Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – I am of two minds about this book. Real quick: it’s 50ish years in the future, a VR version of WoW/Eve/the matrix dominates entertainment. The guy who made it is a child of the 80s, dies, and leaves the entirety of the game/company to the first person to solve a game inside his game. The book is hand crafted for nerds who grew up in the 80s, like me, with no end of references to our favorite things. On the one hand, I love this book. The basic story is great, the world is awesome. I listened to almost nothing else until I got through it, it was a page turner, if that makes any sense for an audiobook. On the other hand, two things really really annoy me about the book. First, it’s about a teenager, with obnoxious teenager problems. I can’t say that it’s poorly written, it’s a perfectly accurate representation of a nerdy 18 year old (I should know). But nerdy 18 year olds, 18 year olds of all breeds in fact, are annoying. They say annoying things, do annoying things, and prioritize particularly poorly. This is all portrayed very accurately (and acted perfectly by Wil Wheaton), but at the end of the day it’s still annoying. It’s hard to get into a book when the main character is annoying and doesn’t make very smart choices. Secondly, the book is essentially a 16 hour hipster diatribe. It’s great to glorify the 80s, for those of us from then. Monty Python, old computer games, Wargames, D&D, all that stuff, great. But the book really goes out of its way to dig up the most obscure stuff it can find. And all the experts are mega annoying about knowing all the old cool shit and if you don’t know it you are totally lame. Again, expertly written as people like that really are. But still annoying. It’s a funny pair of criticisms – he’s very good at writing obnoxious people. But it definitely made some parts of the book hard to get through. But, I can’t deny how quickly I read it, how excited I was to hear what happened next. In the end, it was a great story and I had a great time.
Stalking the Nightmare by Harlan Ellison – This is a book of short stories by one of the most prolific scifi writers that I’ve never read. It’s very good, with lots of good ideas in it. Ellison is perhaps the most cantankerous misanthropic scifi writer I’ve ever read. This is at times endearing, but mostly annoying. I generally dislike misanthropes, they have to try way too hard to be above, below, or beyond your crap. They are basically angry hipsters. But the two notable exceptions are Carlin and Spider Jerusalem. Putting those two together is pretty weird, but they are examples of an archetype. Ellison is kind of the same, less likeable, but with some awesome ideas. Stephen King does an intro for the book where, I guess, he is trying to channel Ellison. It is among the worst things I’ve ever read: obnoxious, gratuitous and pointless. It almost prevented me from reading the book, but I’m glad it didn’t. I really enjoyed the variety in the book (scifi, fantasy, real life anecdotes and stories that don’t fit in any of those). I want to read something else by him to see if he’s someone I should investigate more.