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Brian K's Staff Picks
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
If you are tired of dystopian tales read no further.
Still here? Good, I have a book that you may enjoy. Jennifer Government was released in 2004 though I think the content seems more relevant today than it did prior to the 2008 financial meltdown and its subsequent fallout.
The story takes place in the near future when the government has all but dissolved; at one point a character talks about how things were before taxes were abolished. In this world the corporations hold sway over most things; they run the schools, the hospitals and some of the government institutions that are left find themselves freelancing for big corporate.
The focus of the story is, you might have guessed, is Jennifer Government an FBI investigator who is on the trail of a corporate exec who thoughts his brand would gain street cred if a bunch of kids were shot while buying his companies shoes. Most the story is a cat and mouse chase around the world while our villain not only flees from Jennifer but actively works on consolidating his position in the market while evading his would be captor.
The book is admittedly over the top but there are so many little pieces that scream of the current state of things to make the premise feel almost plausible. I also found that the emotional rollercoaster the story puts you on is a little fractured. There were times I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing or horrified, of course that may speak more to my interpretation than any fault of the author. On the whole I would highly recommend this (mostly) fun, fast read to anyone who enjoys dystopian stories.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I have been a Neil Gaiman fan since reading my first Sandman graphic novel many years ago, his book American Gods is the only reason I ever went to House on the Rock and he writes Dr. Who episodes – so enough said, I’m an fan boy. His latest work certainly doesn’t hurt his legacy. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a short book, if you get sucked in like I did you can knock it out in a night. It is written for adults but would likely be okay for teens, though there is one scene in the story that is not for kids but even that is not too graphic.
The story follows a seven year old boy, or more accurately a middle-aged man looking back on his seven year self. Through the boy’s eyes we see his world(s) coming apart, both the world we all know (his family is dealing if financial issues that cause turmoil on a number of levels) and the magical world he has just learned of, yet might mean his doom. In the course of the story he meets Lettie Hempstock who becomes his friend, protector and guide in this new mysterious world where trouble is brewing.
I love the world Neil Gaiman has created, a world that is consistent in its depths across all of his stories. You recognize the world we all know, but there is always a shadow world laying just underneath, filled with supernatural people and beings, doing shadowy things. His world seems utterly plausible because of his characters and the settings; reality never manages to push its way in and ruin the fun. It’s almost a shame to finish the book and realize that his magical world, where anything can happen never existed.
I would highly recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane, it’s a good story and a great way to ease into his work. If you find you like it I would check out American God’s, Coraline and Graveyard Book.
Monday, September 17, 2012
Ready Player One takes place in a stark, near future where people hide from their dark reality in the OASIS, a virtual world created by James Halliday. As the story takes off lifelong gamer and game creator Halliday has just died and left behind one last game for the ages. I his last will and testament he has bequeathed his entire estate, including control of the OASIS to the first person who can complete his quest in the OASIS.
Our protagonist Wade sees the winning the contest as his only chance to make something of himself and spends nearly every waking moment working on Halliday’s puzzles. Standing in his way is Innovative Online Industries who have created in entire division in their multi-national company to ensure they win the prize and gain control of the OASIS, and they don’t believe in playing fair.
The book is fast paced and littered with reference to the eighties (because Halliday was a 80s fanatic). If you grew up in the eighties you will likely find these references and debate about them a lot of fun. Most of the story takes place in virtual space but the story does spill over into the real world and is pretty dark, as in most stories; good triumphs in the end. I found it a fun read if a little rough around the edges. If good story telling is more important to you than mechanics, this book is for you.
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