Feb. 25th, 2017

thewayne: (Default)
7/? Ready Player One, Ernest Kline (rr)
7/? The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross

8/07 The Worlds Trilogy, Joe Haldeman
8/09 Hype and Glory, William Goldman
8/11 Redshirts, John Scalzi (rr)
8/15 All My Sins Remembered, Joe Haldeman

9/11 Pawn Gambit, Timothy Zahn

Huh. A rather uncharacteristically sparse list for three months, considering that none of them were particularly long books. Barely two books a month. But on with talking about them!

Ready Player One is becoming a regular re-read for me, it’s so much fun. I remember reading it when it came out in ‘11, though I didn’t get it until our Great Drive of ‘12 from a bookstore in Portland, Maine. If you haven’t read this and you frequented arcades in the ‘80s and played early RPG games on old platforms, I suspect you’ll like it. It’s a near-future dystopian set in the USA where after the oil ran out, the national and pretty much the world economy collapsed for most people. There’s still the super-wealthy, but most people live in pretty depressing circumstances. The main character, Parzival as his online-avatar is known, lives in a high-rise stack built of mobile homes in Oklahoma. He attends school via virtual reality as do most people in the world. This VR has replaced the internet and is known as The Oasis. Things continue until the man who created the Oasis dies and leaves an interesting will: the entirety of The Oasis will be given to a person who is able to complete a series of puzzle quests. The problem is that another company, a classic mega-corp with evil intentions, is creating an army to brute-force the puzzles. It is up to Our Hero and his Intrepid Friends to save the day with better instincts and sheer pluck. It is a very good read and I highly recommend it. A film is in production, directed by Steven Spielberg, and is slated to release spring of next year.

The Nightmare Stacks is the latest Laundry Files book by Charles Stross, a British writer living in Scotland. Awesome books if you’re a fan of Cthulhu mythos and British government bureaucracy. Lots of fun. I hesitate to recommend this book as a starter as his books build on the previous ones and it’s a very complicated story line. Regardless, the book is great if you’re a fan of the series as it’s a full-on incursion from Fae and only a vampire can save the world.

The Worlds Trilogy, by Joe Haldeman, individually known as Worlds, Worlds Apart, and Worlds Enough And Time, follow the adventures of a woman from off-planet by the name of Maureen O’Hara. She’s in New New York taking a year or two in an Earth university, when she’s caught up in a revolution of amazing proportions. Her adventures are very entertaining, perhaps not the right word, but it serves. I would actually say that this book is Heinlein-esque but better than Heinlein for making, for me, a believable strong young woman. I very much liked these.

Hype and Glory by William Goldman is a two-part memoir. William Goldman is a very well known script doctor and writer. He’s best known for writing the book The Princess Bride and also the screen play. He’s written quite a number of other screenplays and has won quite a number of awards. The book is about his experience being a judge, in the same year, 1988, he judged both the Cannes Film Festival and the Miss America contest! The first part, Cannes, gives a nice insight as to how a film festival is judged. And there’s no doubt that someone like Goldman is qualified, even though he’s not a “critic”. He knows exactly how films are made and how good scripts are built. The judges meet frequently during the festival to discuss their opinions of what they’ve seen up to that point and slowly build consensus as to who gets what award. Needless to say, problems arose and some compromises had to be done. Still, an interesting insider view. The second part, the Miss America show, had some fascinating aspects. First, it was held at our current President’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. His description of Atlantic City confirmed that it is a place that I never want to visit. For example, he went to a concierge to ask where the nearest book store is, and the reply was, “Like, porno mags?” Not only did the staff default to porn, there were no decent book stores in the area. The rules were completely replaced for this year and the judging was divided in to two parts. The first part happened off-camera in the days before the televised event, this was the panel that Goldman was on. The on-camera judging was done by telegenic stars such as Joyce Brothers, Eva Gabor, Deborah Norville, George Peppard, etc. So Goldman and the other off-camera judges did their evaluations, and their evaluations were totally ignored by the second group of judges when it came to show time. The big problem was that when they redid the rules, they didn’t account for what would happen if there was a tie in judging, and there was. The result was many minutes of dead air when the emcee was at a loss as to how to fill the time, the judges didn’t know what to do, no one knew what to do. Eventually the winner was announced: Gretchen Carlson, Miss Minnesota, who went on to Fox News greatness. As I recall, she wasn’t in the top 3 as scored by Goldman’s judging group. Very interesting book.

Redshirts was another re-read for me, John Scalzi’s take on a self-aware Star Trek setting where the non-bridge crew become aware that their mortality rate when on away missions and paired with bridge crew is very low. They then work to improve their odds. It reads sort of like a combination of Galaxy Quest meets Star Trek, lots of fun. I think I liked it better reading it a second time with a number of years between readings. I expect it’ll be a regular re-read, though not with the same frequency as Ready Player One or The Forever War.

All My Sins Remembered, another Joe Haldeman book, is the story of Otto McGavin, an Anglo-Buddhist and peaceful person. But the Confederacion need him as a spy/thief/assassin for their secret service as he has a mind that is adaptable and receptive to personality and memory overlays that make him ideal for infiltration and espionage missions. But the missions begin to take their toll. It’s an interesting book, and also a sad one.

Pawn Gambit by Timothy Zahn is a collection of short stories. Like many short story collections, some were great, some were just good. It contains a Cobra story, which is the stories that made Zahn a name in the science fiction community long before he started writing Star Wars novels. Pretty good stuff.

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