Book Reviews: March 2018

I read 4 books in March! Ready Player One and the Thrawn trilogy. 

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Decades into the future, a financially and physically devastated Earth has become obsessed with the 1980’s. The founder of the world wide OASIS, a virtual reality where every person spends their free time, is hosting a contest based on clues from his 80’s childhood. Wade Watts finds the first clue and is thrust into the spotlight with a giant target on his back as others want to use him to win the contest.

Note: This was written prior to watching the movie and reading other reviews. I liked the movie more.

I didn’t hate this book enough to quit reading but I didn’t love it nearly as much as I expected.

The reason I kept turning the page was because I liked the idea of the OASIS, even if I wouldn’t have cared about Halliday’s contest in real life. I’d have been using the OASIS to visit Coruscant, Tatooine, Middle Earth, the Cosmere...you get the point. I also really loved the game where you could act out your favorite movies. Sign me up for that!

Now I have to rant. I had two main issues with this book: crap writing and lack of an audience.

The writing in this book was terrible. I tried to be forgiving as I’m pretty sure it’s Cline’s first novel, but it got worse as it went on so by the end I wasn’t feeling very gracious. Wade was a cliche gamer Mary Sue - overweight, virgin, obsessed with the most beautiful girl (who, of course, was a talented gamer), and the best in the world at his video game of choice. No part of the contest was that difficult for him; the only time he didn’t dominate was when he was sitting around feeling sorry for himself. At no point was I worried about the outcome, because everything was so incredibly obvious. AND I HAVE NEVER READ A BOOK WITH SO MANY INFORMATION DUMPS. DEAR. GOD.

Cliches aside, the writing itself was...bleh. For example, on page 450 in one five sentence paragraph, all of this happened: “I now had access to…” “I was now logged in as…” “I was now able to create…” “I had access to…”  Did Cline even have an editor?

Secondly, I could never really tell who the audience was supposed to be. It was barely written at a YA level, but I’m 27 and didn’t know half of the 80’s references. I’m not sure how someone younger than me is supposed to care. Unless perhaps they’re an old-school video game nerd? But how can that be so when 15-year-olds these days don’t even know what MySpace is? The people who actually grew up in the 80’s and could understand these references don’t seem to be the ones reading and reviewing this book, so I’m not sure if they’re the target or not.

Don’t mind me - if you love video games and can turn a blind eye to bad writing, this will be a fun read for you.

(Also: My copy of the book says “Harry Potter for grown-ups” on the back. That is utter bullshit, and a heresy. This is nothing like Harry Potter.)

(One final note: The two Japanese characters were awkward cliches. FYI, Ernest Cline - seppuku and suicide are NOT the same thing.)

Rating: 2 of 5 stars


 

The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn

Five years after Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance has become the New Republic and is focused on rebuilding the galaxy while eliminating any final threats from the Empire. The last of the Empire’s Grand Admirals, Thrawn, has a plan to bring the Empire back to its full power. As Thrawn’s attack gains attention from the New Republic, Han, Leia, and Luke are drawn into the action. They have to find a way to stop Thrawn from unleashing new warships, a second Clone Wars, and unhinged Dark Jedi upon the galaxy.

I’m reviewing the books of the Thrawn trilogy together...to be honest, after reading all three of them back to back they kinda blended together. The writing in each one was exactly the same - nothing special with lots of dialogue while the characters quickly jumped from space battle to space battle. 

I’ve seen Thrawn recommended as THE Star Wars book to read. And while I enjoyed it and thought the action and events fit in the Star Wars universe, I wasn’t obsessed with it. I can see why it was big in the 90’s though, years before the prequels ever came out and there weren't multiple new movies on the horizon. And even though Disney cheerfully dumped this into a trash can labeled “Legends”* in 2012, the events in this book don’t contradict Star Wars canon (until VII) in a major way.

*(There are fanboys out there that are bitter that Disney didn’t borrow from the EU for episodes 7-9. Just to be clear, I am not one of them. I’m completely for Disney creating new SW stories for us.)

So, it’s a fun read. People who love Star Wars passionately like myself will enjoy it, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the casual fans. There’s just so much Star Wars literature out there, fans new to the books might as well focus on canon.

Thrawn was a great villain. Sometimes I wanted to see his thought process more, and I definitely needed more of his background. (I'll be reading the newer novel for that.) I didn't doubt that he was a genius, but often things came too easily to him and it made me feel like he could've been developed more.

The thing I loved most was seeing Leia work on her Force abilities even as she continued her job as a politician. The Leia/Noghri storyline was my favorite, by far. I didn’t care all that much about the lost ships, or clones, or the struggling Empire. But I was invested in Leia and her relationship with the Noghri from the beginning, it just seemed like a very Leia-y thing to happen. Han, Luke, Lando, and all of the other original characters didn't really grow much, but I did come to like a few of the newer characters by the end. (Karrde was a better character than Mara, fight me about it. Her backstory was wayyyy too glossed over and I kept expecting more from her.)

Star Wars diehards can't go wrong with this trilogy, but I don't really see a casual fan making it past the first book. 

Heir to the Empire (#1): 3 of 5 stars

Dark Force Rising (#2): 3.5 of 5 stars (3 on Goodreads)

The Last Command (#3): 3.5 of 5 stars (4 on Goodreads)