Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Decades in the future, the entire world can live most of their lives online in a virtual reality called OASIS. OASIS is a vast space with many worlds created by James Halliday, who on his death bed left his entire, vast fortune to the winner of a game that he installed with OASIS. Young Wade Watts, along with everyone else in the world, longs to find the three hidden keys that will lead to Halliday’s easter egg. But there are no rules to the game, and an evil mega-corporation (nicknamed Sixers) has stacked the decks in their favor. So when Wade is the first to find the first key, the Sixers are hot on his heels. And the Sixers will stop at nothing to get the egg, even murder in the real world.

Wade Watts and his contemporaries and friends in OASIS, Aech and Art3mis, are gunters (short for egg hunters). They have lived their entire short lives eating, sleeping, and breathing everything about James Halliday. All of his geeky loves are their favorites as well. And Halliday was a child of the 80s and a hardcore gamer, so he incorporated all of this into his game. Cline created a vast and complex world where the 80s still rule. Those of us who grew up in the 80s will find most of the quests and puzzles fun and nostalgic. I can’t imagine the research that went into this story, as there are a lot of obscure references as well.

Even though I’ve never been a gamer, I can appreciate the story and the references to older games and the fun puzzles that we learn along with Wade. Though some of the made-up history gets a bit lengthy at times, I still found myself enjoying the wild ride. This recent science fiction release is engaging, suspenseful, and highly entertaining. Full of mystery, 80s trivia, gaming, and a bit of romance, Ready Player One is a fun must-read for any scifi and gaming fan.

Book Review: Dagger Quick

Dagger Quick, by Brian Eames

Twelve-year-old Christopher “Kitto” dreams of life at sea, but instead apprentices for his father as a cooper (barrel maker) and gets ridiculed by local boys for his clubfoot. Then, his Uncle William Quick arrives, and everything changes. Captain William Quick is a privateer, on the run from the Governor of Jamaica and charged with stealing from the politician. When his father is brutally murdered and stepmother and brother kidnapped, Kitto sails away with his Uncle in hopes of freeing his family and setting things right. To make matters worse, there’s a traitor on board his uncle’s ship, and Kitto has befriended him.

Kitto is a brave and capable boy, always putting others above himself. Captain Quick is still a fairly mysterious character, though greed seems to be his motivation in life. While he’s a hardened privateer, Quick has a soft spot for his nephew. Eames’ characters are vivid and dark. The villains are rough and cut-throat. Quick’s crew is kind and loyal. Even the traitor has misgivings and guilt.

This is a fantastic swash-buckling tale for readers young and old alike. An impressive debut, the adventure and suspense is completely engaging. Kitto is such a charming character that I found myself getting caught up in his journey, and found it comparable to following young Jim Hawkins’ adventures in Treasure Island. Though, Dagger Quick is written in completely modern day vernacular and for middle-grade readers. Pirates, mystery, and adventure on the high seas – it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s fast-paced with plenty of thrills. Ending with a major cliffhanger, I’m eagerly awaiting a “Quick” sequel. Corny pun intended.

Book Review: Outpost

Outpost, by Adam Baker

Kasker Rampart is a neglected refinery in the remote Arctic Ocean. Fifteen people are left when the news reports of a global plague and rioting in the streets. And when their early rescue relief fails to arrive, the crew realizes that they’ll have to find their own way home. With winter coming, the crew will face starvation, freezing weather, and depression. But even worse, they won’t be isolated from the plague for long.

Jane is a priest who is just about to give up on life, when she receives a will to live with the news of the plague. She becomes the heroine protagonist, and the center of a majority of the story. Baker’s characters are all complex and compelling. And the suspense is riveting.

This science fiction thriller has the feel of Rucka and Lieber’s Whiteout meets a zombie apocalypse. Dark, intense, dramatic, and with plenty of excitement, the struggle of the Rampart’s crew against insurmountable odds is an adrenaline rush from beginning to end. The source of the plague is never really explained, but the symptoms and effects of its zombie-like victims are fantastically fresh and fun. The suspense and violence builds to a big finish, with more than a few surprises along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed this recent horror release.

Book Review: The Unwanteds

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann

Quill is a dystopian city where thirteen-year-olds are sorted into three society levels: Wanteds, Necessaries, and Unwanteds. The Unwanteds are sent away to be killed, along with those who outlive their usefulness. Alex is prepared for his Unwanted status, while his twin Aaron is named a Wanted. But when Alex arrives at the death farm, he is introduced to a whole new world of magic, imagination, and everything that was never allowed in Quill.

The Unwanteds is an incredibly creative and inspired idea. What makes the kids unwanted in Quill is exactly what makes them most useful and wanted in Artime. The young teens use their talents from music, drama and art and create magic with them. And ultimately must use this magic to defend themselves from an impending attack from Quill. McMann’s characters are dramatic and colorful. The plot and characters hold so much promise that it’s easy to get carried away in the story.

With magic, mystery, and plenty of heart – this fantasy for young adults is fun and engaging. Blending futuristic dystopian scifi with Harry Potter-like fantasy, two worlds collide in a fantastic way. Events culminate to a big showdown, with a few surprises and some heartbreak. While the novel works well as a standalone, there seems to be more story left to tell, and I hope for a sequel.

The Unwanteds releases from Aladdin Books on August 30, 2011.

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