Monday, November 6, 2017

Obligatory Ready Player One Review

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

All the kids are reading it! And here I am, late to the party as usual. Actually, I wasn't even usual.

Ready Player One has generated the kind of phenomenal interest few could have predicted. The book seems to appeal greatly to 80s nostalgics and romanticizers. There are a few people from my generation who wish they'd never left the 1980s. There are also a few millennials who wish they could've lived it. The former seem to be forgetting and later is apparently unaware of how shitty the 80s were at times, what with the threat of Russians invading Red Dawn style or the fear of getting nuked out of existence in a quick and decisive WWIII. Plus neon and big hair sucks!

Ready Player One revels in Atari, Dungeons & Dragons, early computer games, and 80s movies (leaning heavily on sci-fi), so this is ALL UP in my wheelhouse. I should be going gah-gah over this. I admit, I did enjoy the romp down memory lane for a while, but fairly soon the light plot wore on me.

This book reads like a movie in which the kids save the day, very much like War Games. This is all just a game as a matter of fact. The threat of avatars dying does not hold the same tension as a person losing their life. That's not to say author Ernest Cline forgot to add the human-life threat, it's just not there for some of the book's biggest moments. In that way it reminded of Ender's Game.

The main character plays and wins the video games I grew up on in order to save the day. I should have been loving this book. But most everything comes too easy for him. He's great at this game. He gets lucky, because he just happened to have recently studied/mastered the next game thrown at him in this contest to become rich and rule the virtual world. The motivations that book this book didn't move me. In the end, it's not bad, but I just don't understand the raging hype for this one.

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Genghis Khan was a Swell Guy

Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious FreedomGenghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom by Jack Weatherford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genghis Khan was a baaad man...if you were a shitty ruler who oppressed your people and lived fat off the sweat of those less fortunate.

Jack Weatherford knows his subject inside and out. He's written numerous books on the Mongols and the khan in particular. He did an excellent job in helping me garner a better understanding of perhaps the greatest ruler of all time.

Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom succeeds in portraying Genghis Khan as a man to be admired for his ability to gracefully accept the religious beliefs of our cultures and nations when he had absolutely no need to. In fact, it would seem to behoove him to squash the beliefs of all who came under his power, if for no other reason than to have uniformity of belief under his sway entirely.

Instead, this man had the wisdom and foresight to allow the people he subjugated to retain their believes, whatever they may be. That did away with the necessity of fighting a secondary religious war with highly fanatical partisans.

As I was flying through these pages I was remained of a modern day parallel that may help you understand the kind of ruler Genghis Khan was. Think Khaleesi from Game of Thrones. Both are warlike and brutally slaughtered many, but both brought about freedom for the previously oppressed. Yes, I'm drawing on fantasy fiction for an analogy, but hey, the legendary stories that make up Genghis Khan's life seem like they have to be the stuff of some master writer's wild imagination.

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Sweet Sequel

Sweet Thursday (Cannery Row, #2)Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was in Monterey quite recently and even visited the Steinbeck house in Salinas, so I thought it would be a damn good time to read another Steinbeck. As per usual, it was a really good read and as per usual, I was right. But then again, it's always a good time to read Steinbeck!

Having said that, I do worry every time I read one of his books, because all the character's always die and it will always be sad. The amount of hyperbole in that previous sentence is nothing to the level of my forgetfulness when it comes to Steinbeck's solid sense of humor. For like Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday is actually a comedy.

That makes sense, since Sweet Thursday is a sequel to Cannery Row. Most all of the old characters are back and their aims are almost exactly the same. Poor old Doc is set upon once again by Mac and the boys in their attempts do something nice for their beloved friend. Of course, they have their own happiness in mind and their ways and means aren't conducive to well-laid plans, so yes, things fall apart. That's the whole point.

I could see someone docking the book for being a repeat and coasting on the coattails of a successful predecessor, but that someone is a douche. Shut up, sit back and enjoy the fact that a major novelist gave you more of a good thing!

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