Ready Player One Thoughts

I’m sure by now that most of you have heard of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. But for those not in the know, here’s the brief description from Wikipedia:

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Okay, so there’s the gist of the story. If you’re curious about reading it, or haven’t finished the book yet, STOP NOW. I will be talking in depth about the book and its story. So it should be without saying that there WILL BE SPOILERS.

Getting into it now, I guess I should start by saying that overall, I didn’t like this book. Honestly, I don’t get why it was lauded over for the past few years. Hell, even Spielberg is set to make a movie based on this book. What?

But let me explain why I didn’t like this book first. It wasn’t all bad, and I’ll get to that. It seems right to start at the beginning though.

First off, I don’t like the main character. He’s rather one-note (a problem any characters share), and overall kind of uninteresting. Thankfully it’s easy to forget who you’re reading about since the book takes place in first-person. I just took to creating my own character in my head and pretending that was the protagonist. It didn’t really work in the long run, but I did what I could to make it interesting.

Ready-Player-One-Fan-Art-03052015-970x545The villain, if you could say there is one, is cliche. It’s your typical evil corporation who wants to take the thing that’s free and popular and charge lots of money when they take control of it. And the guy chosen as the figure of the corporation is barely present in the story. As far as I remember he only has two scenes with the protagonist. It’s hard for there to be a lot of conflict when the villain isn’t really present in the story.

While the character of Art3mis was interesting at first, the fact that a romance just had to bloom between her and Wade just played right more cliches and tropes. It read to me like the guy had just met his YouTube crush and somehow she managed to find him interesting. There’s some conflict in the relationship but naturally everything comes together at the end. It read as forced to me.

So if you know anything about Ready Player One, you know that the 80’s culture is extremely important to the plot. And while elements of that are fun to see pop up here and there, a lot of it is so steeped in nostalgia it makes you cringe just reading it. It reads like the author was bullied as a child for being nerdy. So he decided to make his obsessions so important to the plot that without it no one would get rich (of course the irony is that he did become rich and famous off of it through this book).

Besides that, the plot steadily becomes more and more predictable as it goes on. There was infighting between the antisocial Halliday and the more jovial Morrow – who by the way are modeled exactly after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak – and because of that they hadn’t spoken in ten years. It becomes something of a subplot as to why this is. But once you get a little backstory on the two characters, which appears in the beginning of the story, you can easily tell what happened between the two. It’s practically spelled out for you. It was obvious that there was jealousy on Halliday’s part when it came to Morrow’s wife.

This predictability continues until the third act, when for some reason Cline just starts throwing Deus Ex Machina’s at the plot. Things start happening that were purposefully hidden from you in order for there to be some kind of surprise. The fact that Wade happened to buy the access codes to all of IOI’s infrastructure came out of the blue. There wasn’t even a throw away scene to show him buying them and saving them for later. He just happened to have them when he needed them most.

Ready-Player-One-Fan-Art-Featured-03192015-970x545Then when all the characters are under the gun and it seems like all is lost, Morrow shows up to bail them out. It turns out he’s been watching our main characters all along… And now he wants to help them win the contest by giving them access to his wonderful mansion with all the high-tech gear that could ever want. Why this only happened now, instead of in the beginning once the contest got going (for real) is beyond me. It just seemed like a way to wrap up a few sub plots and stick Morrow in the ending of the book.

There’s a weird transphobic comment in the middle of the book. It has to do when Wade is talking to Art3mis. Just seemed rather out of the place and the book doesn’t do anything like that again. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

The reveal of Aech’s true identity also felt forced. It felt like Cline had reached the end of the book and realized he’d only written thin, straight, white people. And there was only one main female character. So he made Aech’s real life identity black, female, heavyset, and lesbian. Now I don’t mind a character being any of those things. But to shoehorn it in at the very end – and then to continually refer to Aech by her in game persona seemed extremely forced.

This probably isn’t even the full list of things I had issues with but it’s late and I’m tired. So there it is. I’ll still see the movie, because I’m curious to see what Spielberg changes and how he can improve it. There’s plenty of room to do so.

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Into the Dark Tower I Have Looked

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Two months ago or so I finished the Dark Tower series. I’ve spent the time since trying to figure out how I feel about the series as a whole. I started the series three years ago, when my dad bought the first book. The Gunslinger is an amazing novel. It’s short, concise, and introduces enough elements to get you hooked.

From there the books get significantly larger. So much so that I would have to take several months in between each book. Each book’s break was larger than the last, to the point where I waited six months between the sixth and seventh book.

But in June there came a point where I became inspired to finish the series. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but when I started there was no stopping. As Roland says, “Once we start after the Tower, we will not stop until we reach it.” As I read I found myself feeling like Roland did. I wanted to see what was in the Tower. I’d spent so much time reading these books that I felt like I earned the right to know what was inside.

Before I talk about the ending my feelings on it, there are a few things I want to touch on. The first and easily my least favorite element of the books was the inclusion of Stephen King himself. I hated that more than anything else in the series. It felt forced and somewhat arrogant on part of King. He even talks about why he did it in the appendix of the book and it doesn’t help his case.

Another was the end of Walter. He had such presence and mystique in the first few books. He was a fun villain that got turned into some crazy chump and got eaten by a werespider. I didn’t really understand why this happened, but I imagine that King totally forgot about Walter (who does disappear in the books for awhile) and remembered that he had to do something with him. Unfortunately it was a lackluster end to a great character.

There were elements of the end that I didn’t enjoy. It’s funny because King tries to excuse the fact that some people may not enjoy part of the ending. He says it’s more about the journey than the destination. I disagree, especially with this series. For a series that is based around the main character reaching something very specific, I would argue that it’s entirely about the destination. To have read seven books and not see what’s inside the Dark Tower would have been infuriating.

The element that annoyed me though, was the ending for Jake, Eddie, and Susannah. Perhaps they had earned, having followed Roland for so long that they deserved to be happy. But after having both Eddie and Jake die in service of Roland, it felt cheap to have them all be reunited in some parallel universe. Maybe King thought people would riot of all the characters weren’t alive in the end. But personally I thought it cheapened their deaths and sacrifices that they made. Also is there any reason why the Priest doesn’t get a happy ending with them? He certainly traveled with them for long enough.

But enough of all that. The real meat of the issue was when Roland entered the tower. It was easily the most curious part of the book. There was a sense of peace and accomplishment, yet also foreboding. I had this sinking feeling that something terrible was going to happen when he reached the top. In the end that wasn’t entirely true. I thought the fact that Roland returned to the opening moments of the first book was poetic in a way. I like the idea that a three second thought – where he decided to leave the horn on Jericho Hill or not – decided his fate. And now maybe Roland will finally have peace.

When I closed the book I felt accomplished. I was glad that I reached the end and overall I’d say I enjoyed the series. I don’t hate the later three books as much as some people seem to. There are definitely parts where it lags and I found myself getting drowsy, but I still feel like it was worth it. The ending – strangely enough – felt earned.

Death In Comics and Why It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

***SPOILERS FOR COMIC BOOK READERS AHEAD***

Wolverine is going to die. Yes, you read that right. The man with the healing ability, who has been alive for over 200 years and even survived having a nuclear explosion go off in his face and having his skeleton ripped out, will be dying sometime in the near future. Does this matter? No. Why? Because Wolverine will be returning without a scratch about a year after his death. It happens every time a major character dies nowadays. They die, they’re “missed and mourned” and then the return story line starts to ramp up. It happened with Captain America at the end of Civil War and with Batman at the end of Infinite Crisis.

Some people argue that death in comics is important and the fact that it never sticks isn’t important. It’s hard for me to agree with this because I see death in storytelling totally differently. While the impact it will have on the world and its characters is extremely important, the impact it has on the reader/viewer (in the case of television and whatnot) is the most important aspect. It’s hard for me to enjoy, or even take seriously the death of a comic book character when I know that within a year they will return.

Death as a plot device when you know it will be meaningful. How does it accomplish that? By being permanent. That’s not something comic book do well. For years characters such as Barry Allen and Jean Grey were dead. For decades they’re deaths echoed through their universes. Their deaths were powerful, meaningful events that took place. Then they both came back. Eventually everyone will come back. There’s very little that remains in comic books and it’s frustrating. How can someone be affected by the death of their favorite character when they can be comforted by that they’ll eventually return, probably sooner than they think.

Death wasn’t always perceived this way in comics. When Superman was killed by Doomsday back in the 90’s, people were shocked. It was a landmark event. People couldn’t help but think “you can’t kill Superman, can you?”. It turns out you can, but not for very long. Over the course of twelve months Superman eventually returned. But that still didn’t ruin the affect it had on people. Death in comics was a strange, new land. But it could never be permanent. And as such, the more it happened, the less it meant. People in the comics business saw the numbers and sales that the death of Superman brought it. So it’s natural to assume they wanted a piece of that action.

But it’s hard to invest in something like that when you know it’s a cash grab. It’s just like those “event” stories that are set across ten different series so we have to buy them all to get the full picture. It’s something of an insult to our intelligence to act like we would care about something that will be reversed within twelve month’s time.

I would love nothing more than if both universes went on a cleaning spree, cleaning out their overstocked character list and creating space for everyone to breathe. But alas, nothing is permanent in comics, except its characters.

That Empty Feeling

You have ever a dream where you’re with someone you don’t know, yet feel like connected to them? In the dream you and this person are friends, maybe even in a relationship. You know them and they know you. It all makes sense in your head. Then you wake up and it’s gone. Strangely, you feel a empty inside. There’s a hollow feeling in your brain. It’s like you’re remembering a friend you once had, or a previous girl/boyfriend you’re no longer with. Despite them no longer being in your life (or never have been in this case) you still long for them.

The brain will always be an object of infinite fascination for the human population. But nothing amazes me more than its ability to make you feel like something is completely real. When you dream you can truly do anything. I’ve flown like Superman and bent metal like Magneto. I’ve traveled in space ships and fought Sith as a Jedi Knight. In the moment all of these things feel like they’re happening, like I’m living them. I feel the wind as fly, or the heat of a lightsaber. It’s amazing. Even crazier is the brain’s ability to replicate emotions in dreams. One of the happiest feelings I can remember is a dream I had where I found out that a “friend” had survived her operation. I didn’t know this person outside of my dream, but that didn’t stop me from feeling incredibly happy at seeing her.

Then when I wake up my mind looks back upon it as a fond memory. I know truthfully that none of this happened, but my brain keeps trying to tell me otherwise. Sometimes I don’t remember dreams as well as I’d like. Others stick with me for days on end. Those in particular I’ll write down as they will no doubt serve as creative inspiration in the future. It’s insane what our minds can create when we don’t have any control over it. Perhaps it’s because it’s been freed from the constraints of our morals or inhibitions. It’s free to do and create whatever it wants.

Or maybe – just maybe – we’re peaking in an alternate universe?

Hey, a man can dream right?

NaNoWriMo Update номер три: Crossing 30,000 Words

Well that went easier than expected. In three days or so I managed to pump out another 10,000 words! At this rate I’ll be done in no time!

I don’t really have any tips to give this time, except one. Don’t be worried about the quality of your first draft. First drafts are supposed to be horrendously bad. Garbage even. That’s okay. You’re basically writing the skeleton for your book. You may see things that need to be fixed or write an entire passage that makes you gag as you write it.

That’s OKAY. You will go back and take care of all that stuff in the second draft. The same goes for research. My novel has some historic events in them and I’m not too worried about the accuracy of those events just yet. Again, that’s all stuff I’ll take care in the second draft.

So happy writings! There’ll be another post soon I hope!

Also, for anyone who has played Final Fantasy XII, what was your opinion of it? I dropped awhile back and I feel like I didn’t give it a fair shake. Let me know!

NaNoWriMo Update Numero Uno: Crossing 10,000 Words

Well, it finally happened. I actually managed to cross 10,000 word mark. In fact I crossed it yesterday, but barely. I think last night I clocked in around 10,002 words. Tonight I’m a bit over 12,000. It hasn’t been easy, but there were a few things I did/had that lightened the load. I thought I would share those with you in case you are writing this month, plan on trying for next year, or are writing general.

The first thing – and most important I think – is to have someone who genuinely wants to read your work. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t seem to write for myself. I need to feel like there’s an audience who will want to read this at some point. Whether it be a good friend or a significant other, it’s totally worth finding someone to just read your stuff. For me, it’s my amazing girlfriend. Every day she’s asking me for more pages. It’s small stuff like that they keeps me motivated.

Write every day. It’s simple right? Not exactly. Most people have jobs, school, a social life. It’s hard to keep up with everything and get in your writing quota for the day. The way to get around that is to just write whenever you can. I bring my laptop to school now to write in between classes, when I’m eating lunch, or any other free moment I have. Every little bit helps and it makes it easier to just sit down and power through the last few hundred words.

Find a soundtrack to listen to while you write. Something that fits your story’s tone and helps fuel your inspiration is nice, but isn’t required. Just something that energizes you is necessary. For me, it’s been Lorde’s album “Pure Heroine”. I’m pretty sure it’s been on repeat for the last week or so. Not only is it addictive, but it helps me write for whatever reason. Never underestimate the power of good music.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to double up on your word count. If you’re having a good day, keep on going. I don’t have to worry about falling behind because I’ve got two extra days built in, just in case I can’t write or don’t finish my quote. It does wonders for the pressure.

Hope these tips help! Feel free to share any other advice you’ve got. I’m totally up for trying new ways to help me write!

It’s About Damn Time

This advice, above anything else I’ve heard in the past several years, has stuck in my mind. I don’t know what it is, but it makes total sense. And it’s something I’m going to attempt. It won’t be easy, hell I doubt it’s even possible. But I’m hoping that at the very least it will be fun.

I’ve gone back and started to finish and polish up a bunch of my short stories. I’m currently working on a novel at the ridiculously slow pace of 300 words a day (except on school days where nothing seems to get done).

I’m also hoping to blog more. I’ve said this a lot recently and haven’t exactly followed through with it. Now I’m going to make an active effort to do so. I’ve played a lot of new games recently and I really want to write about them. Games like Gone Home for example, that have people raving. I’ve just started to play Saints Row 3 and that’s something I’d like to talk about as well.

I used to be really into photography. You guys on here haven’t seen many of my photos, but I’m hoping to get back into that realm of creativity. I really enjoy seeing what I can pull from a single frame. So maybe as time goes on I’ll be able to feature things here for you to see.

I’ve always wanted to get into game development as well. So instead of starting with something complicated like Unity, I’m going to try GameMaker and pray to God that it’s something I can use. I don’t know what type of game I’m even capable of making, but if games is something I plan on investing my life into, I have to start somewhere right?

It may not be an easy journey, but it’s about damn time I started on it.