In an effort to maybe, perhaps, hopefully get caught up on all the books I haven’t reviewed, I’m planning to start doing mini-reviews every couple of weeks for books that I read but didn’t have much to say about. If you have more specific questions about any of this week’s titles, leave them in the comments!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. (Source)
It’s hard for me to tell you how much I just adored the audio book of Ready Player One. I loved it so much that I bought a copy of the paperback after listening because I wanted to add it to my permanent collection. The two worlds that Ernest Cline creates — the dystopian world of the future, and the virtual world inside The Oasis — are vivid and exciting. Wade, our scrappy protagonist, is the kind of character you can’t help but root for (even when he’s being overwhelmingly dumb). There are a few slightly-too-convenient plot points, but I was just so entertained by this book that I didn’t care. Wil Wheaton was a fantastic choice as a narrator — you can tell how much he loves the book and is geeking out about it as he narrates. I’m not a video gamer, and I’m not familiar enough with the 1980s to get many of the geekiest references, but neither of those things detracted from my experience with this book. I highly, highly recommend it.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway? Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact. The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares. (Source)
Listening to this audio book make me realize what a weakness I have for fiction that sits in a place somewhere between literary fiction and genre fiction. The Last Policeman has a lot of the character-driven, introspective sorts of features that you get in literary fiction because of the overarching problem of a world-ending catastrophe, but adds a whodunit murder mystery on top that keeps our main character and the story from bogging down too much in those philosophical questions. Winter’s writing is quite lovely — very noir, without being over-the-top — and Peter Berkrot’s narration captures the gritty idealism that drives Hank Palace to keep on keeping on in the midst of the end of the world. This is another audio book I highly recommend.
Disclosure: I purchased both of these books through Audible.