The journey of a nerd who loves the Lord

Posts tagged ‘ready player one’

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

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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