April 12, 2016

Mini-Theme: Virtual Worlds

I picked up a few books from the library at random a couple of weeks ago. As I was reading through the stack, it seemed like virtual reality kept popping up. Then I remembered one from my "to-read" list that was about virtual worlds, as well. I got on the waiting list for it, and here we are. Mini-theme!

Heir Apparent (Rasmussen Corporation #2),
by Vivian Vande Velde

3 stars: Sort of like watching someone play an extended video game, complete with side remarks and commentary.

Giannine has a dead-beat dad...and mom, actually. She lives with her grandmother. Her birthday present from her Dad--a $50 gift certificate to a local virtual reality gaming center--isn't awesome, but it's better than nothing. When she has to cross a picket line to get into the center, it never occurs to her the protest could become a life or death matter--for her.

The game she chooses is Heir Apparent, and there's no one right way to win. If you die or get killed, you get another chance to win, as long as your time hasn't run out yet. She begins to play, promptly discovering several quick ways to die. Then a heavenly messenger (WHAT?!) comes down. Oh. This is Mr. Rasmussen, the actual game's creator, telling her that she doesn't have much time; the protestors have caused a potentially harmful glitch in the system, and she has to finish--i.e. win--the game before it causes irreversible brain damage. They can't pull her out mid-game. So off she goes back to trying to pass the tests, make allies with people who won't kill her later, and so on.

Interesting way to write a story. The plot was simply her playing the game, multiple times, but with a consciousness that a real disaster was just around the corner overlaid on top of it.

Content: clean

(Reviewed on March 12, 2016)

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

3 1/2 stars: Enjoyable, with enough added "real-life" action to keep the gamer plot afloat.

Wade Watts lives in the Stacks with his abusive aunt, several other people sharing their trailer, and whatever random--also abusive--boyfriend his aunt has around this month. It's 2044, and reality is full of violence, lawlessness, poverty, and hunger. No wonder Wade escapes to his hideout whenever he can and lives in the OASIS--an online virtual world full of amazing things to explore, do, and feel.

Of course, since he doesn't have any money to pay for transportation to other worlds, his avatar is pretty much stuck on the school planet. But hey--that's still way better than anything out there in the real world.

OASIS was created by James Halliday, an old-school gamer in love with the 80's. That would be the 1980's. Before he died, this multi-millionaire guru announced an Easter egg in his world--whoever found it would find the first clue to a treasure hunt for all of his wealth. Yup. Of course, pretty much the whole world has been searching for it ever since, with absolutely zero luck. Hard-core "gunters" (egg-hunters) like Wade have even gone so far as to watch all their hero's favorite 80's movies, listen to the music, play the video games until they've beaten every level.

So, one day Wade figures some things out--actually, the location of the first clue, perhaps. As he races to find it before anyone else, he almost forgets that there's a real world out there at all.....which could be very, very dangerous for his health, by and by.

I liked this, but didn't love it. I don't consider myself a child of the 80's, really. I recognized most of the references to 80's pop culture, but I was still just a wee young thing back then, so it wasn't nostalgic for me at all.  I especially liked how Cline didn't let us totally escape into OASIS with Wade. He made sure we remembered, at least, that there were other things going on. Finding out the true identities of the other characters was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Content: Quite a bit of language in this one. The violence was almost all in OASIS, so just like watching a video game, it wasn't so bad.

(Finished reading April 4, 2016)

Unison Spark, by Andy Marino

3 stars: Unique world-building.

Mistletoe (formerly known as Anna), has lived sub-canopy her whole life, with her guardian Jiri. Their technology is scavenged and ancient, and she's lucky to have a scooter of her own that she uses to ride around the steeply sloping streets. She has a blue, scented braid, and can pretty much take care of herself. She has recurring nightmares about Jiri carrying her from a lab, with tubes and wires coming out of her body, and people chasing them.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Seaboard City, the rich people's world up above, nearly everyone is linked in to a virtual reality game known as Unison. Ambrose Truax is the son of Unison's creator, and already works full-time making the game responsive to the players' wishes--spoken and unspoken. In fact, he's ready for a personal upgrade--the one where they cut out the need for sleep...at all. This is good, actually, because if he doesn't sleep then he can't have those nightmares anymore. Then a stranger hijacks his login and sends him a message: the dreams are real.

These two don't know it, but their worlds are about to come together in unpredictable and dangerous ways.

I liked this world, although it wasn't fleshed out as much as I would have preferred. There's flying cars, and the Unison game and flip-palm connectivity to the network, but we're not given much background on how this all came to be. A short explanation about the whole canopy business, and one or two about the virtual reality network, but not much more than that. This is no Brandon Sanderson novel! It was still enjoyable, it just left me with a lot of questions.

Content: Mostly clean. A bit of violence, but no language or sex scenes.

(Reviewed on March 14, 2016)

No comments:

Post a Comment