. The final disgrace of this story came as a result of a convergence between the Public Minister of Perugia, Giuliano Mignini, and a fraud psychic named Gabriella Carlizzi. Together they explained to themselves, and the arresting police, that Mario Spezi was actually involved in the murders and was a member of a satanic cult.
Even more worrisome, if it is possible to imagine, is what Preston argues is a fairly widespread Italian cultural embrace of something called “dietrologia.” Literally meaning “behindology,” dietrologia is the practice of assuming that nothing notable is as it actually appears – that something hidden (often sinister, cynical and/or conspiratorial) is behind any and all notable events. In Canada we might call it acting paranoid, or being a conspiracy theorist. In Italy, apparently, it is regularly practiced around the dinner table. And it’s all fun and games, I guess, until you end up throwing innocent people in jail. During the writing of The Monster Of Florence Spezi was arrested for either being a collaborator with the Monster or actually being the serial killer himself. Meanwhile Douglas Preston was interrogated, told to confess, threatened with arrest, and forced to leave Italy upon pain of prosecution. The Monster Of Florence case was completely bungled. This was a clusterfuck on par with the notorious California’s McMartin preschool investigation and trial. I guess it all goes to show that police and prosecutorial incompetence is alive and well in the new and old worlds both.
Reader Dennis Boutskaris takes full control of the narrative, becoming the voice of Preston (and Spezi) for the entire audiobook. To my untrained ears his Italian accent sounded fine. The cover art, as mentioned in the audiobook, comes from a photograph of a statue in Piazza della Signoria, in Florence (The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna |JPG|). In addition, on the final disc, there is an informative interview with Douglas Preston.
Posted by Jesse Willis