Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book Review: REAMDE by Neal Stephenson


Richard Forthrast is one of the creators of T’Rain, the ultimately popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. He built it to capitalize on the Chinese tendency to build characters and gather materials and money and then sell them to other players who lacked the time to do so on their own. T’Rain has proved itself amazingly successful, until a Trojan virus begins infecting players. The REAMDE virus is compromising real people’s documents and files and costing them T’Rain gold to get back. And now, Richard’s favorite niece, Zula, and her boyfriend Peter, have been victimized by the REAMDE virus and lost information that Peter couldn’t afford to lose. The real-life quest to find and neutralize the creator of REAMDE will take Zula and Peter all the way across the world, and involve some unexpected political factions.

All because of a game.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

In 1972, Richard Forthrast, the black sheep of an Iowa farming clan, fled to the mountains of British Columbia to avoid the draft. A skilled hunting guide, he eventually amassed a fortune by smuggling marijuana across the border between Canada and Idaho. As the years passed, Richard went straight and returned to the States after the U.S. government granted amnesty to draft dodgers. He parlayed his wealth into an empire and developed a remote resort in which he lives. He also created T'Rain, a multibillion-dollar, massively multiplayer online roleplaying game with millions of fans around the world. But T'Rain's success has also made it a target. Hackers have struck gold by unleashing Reamde, a virus that encrypts all of a player's electronic files and holds them for ransom. They have also unwittingly triggered a deadly war beyond the boundaries of the game's virtual universe—and Richard is at ground zero.


REAMDE is set pretty much in the year it was published (2011) or so, and as such, it really alights on the world at that moment. Threats of terrorism, gaming culture, resistors of American policy— it’s all here. MI6, the FBI, jihadist Muslims, and your average tech nerd all come into play as characters. The people populating this novel could easily be people you see online or in the street, and the places are, of course, real. The events and actions themselves are all feasible in the world right now, with restrictive policies and consequences taken into account. All in all, it’s definitely a modern novel.


I can’t say I was that drawn in by Stephenson’s actual writing. It felt bland to me, although I have to admit his dialogue is wonderful. Yuxia in particular, grabs the ears from the moment she first appears on the scene with her use of American slang, and the exchanges characters have with one another are just as snappy as real conversations I’ve had with people. 

I think my biggest gripe was that the action scenes (and since this is a technothriller, most of the book was action) didn’t grab me like they should have. Oh, the threat to the characters was real, but the actual telling of what was going on didn’t get my heart pumping like I’d hoped. I was, honestly, almost bored with the action. In fact, there were times I was bored. Sadly, this was for much of the book itself. Stephenson is a very masterful plotter, weaving plot threads and character arcs into a tapestry of epicness that I can’t help but admire, but I didn’t resonate with the actual telling of the story.

My Thoughts

I liked maybe about half of this book. It started slow and confusing for me, with me wondering what the heck I was doing with this novel, and then suddenly, T’Rain came into the picture, and I was enthralled. But for about the whole second quarter of the book, I was again wondering why I was still doing listening to it. At that point, I was about 10 hours into it and decided to make good on my investment, so I kept listening. Things picked up for me again right after the halfway point, and for about the third quarter of the book, I was involved again. Then things petered out until I was glad it was over. Basically, breaking the book down into quarters, it was GREAT-boring-GREAT-boring. I don’t think I’m quite the audience for this novel. 

That isn’t to say it’s bad, though. I did still get attached to many of the characters (Yuxia, Csongor, and Marlon being my favorites), and the parts where I was drawn in, I was DRAWN IN! But the book just had too much that seemed to drag on and wander for me to really enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong; the parts that seemed to wander had some good payoffs and made sense later, but it was just too much for me to stay interested and invested.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yes and no. If you like action, then by all means go for this book. If you’re expecting something to really be about an MMORPG, then don’t bother. Actual T’Rain involvement was rare and limited, and that was a big disappointment to me. I give REAMDE an apostrapocalyptic 3 out of 5 stars.

For more on the author, visit

Book Review: Making the Cut by Chris Lester


Daniel Sharabi is a weak telepath, but he's still part of the Hive, the collective society of telepaths. Sadly, as a low-powered male, he's the bottom of the ladder, and that has ruined his chances of being able to spend his life with his girlfriend, Rebecca. He aligns with an old teacher, Victor, to find a way out of the Hive and into a life of his own, only to be duped into working for the Vampire Syndicate, smuggling in a weapon for use against his own people. Now racked with guilt, he thinks the only way to assuage his guilt is to rejoin the collective. But what use can he be? He decides to take the curse of Metamor City and become an androgyne and live in the Hive as a woman. But Victor still has the technology Daniel helped him smuggle out, and now it's in the vampires' hands.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

All Daniel Sharabi wanted was a family of his own. Born into a collectivist society of telepaths, Daniel grew up believing that he and his lifelong love Rebecca would form the core of a new breeding cell, helping to raise the next generation of their people. But when Daniel reaches adulthood, and learns that his psychic talents are mediocre at best, he finds himself marginalized and discounted by the society he has dedicated his young life to.

All Brian Sommers wanted was to raise his family in peace. After five years of service in the Empire's elite Psi Ops Division, Brian and his polyamorous partners were granted permission by the Psi Collective to form a new breeding cell. But when an old enemy threatens the security of the Collective, Brian finds himself being drawn back into a world of espionage, paranoia and covert action.

Now these two men, longtime friends driven apart by Collective politics, become entangled in a web of threats, lies and deadly secrets. Both will risk everything to prove their worth to the community they love -- and neither will emerge unchanged.


Metamor City is a true urban fantasy with some sci fi thrown in. It's a place where magic and technology grew up side-by-side, which serves as a wonderful foundation for anything to happen. I have honestly never seen a place that's so rich and varied in itself yet so complete in its absorption of itself. I hope that makes sense. There are so many different subcultures here that intertwine, everything from telepaths, to wizards, vampires, elves, and regular people just trying to stay alive. You can walk into a shop and grab a birth control amulet and then leave on your skimmer or hop into a helicopter. It's wonderfully deep and integrated.

And scary, in a lot of ways.


Lester's writing style is clear and easy to follow. My experience with Making the Cut, however, came in the form of the Metamor City podcast, with the audio version of this novel. As far as I'm concerned, this may be the only way to really get a true experience of this story and its characters. The fullcast format, with characters having different voices, really made this a joy, and the fact that the two androgyne characters we come across Eva/Evan and Daniel/Danni have separate voices for the male and female halves of themselves makes it all the more clear what their existence means to the world and to the plot.

My Thoughts

I'm not going to go into the whole gender identity thing, because that's not really at the core of this novel, despite the importance being an androgyne has to play in the plot. Take from that what you will.

Making the Cut is an intriguing, well-thought-out, well-produced roller coaster that had me aching to listen to the next episode. It's a real page-turner, whether you're actually reading it or not. There wasn't a character I couldn't identify with or relate to, and that includes Victor and even Malcom ard'Valos, the vampire prince. These are real, fleshed-out people populating Metamor City, and they make the world function in a way I can't help but admire. The threads of plot are woven with great mastery, the cultures are thick and rich (not unlike hot chocolate) and I was just plain in awe of how perfectly the pieces of this puzzle fit together. I am eager to get into more of the Metamor City literature.

Would I Recommend This Book? Most definitely. There is a little adult content here, so Making the Cut is definitely not geared toward younger readers. It's not offensive or racy, at least not in my perception, but I truly think this is a book any reader of urban fantasy, fantasy, or science fiction can enjoy. I give Making the Cut a telepathic 4 out of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Book Review: The Singularity by Mark A. Cornelius


Daniel Adamson got to go on a deep sea scientific mission once. It was his own playing around with harmonic resonances that lost him the opportunity to do it again. Now, years later, that little impromptu experiment seems to have set other resonances in motion. There are earthquakes all over the globe, and the effects stretch even out into space. Seven light years away, a quasar called V4641 is reacting in perfect synchronization with the Earth. And now, Daniel is hearing a voice he hasn’t heard in years: his father’s voice.

Daniel’s father is long dead.

What is the trick of this harmonic resonance, and how does V4641 fit into it all? Daniel finds himself suddenly heading down a path of scientific and spiritual discovery that will change the entire world as its known.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from Tate Publishing's Website

What if we are creating scientific laws to explain a mystery that cannot be explained? What if there is only one constant in the universe, and we can't see it?
Those who believe everything can be answered with man-made formulas and theories are confronted with a dilemma--there is no scientific theory to explain how and why the V4641 Singularity is affecting Earth. A microquasar at the center of our galaxy, V4641 has begun to affect planet Earth and the rest of our solar system in inexplicable ways. In trying to determine how such a thing could happen, Danny Adamson, a physicist turned science editor for N.H.Q. Broadcast Services, has discovered not only an inconceivable connection between Earth and V4641 but also a critical miscalculation in the understanding of the creation of the universe. This error when corrected suggests that our planet's stability and the longevity of the human race may be grossly overestimated. Danny and all inhabitants of Earth must quickly learn what options they have to prevent total destruction of the planet.


The Singularity is very firmly set in the present day. If that’s not context, I don’t know what is. The technology is up-to-date, and it’s clear that Cornelius did his research in his subject matter. That said, I was left boggled now and then at the depth of some of the sciences discussed in this novel. Much of that, though, I think is due more to the novel’s pacing than the actual subject matter. It’s obvious that the characters are familiar with one another and that they know what they’re discussing, but there’s little accounting for the reader that doesn’t follow along. Conversations move very quickly, but then, the entire novel really does. All in all, this is a very here and now novel that could take place right at this moment, and it brings together scientific and religious arguments and experiences not often seen together.


Cornlius writes very cleanly with little embellishment. The biggest detractor for this novel, I will say again, is the pacing. I felt off-balance, just a few steps behind, for almost the entire duration. It was somewhere in the last fifth of the book where I finally got my feet under me, but that’s because the science faded away as primary subject matter, giving way to religion.

At this point, I do want to note that as of the time I read the book (September 2014) the ebook version of The Singularity purchased through is poorly formatted, to a point where it was somewhat troublesome to read. I have brought the issue to the attention of the author and hope to see it corrected. The book deserves to be formatted properly. There are illustrations I missed out on (I know this because they were left out of the ebook file but there were notes to insert them), so until that is fixed, it may be a better option to get the book in paper.

My Thoughts

If you’ve read the Left Behind series, this is along the same vein. It’s a very different take on the origin of the impending apocalypse, taking things from a much more scientific approach. The bulk of the religious aspect doesn’t come until late in the book, and even when they do, the two traditionally warring belief systems (science and faith) manage to coincide pretty well. A diverse cast stars in this novel, bringing some interesting insights and perspectives into the plot. There’s some very great humor, and some discussions that will definitely make you think.

My only real problem is the pacing. This novel, even being the length it is (it’s a decent size, but not a tome) felt too short. In my opinion, it would have been better served being split into two books and have the plot and character exploration expanded. Maybe that would help solve some of the confusion I experienced with the science and would make the pacing less hurried. It did, in many ways, feel like important moments were glanced over and time jumped (the book spans about seven weeks) just because there was no more space in the book itself. There is so much here I wanted to see expanded. Daniel’s spiritual transformation was one main point I feel was hurried over, and that is possibly the main event I was dissatisfied with. It seemed too quick, too easy, and there just wasn’t enough reasoning behind such a large change for me to accept easily.

Would I Recommend This Book? It’s worth a shot for just about anyone, yes. Part of me wonders if my reading style wasn’t as compatible with this book as normal. I don’t really sit to reflect on anything when I’m in the process of reading, so maybe I was just glancing over too much myself. But be aware that there may be some pacing issues that could make you need to read and reread passages. If you’re a more methodical, ponderous reader than I am, I think this could be a great read for you. I give The Singularity a resonant 3 of 5 stars.

For more on the author, visit

Book Review- READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline


Multi-billionaire James Halliday, creater of OASIS, the largest and most popular MMO ever, is dead, and he's leaving his fortune to one of his players. Whoever solves his riddles, finds the three keys, and unlocks the three gates, will get the Easter egg and win the ultimate prize.

The contest started five years ago, and no one has even managed to find the first key yet. Until Wade Watts, a teenager from Oklahoma living in a massive trailer community, username Parzival, appears on the scoreboard. Suddenly, the world knows that the first ket has been found, and suddenly, the race is on. Wade is competing against other egg hunters, called "gunters", including a few of his own friends. But that's not the worst of it. A massive corporation, IOI, has its own team of high-level, strongly-equipped gunters searching for the Easter egg, and if they find it, that means OASIS will be changed forever, and not in the best way. If Wade's avatar dies, he's going to have to start all over and lose the lead he has on them,

Worse, the IOI knows where he lives in the real world.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.

A quest for the ultimate prize.

Are you ready?


Set about 30 years from now, the Great Recession is into its third decade. The state of society, living conditions, energy, food, and most resources are nearing rock bottom, if they're not there already. As a result, people spend most of their time in OASIS, since it's free to access and the worlds are virtually limitless to explore. It's so much better than facing reality that who wouldn't want to live in OASIS if they could?

Don't we all want to escape from reality from time to time? Or all the time? The internet offers a great deal of blessed anonymity, where you can often hide who you are and take on a new persona completely. I guess that's why so many people turn into jerks on the internet. Who can really chase you down and stop you, right?

Ready Player One is exactly that, an escape. Underneath the story, there's a great little study on human psychology, using escapes to deal with what's real.


Ready Player One is chock-full of geek references, particularly regarding 80's culture. It plays a huge part in the progression of the story and in the clues to forward the race to the Easter egg. There are hints of L33T speak, a lot of technical terms in the form of the equipment Wade uses to access OASIS, and plenty of video game references. I don't remember much (if any) of the 80's myself, since I was born in '84 and was just a little kid, I'm a light gamer who strongly disdains L33T, and I'm far from technically-minded. I didn't have any problems following all the information thrown at me in Ready Player One. Everything was explained well without being condescending. I never felt stupid or talked down to for not getting a reference or understanding a certain piece of equipment right away.

The writing is clear and entertaining, with characters that are perfectly real and rounded and fit neatly into their world. This is a very easy-to-read book, even if you're a little less-than-technical like I am. Sure, this book is geared more towards geeks, but I think anyone could enjoy it for the variety of settings, the exchanges with the characters, and most importantly, the race for the Easter egg itself.

My Thoughts

I fell in love with Ready Player One right away. It was very, very hard to put down, and I wanted to scream just about every time life made me do it. I read every chance I got, on coffee breaks at work, before bed, every spare moment I could find. It's a pretty quick read, too, with great pacing.

I've got a little bit of experience playing MMOs (World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 being the ones I've experienced) and that was more than enough background to really appreciate the scope of OASIS. But it's not just limited to RPG-fantasy-type worlds. You can go pretty much ANYWHERE you care to in OASIS, though there is a good deal that's based in sci-fi and fantasy-type realms. 80's TV nerds will get a great laugh out of it, heavy readers, fans of movies and music, Dungeons & Dragons, arcade games, anime, manga... the list goes on and on. This world, while a dismal future, is so much fun that it's a shame it has to end.

I wanted more before I ever finished the book.

Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. This is a blast for gamers and geeks, and even those with only a light familiarity to gaming or geekery will find thrill in the race for the egg. This is a future dystopia that contains some serious deep thought in how and why life turned out how it did. I think there's something for everyone here, whether it's reminiscence for the 80's or excitement at advanced technology we wish we could have. I give Ready Player One a haptic 5 out of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: Crudrat by Gail Carriger


Like everyone in The Wheel, Maura knows her place. She’s not a citizen, and there’s only one thing she can do: clean the scythers. It’s dangerous job that requires peak physical agility and acrobatics. Those that do the job are called Crudrats. And of all the Crudrats, Maura is the best. But now, she’s gotten too tall, and suddenly, there’s no place for her at all. Crudrats who grow too much usually die within a year of having their license pulled. It looks like her fate will be the same.

Until she meets an alien she calls “Fuzzy”, for the mass of fur covering his body. In helping Fuzzy escape from The Wheel and those who would torture him, Maura earns a one-way ticket away from The Wheel. But what’s out there in the stars waiting for her? It can’t be much worse than the fate waiting for her in The Wheel… right?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

The Progenitors of The Wheel live high up above the sky, amongst the stars, removed from the petty concerns of mere mortals. Each one designed, engineered, perfect; their imperfect children get left to die.

Ghosts. Cyphers. They do not exist. A lucky few, the Crudrats, scrape out a perilous living cleaning the toxic wastes from the great machines that power the station.

Meet Maura. Cypher. Crudrat. Grown too tall, alone in a spaceport with no use for her, doomed to starve. With only her crud-eating murmel and an alien monster to help her, she must find a way to survive, or escape, before they catch her and blow what’s left of her life, and her companions, into space.


This is very much a novel built on a society of "a place for everything, and everything in its place". Stay in line, do as you're told. There's no changing your lot in life. Everything is ordered, and that's the way it is. It's meant to be that way. The upper class remains up, the downfallen stay down. You know what? I'm just going to leave it at that, and you can draw your own parallels as you like. I'm actually going to keep my thoughts largely to myself on this one.


There is a lot to love about Crudrat. I think the largest draw in style for me was the language used. This is a very foreign world, a future that has been pulled so far from our society and lifestyle now that there's almost no common ground to start on... except for the fact that Maura is a human. A Tinkered human, yes, but she's still human. That's about where the similarities end. It's a jar, some culture shock, but it's so easy to fall into the world with Maura because it is all she knows. That is not glossed over at all. Maura feels no wonderment at the world she lives in. It is her world, completely. She speaks in slang, the speech patterns of her and the other Crudrats not quite syncing up with how I would speak/think, but that doesn't make it difficult to understand. It's actually a great tool to really immerse the reader (or in my case, listener) into the culture and world. I loved the creativity in how the characters spoke to one another. At the same time as it pulled me into their world, it drew me right out of my own. Carriger did an amazing job at that.

My Thoughts

Crudrat was immensely enjoyable to listen to. I'll admit, there were a few times where I was left confused about spacial relations, what was going on with all the running and flipping about Maura does in her crudratting. There's a lot of action in the book, a lot of great dialogue and character interaction, and the characters are very true to themselves and their cultures. Maura is a very believable result of her upbringing, and her thought processes remain true to her nature while still allowing her room for growth. Fuzzy is... well fuzzy. He's a great character and counterpoint to Maura, and I just plain fell in love with the murmel. I want one. Specifically, I want Biscuit, Maura's murmel.

I'll admit that there was one promise made in the first third of the book I was afraid would't be resolved by the end of the novel, but Carriger delivered... almost at the last minute. I'm not entirely sure if I feel gratified that the promise was kept, or upset that it was kept so late and not in a manner I was really expecting. it paves a way for a sequel, definitely, but it almost felt like an afterthought, trying to tie up a loose end.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yeah, give it a go! You can get it in a great MP3 version with awesome production by Artistic Whispers Productions. It's a fullcast role with a few actors showing up in multiple cameo roles, but the main characters are all done by individual actors who all give great performances. The listening is a great experience that does the story justice. I give Crudrat a crud-dusted 3.5 out of 5 stars.

For more on the author, visit