Ernest Cline: Ready Player One

Ready Player One cover

In Ready Player One, global warming, an energy crisis, war, famine, and poverty have made the world a bad place, so many people use a high fidelity virtual reality game, the OASIS, as their escape.  The protagonist uses his knowledge of 80s video games, movies, and music to try to win a contest that would net him billions of dollars.

The book is generally good, and it could have been great, but it wasn't great.  As such, even though I generally liked the book, most of this post is fairly negative.  Here is the negativity:

Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan

Sirens of Titan book cover

Sirens of Titan was Vonnegut's second novel, and many of the themes present in it show through in subsequent works, though later works felt more refined.  For instance, the humanist religion in Sirens of Titan, The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, felt less relatable than Bokononism and more likely to provoke a negative reaction out of traditional believers, though the two religions are very similar at a deeper level.  

"I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all."  Classic Vonnegut.  Only, "So it goes" is simpler.

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon's cover

I only made it halfway through Cryptonomicon. It had some interesting ideas, but it was long, and it didn't move quickly.

It does a few things well:

The Aeronaut's Windlass - Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut's Windlass' Cover

The Aeronaut's Windlass is Jim Butcher's steampunk fantasy world. When the surface world is covered with thick mists and hostile creatures, humanity lives in spires and grows its food in vats. Energy crystals power the airships and weapons, and a select few can manipulate their energy without the aid of technology.

The book is a quick, action-packed, fun read. Also, one of the protagonists is a cat.

Don't Think of an Elephant! - George Lakoff

The cover of Don't Think of an Elephant

I highly recommend "Don't Think of an Elephant!" to anyone interested in progressive politics. The book is very well written, easy to read, concise, and important.

The basic premise is that, over the last few decades, republicans have gotten good at framing issues in terms that implicitly support their worldview. Democrats have used the republican framings and language even when trying to argue for progressive policies, but using the republican framing has the neurological effect of reinforcing the republican framing.

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

The cover of Ancillary Justice

"Ancillary Justice" is a well-written novel about one segment of an AI hive mind pursuing revenge against a colonial empire that doesn't see gender distinctions.

Throughout the book, the wit and craft behind the writing is clear. I particularly enjoyed the style of banter between the different characters, and everything flowed together very well -- the pacing was fairly quick, the switches between the present and the past were well synchronized, and the themes were generally interesting.

Dune - Frank Herbert

Dune book cover

I enjoyed Dune.  It's good to read a classic, especially one that so dramatically influenced a genre -- in Dune's case, popularizing hard science fiction.

There were some awkward bits of the writing style.  Things moved a bit slowly sometimes, and there were some awkward shifts in point of view.

Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman

The Soon I Will Be Invincible cover

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a superhero / supervillain novel (every other chapter switches off between the superhero protagonist and the supervillain protagonist).  I have heard that it does a good job of playing on superhero comic tropes, but I haven't really read those myself.  As is, I thought it was a reasonably entertaining novel, but it didn't make me think or otherwise stand above the crowds.

The Martian - Andy Weir

The Martian book cover

The Martian is about an astronaut stranded on Mars. He's about to die because he's stranded on Mars, but thankfully he's a good natured, sarcastic engineer, so he can attempt to survive for a couple more days before his inevitable death.

The Iron Druid Chronicles - Kevin Hearne

The cover for Hounded, the first book in the Iron Druid Chronicles

The Iron Druid Chronicles is an urban fantasy series featuring a druid living in modern Arizona.  It has a lot of similarities to the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, so I will be comparing the two.  If you haven't read the Dresden Files, they're very good, and I highly recommend them.  Currently, Hearne has finished 7 Iron Druid books, one will be published in January 2016, and there will be one more before the series is finished.


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