Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Ready-Player-One-cover-by-Ernest-ClineToday, I’d like to talk about a book that I finished recently: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Ready Player One is set in a futuristic dystopian world where society has mostly moved into a massive virtual reality MMO, the OASIS, to escape the bleak and broken world that the energy crisis and climate change of the early 21st century left behind.

I really enjoyed this setting, of a society barely scraping by, just enough to let it stick its head in the sand some more. Alright, enjoyed is the wrong word. It doesn’t give me much pleasure to think that we might very likely be heading in that very same direction, with our collective obstinate refusal to do anything about climate change or the looming energy crisis. (Not all of us are obstinate, but enough are that not much, if anything, is getting done about these approaching issues.)

Anyway, Ready Player One has a lot to offer as a story and as a social commentary on identity and internet culture. It begins with a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”-esque beginning with a young boy finding the “golden ticket” and being launched into a new world of intrigue and adventure. This rather standard beginning is further held down by the extensive research that Ernest wrote into the first hundred pages as his protagonist brags about his staggering knowledge of 80’s culture, movies, and games.

But once you establish how nerdy the main character is and actually launch into the story, it’s a pretty sweet ride. The subtle commentary on escapism and identity ramps up as the story goes on and you learn more about the setting, all the while kept on the edge of your seat by the rising stakes of the hunt against I.O.I.

Cline waits until the end of the book to betray the simplicity of his characters, making them much more complex and relatable as you finally see the “real” characters. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’m really glad that the characters were able to show more depth and identity later in the story, but that still means you had to read three hundred pages to find out that Art3mis has a birthmark that ‘disfigures’ her face. With that much ramp-up, it was almost a disappointment to learn that that was the source of her reticence regarding her real identity and low self-esteem despite her celebrity status. And the social commentary around Aech is staggering, but you can’t explore any of it because you learn the meat of it in a soft lull before the final climax.

Despite this, I think Ernest was right to choose Parzival as his Point of View. Writing as Art3mis or Aech would have changed the entire commentary and meaning of the story. The theme of escapism throughout the story is much more relevant to the setting and story, and it is better served from the perspective of a character that, while not cookie-cutter normal, isn’t bogged down by the social and mental baggage that Aech, Art3mis, Shaito, or Daito might have.

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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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Sunday night, I got home from watching Age of Ultron with my family. Had a good time, winding down from the evening and getting ready for the week to come, about to leave my father’s and head home to my own bed, when my father reads the headline of an article he was reading. “Two shot dead after they open fire at Mohammed cartoon event in Texas.” He then goes on to quote parts of the article in horror.

Now, I’m not Muslim. I’m not Christian. If anything, I’m a really bad Buddhist. So I don’t like to get involved in these discrimination wars between Christianity and Islam. I just don’t think it’s constructive. Both have their evil as well as their good, in the extreme as well as the mundane.

But when you deliberately hold an event to piss people off, how can you be surprised when they get mad? It doesn’t matter whether you believe in Islam or agree with Islam, but having the common decency not to spit in their face out of spite just sounds like good manners. And a Mohammed cartoon contest is akin to yelling “Hail Hitler” in a synagogue. Or a gay couple necking in a Westboro Baptist Church service. Or an abortion doctor loudly offering his services during a Catholic Homily.

What I’m trying to get at isn’t that those two guys were right to do what they did. Far from it. What I’m getting at is that two men died because a group of hateful people attacked something that people hold close to their heart. Don’t attack what people care about unless you want them to fight back.

And Pamela Geller, it isn’t “war on free speech.” They just spoke back. Poorly, but some of us don’t have a hate-group funding our efforts.

Read the original article here.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Avengers_Age_of_UltronWarning! This post contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie and care about preserving your expectations, I suggest you mosey on about your day and come back to this later. Otherwise, carry on!

I didn’t know what to expect going into Age of Ultron. I really didn’t. I knew it was going to be good. I’ve been very pleased by all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Great casting, a brilliant director and writer, a budget that lets them do just about whatever they want…. How can they get it wrong?

But I was also afraid that it might have become a bit inflated on its own reputation. You know how it goes. The first is brilliant, the second sucks, and the third might redeem things a little, but it isn’t as good as the original. And there were ten movies before Avengers 2, and they continue to top expectations. It has to stop somewhere, right?

I was expecting one of two things:

  1. Cheesy one liners and cheap laughs stacked upon each other to play up the banter, overpowering the plot that they tried to make serious. (My problem with Guardians of the Galaxy.)
  2. A plot that was too serious (I mean, it’s Ultron, and the trailers were pretty dark.)

So I was pleasantly surprised when I got the best of both worlds. All the witty banter and one-liners on point without being forced or too packed in, plus the story was serious enough to be taken seriously without clashing with the aforementioned witticisms.

Ultron was brilliant. James Spader? Nailed it. The right blend of philosophical and crazy, with just the right amount of Tony Stark to make his hatred of him hilarious but understandable. His creepy zombie entrance was a perfect contrast to the moments before ball-busting laughter when Cap almost picks up Thor’s hammer (up there on my favorite moments.)

Even though the story was very serious, Ultron had the right one-liners perfectly delivered to keep the banter going without detracting from the heavy shit that was going down. I also liked that it wasn’t the invincible monster you had to defeat, but a self-replicating robot. He himself was formidable, but not insurmountable. It was the fact that there were countless of him that made him a real opponent for the Avengers.

The extra time given to Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Bruce Banner worried me a little at first. It could have held down the story, as these are the less iconic characters of Avengers. Instead, the extra depth added to these characters made them just as exciting as Thor, Ironman, and Captain America, who had their own movies. (Bruce Banner has his own movie, but we won’t talk about that….)

Lastly, the implications of the teaser. Thanos picks up the Infinity Gauntlet, which we know to be housed in Asgard’s treasure vault, controlled by Loki. Is the God of mischief still working for Thanos? Or does Thor return to a destroyed Asgard as his vision warned him? It would make sense that Thanos would destroy Asgard before going after Earth. Maybe we’ll see that play out in Thor: Ragnarok? I don’t know, but I do know one thing: I’ll be in the seats to find out.

 

 

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The Sasquatch Speaks

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Alright. I’m going to start this out by saying that I have absolutely zero experience with blogs. I’ve tried journaling, and it’s never really worked for me. There are blogs on writing that my mother suggested to me years ago to help me and I still haven’t even thought about giving them a serious try. Sorry, mom. Probably not going to happen.

But I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of writing a blog. Wikipedia (I know, ugh) defines blogs as a discussion or informational site typically written by a single author covering semi-narrow topics. That’s a pretty broad brush. They can be about anything, and many professionals use them to connect with the public. That idea appeals to me. Especially as a writer, connecting to the audience is important to me. I want my readers to be invested in my stories, and the ideas behind them.

Hence, this blog. The writing process, philosophy, short stories and books, video games and geek things, current events, and lastly, my own stories will compose a large portion of what I cover, plus other things as I think about them. In addition, this will serve as a hub where I will make my stories available as I finish them.

So, a little about me: I am a noble sasquatch, of the Chase clan in the Pacific Northwest. We are cunning creatures, given to both bouts of solitude and social interaction. A little smaller than the legendary ‘true’ sasquatch, we are able to pass for human with little difficulty on most days as long as coffee and/or caffeine is within hunting distance. We are fascinated by human culture and interaction, and enjoy walking among you to study your ways, occasionally participating in your rituals to fully immerse ourselves in the experience.

I myself aspire to make the lives of those around me a little better and easier due to my involvement in them. Whether that is through a laugh or a thought-provoking conversation, what meager wisdom I am able to offer is available for everyone. My stories are (I hope) an expression of these desires, and I hope that you will participate in them.

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