The journey of a nerd who loves the Lord

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Book Review: Ex-Heroes

exheroEx-Heroes
Written by Peter Clines
Narrated by Audible Stuidos

Description

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes. Vigilantes. Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilites to make Los Angeles a better place. Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country. The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others. (more…)

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Book Review: Survival Quest

survivalSurvival Quest
Written by Vasily Mahanenko
Narrated by Jonathan Yen

Description

Barliona: a virtual world jam-packed with monsters, battles – and, predictably, players. Millions of them come to Barliona, looking forward to the things they can’t get in real life: elves and magic, dragons and princesses, and unforgettable combat. The game has become so popular that players now choose to spend months online without returning home. In Barliona, anything goes: You can assault fellow players, level up, become a mythical hero, a wizard, or a legendary thief. The only rule that attempted to regulate the game demanded that no player be allowed to feel actual pain. But there’s an exception to every rule. For a certain bunch of players, Barliona has become their personal hell. They are criminals sent to Barliona to serve their time. They aren’t in it for the dragons’ gold or the abundant loot. All they want is to survive the virtual inferno. They face the ultimate survival quest..

A few weeks ago, I found a blog about books while surfing.  One of the entries mentioned a ‘new genre’ of books called “LitRPG.”  Essentially, LitRPGs take you through the experience of a role playing game (MMORPG in this case), first hand.  While some fantasy books attempt to tell stories within the lands created by game writers, LitRPGs actually take you through the game… by putting you directly in the mind of one of the gamers.  The protagonist shares with you the rules of the game, the crunch under the hood, the monotony of grinding and the ecstasy of leveling up.

I thought, at first, that the incessant ‘system messages’ and crunch might make the book a bit too boring.  And, for some readers, it probably is.  However, for those of us who have spent dozens of hours reading boards and hint books to learn how to best level up characters in video games, we can find a lot to like here.  The main character, stuck in this virtual world, may be a bit boring and two dimensional.  However, the world around the character really stands out.  After all, with a video game as the setting, anything can and will happen.  While a typical fantasy novel is constrained by the need to have some basis in logic, natural order of things, etc., (with magic providing some exception to that), the world of Barliona is constrained only by video game/MMO logic and rules.  This allows the author a lot of freedom in exploring fantastical possibilities even while utilizing a somewhat boring main character and typical MMO quest lines.  While the first book sets the stage, the 2nd book really explores these possibilities more fantastically.

Normally, this book by itself would get a 4/5 from me.  However, three things elevate this book to the coveted 5/5 stars.  First, while I’m only about half way or so through the second book, it is clear that the author saved some of his more imaginative twists and turns for future books.  Second, this approach to fantasy story telling feels fresh.  Originality always wins brownie points from me!  Finally, my wife gives it two thumbs WAY up.  She enjoyed this book so much, she has torn through the rest of the books available in this series.  She simply cannot stop listening.  While the writing is great, the reader definitely carries his end and does a great job using voices effectively to tell the story.

I can highly recommend this book series to any of my friends who enjoy computer and console RPGs.

5/5 Stars

 

5star

Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Written by Ernest Cline
Narrated by Wil Weaton

Description

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.

A fellow friend of the nerd variety recommended this book… and boy, am I glad he did.  Ready Player One grabs you by the seat of your pants and does not let you go.  Imagine Willy Wonka meets The Matrix, you get Ready Player One.  Before he died, the creator of the OASIS, a virtual reality world, set up a contest.  Whoever could find his ‘easter egg’ (think hidden secret) located somewhere in the simulation, would inherit his company and vast fortune.  To solve the clues, players have to know pop culture from the 70s and 80s.  Set in a dystopian future, this adventure follows Wade Watts, as he works with his friends to win that contest, all while minions from an evil corporation attempt to do the same.

Those of us who grew up in the age of the Atari 2600, Commodore 64 and Nintendo will find much to like here.  As the main character works his way through the puzzles and contests, the pop culture references come fast and furious.  Yet, even those lacking in knowledge will find that the adventure itself has plenty of excitement and edge-of-the-seat moments.  My wife, who listened to the book with me, couldn’t wait to see what happened next.  Every chapter seemed to raise the stakes just a bit more.  At a few points, I even heard her cheering for the protaganist.

A few elements took away from our overall enjoyment, however.  Primarily, the ending felt a bit rushed.  We would have enjoyed another chapter wrapping things up a bit more, or an epilogue.  Also, some of the relationships felt a bit…cliché.  The story of one of the supporting characters made my wife and I groan.  While I will not go into details for fear of spoilers, it feels like another attempt to force a political viewpoint into a story…and one that does not feel organic.  Thankfully, the author does not spend too much time on this point.

With that being said, we still enjoyed the ride quite a bit, and can recommend it to any of our friends.  It’s a relatively short, self contained, exciting adventure for the entire family.  If you enjoy older pop/nerd culture, you will feel right at home, here.  If you opt for the audible version, rest assured that Wil Weaton does a great job bringing this story to life.  I would love to hear him again.  4/5 Stars

Book Review: Till We Have Faces

facesTill We Have Faces Audio Book Review
Written by C.S. Lewis Audio
Narrated by Nadia May

Description

  1. C.S. Lewis reworks the timeless myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction in this novel about the struggle between sacred and profane love. Set in the pre-Christian world of Glome on the outskirts of Greek civilization, it is a tale of two princesses: the beautiful Psyche, who is loved by the god of love himself, and Orual, Psyche’s unattractive and embittered older sister who loves Psyche with a destructive possessiveness. Her frustration and jealousy over Psyche’s fate sets Orual on the troubled path of self-discovery. Lewis’ last work of fiction, this is often considered his best by critics.

As part of my recent C.S. Lewis kick, I picked up this book, not really knowing what to expect.  I saw the note in the description mentioning that many consider this one of Lewis’ best books, and many of the user reviews agreed.

First, Lewis writes this story of self-discovery completely from the first perspective, which I have grown to enjoy the more I read.   Lewis does a great job keying into the main character, Orual, and making you feel as she feels.  Early on, Orual makes it clear she has beef with the gods, and Lewis does a great job explaining exactly why.  While some define atheists as those who do not believe in gods at all, I have seen some (in fiction) define them as those who believe that the gods are simply not worthy of faith and worship.  That’s exactly how Orual thinks, as nearly the entire book serves as her well thought out complaint against them as a whole.

Ironically, I have seen this exact same sentiment in some of my atheists friends and family.  If God does not exists, how can they be so mad at Him?  I see them shaking their fist in the air, at Him.  They argue, if He exists, He must be a cruel God because of XYZ… and therefore not worthy of worship even if they saw Him face to face.  Lewis excellently paints the argument, drawing on his own feelings and experience as an atheist for many years.  His final strokes in the tale and debate are masterfully painted.

His excellence permeates the other aspects of the story, as well.  From the supporting characters, to describing the world.  He wastes not a word.  In fact, I had to slow down my normal playing speed as He uses thick language full of color and thought.  You cannot listen to this book casually, lest you miss an important point.

Nadia May executes the narration near flawlessly, lending a different voice to each character.  I really enjoyed this entire book from beginning to end.  I highly recommend it to my friends who study theology, those looking for a good, fictional book steeped in mythology, and even my atheist friends who may find a kindred soul in the main character.   5/5 Stars.

5star

Audible Books

Salutations!

I know the following sounds like a commercial!  But, honestly, I just want to share one of the cooler things I enjoy with y’all.

With my busy life, I can struggle to find even a little time to read books.  If you have kept up with my blog, you know that I highly value this activity, as it exercises the mind and usually forces you to think through some of the deeper subjects of life.  Even a fictional story can shed light on deeper issues while entertaining.  I have found that books do a better job of this than other mediums, such as movies.  So, how does a busy bee like me find time to read? (more…)

Brothers Removed by Time

Salutations.

As I continue to plug away at college studies, increased job workload and the constant stream of house chores and errands, I find that my time for creative work eroded away to nothingness.  However, I do continue to find ways to consume entertainment.  Whether I sneak in an hours of game before bed, or I listen to an audio book on the way to work, I find new ways to take my mind off the monotony of the day to day grind.

Image result for mere christianityI mention in my October summary post that I had listened to C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters.  Since then, I have listened to another of his books, Mere Christianity.  I also listened to The Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Armond Nicholi, which did a great job summarizing many of the contrasting viewpoints of these two great minds.

I cannot recommend these books enough.  The more I listen to C.S. Lewis, the more I’m convinced that we are two brothers, separated by time.  I find his approach to theology, using clear thought, logic and reason, absolutely refreshing in a world so based on emotional reasoning.  Make no mistake, C.S. Lewis’ passion dictates his direction, at times, but he always seeks to get to his conclusions through logic.  I honestly wished I started reading his work earlier.  If he were alive today, I would love to spend time just talking things out with him.

I believe many of my friends would enjoy the last book mentioned above, The Question of God.  The author does a great job of providing two contrasting viewpoints of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud.  For those who do not know, C.S. Lewis started life raised in a religious home, but declared that he believed in no God rather young in life.  Years later, after much thought and reflection, Lewis decided to follow Jesus and became a Christian.  S. Freud, on the other hand, refused to believe in a benign creator his entire life.  The resulting ways that these men thought on important topics provides some very fascinating perspectives on topics that most of try to avoid or ignore.  Yet, we would do well to take the necessary time to find the truth on such matters as they can have such a profound impact on ourselves, and those around us, as seen in this book.

How about you?  Have you read any books lately that make you feel so connected to the author, that you feel you are siblings removed by time?  Have you read any of these books?  Share your thoughts below!  I would love to hear from you.

 

Fahrenheit 451: The Power of Thought

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I continue to work nearly non-stop for my job.  While that leaves little time or energy for leisure, I find ways to stay entertained.  While not always possible, I find I can listen to audio books while typing in invoices, spreadsheets and the such.  Recently, I picked up “Fahrenheit 451,” a sci fi fiction novel that I read decades ago in High School.  While I enjoyed this back in the day, reading it again as a mature follower of Christ provided a new perspective on Ray Bradbury’s tale of the confused fireman.

(more…)