Set in 2045, the world is a sadly dangerous and depleted place and Oklahoma teenager Wade Watts lives in a dwelling known to residents as The Stacks. Though the author doesn’t go overboard with his description of this housing (and he does with lots of other descriptions) I quickly formed a vivid and overwhelmingly depressing mental picture of the place. It’s understandable that anyone unfortunate enough to live there would need some kind of escapism.
Luckily, James Halliday, eccentric, mega-wealthy and deceased, had made it his life’s work to invent Oasis, a virtual Utopia where everyone goes by their Avatar and life is good. In his will, Halliday leaves Oasis and all his millions to the person who can find the keys and unlock the Easter Egg, the ultimate prize.
A quirk that is vital to any chance of winning the prize is an in-depth knowledge of 80’s pop and games culture. Wade, in his avatar guise as Parzival has made it his mission to be an expert and has played 80’s games over and over in a bid to know every character and move. He thinks he has a serious chance of taking the prize but he is not alone, and some of those undertaking the quest are not as friendly or as honest as Parzival’s virtual best friend Aech, or Art3mis or Shoto and Daito.
There is a dark underbelly in the real world and they are determined to win.
Ready Player One is fun. It’s basically some computer characters wielding their swords and finding golden keys. But there is a huge amount of description, almost like a walk-through of a computer game and, despite excellent narration on Audible, at times I just wanted something to happen. This is a long book, longer, for me, than it needed to be. The 80’s stuff could be a bit wearing. At it’s heart is a love story, a good v evil battle, a dystopian nightmare of what the world might become. It’s the kind of book that I probably enjoyed more in the reflection of it afterwards, rather than some of the real-time reading. But it did make me reflect – and not all books do that.
All The Little Children starts right in with the action. Marlene and sister-in-law Joni are out for a camping trip with their kids and one of the children’s classmates. They’re a mixed bunch in age and personality and it is immediately clear that the outdoor life is not one they are used to.
Nevertheless the kids show some enthusiasm when they set off on a hunt for wood for the campfire.
The first sign of the coming problem is the arrival of a friendly and unaccompanied dog, ‘Horatio’ who Marlene takes back to camp until the owner can be found. Peter, the classmate, shins up a tall tree, despite Marlene’s protests, and reports a more disturbing discovery. He says that all he can see for miles around is fires ‘like volcanoes’.
As they cannot see for themselves neither Marlene nor Joni know what to make of Peters claim, but they are soon to find out that the problems they will face are much, much worse.
I hadn’t realised this was a dystopian novel when I started the book, but the signs are everywhere that something significant has happened beyond the sheltered confines of their isolated camping spot.
What follows is the efforts of this unlikely group to discover what has happened to the people in the surrounding countryside, and to make contact with any other survivors.
I have to say that, for me, on this occasion, the idea behind the story was more compelling than the course the story eventually takes. Marlene is not easy to like, and this part, her personality, was hard to get past, though I really wanted to be behind her in her struggle. The problem is that she is at the camp to bond with her kids, as if it is just another tick on her to-do list. She is a business woman who feels that her dedication to her work is misunderstood. Marlene didn’t need to be this way for the storyline, and I felt that it made her much less easy to get behind in her new role as leader of the pack of survivors.
There are some cruel twists and while this would never be a credible story without some of the cast falling victim to the circumstances, I felt that maybe there were a couple (or three) poor choices in there.
All The Little Children is a fluent and well written book, but this one was not entirely for me.
This free audible short story really grabbed my interest. A prequel, apparently, but there was enough here to imagine the awful state this dystopian world had descended to.
Lalla, nine year old, ponders about life when flowers and green beans were flown all the way from Africa just so that people in England could enjoy them. Now no crops are grown at all and Lalla only knows of many foods from stories and labels on tinned goods.
Lalla’s parents are in a privileged position that we are given no explanation for but ‘privilege’ seemed to mean that they have somewhere to live and that within those walls they are somewhat safe. Nevertheless Lalla longs for the outside.
Short stories are, I think a difficult craft but this one held my interest and was enough for me to imagine the frightening world that Lalla lived in.