Late in the book, a character sits in "slack-jawed near-comprehension, at the sheer novelty of it all." That's how I felt reading Rule 34. The hypothetical technology alone is enough to stuff a good science fiction novel; the police-procedural, political, social, and economic concepts are enough to make one dizzy. Rarely does a book beg for re-reading like this one.
The Great Outdoor Fight tells the story of a long-running toughest-guy-around tournament, and a pair of friends who weasel their way into it. The animation reminds me of South Park, not so much in the look of it but in the way it's simultaneously awful and amazingly expressive. A lot of information is conveyed in every inexpertly drawn panel.
It surprised me how much I enjoyed this book. I actually laughed out loud at least a dozen times. Totally worthwhile.
It opens with the Scottish police being called in to solve a sort-of bank robbery in which a horde of orcs (with dragon support) have looted a virtual bank in a World of Warcraft style VR game. Before long it morphs into spy-vs-spy suspense with the financial security of the world at stake.
I had a tough time plowing through some of the Scottish. I'm generally pretty good at extracting meaning from context, but I was stumped a few times here (Bampots? Neds? Chilblains, nonce, bairns?) and even the words I solved were interruptive.
Another hurdle was the point-of-view: this is the first book I've ever read told from SECOND person (through the eyes of three POV characters). It took some getting used to, but I stopped noticing it after a while.
All told it was a solidly entertaining read. The tech and spycraft were believable (to my layman's ear); the author appeared to know his stuff. And the epilogue was really funny, a nice touch.
In the near future, a soft-apocalypse energy collapse has sent the world spiraling into poverty. Most people find refuge in the OASIS, a mammoth World-of-Warcraft style virtual reality game that is so much more than a game. Its creator has died and willed his $100 billion empire to the first geek who can solve a massive series of riddles, games, and puzzles. The fat, pasty nerd protagonist squares off against an evil corporation bent on winning the contest at any cost and spoiling the OASIS.
The first thing I noticed about Ready Player One was how poorly it was written. I was wincing by page 2. It ranged from clunky and monotonous to extremely awkward. I doubt that the writing actually improved over the course of the book, but after a while I discovered that I was so engrossed in the story and the I-remember-that! moments that I had stopped noticing it. For the last few chapters I couldn't put the book down (I came into work all bleary-eyed and underslept this morning after staying up much too late last night to finish it.) Great book, superfun read.
Altered Carbon is about a mercenary hired by a 300 year old rich guy to investigate his own murder, which the police insist was a suicide. It's an interesting blend of science fiction and detective noir. It has a grungy techno feel, sort of like the Blade Runner movie. There's intrigue, kidnappings, official corruption, gunfights, even a couple of femme fatales.
Morgan takes full advantage of his hypothetical technologies to play around with questions of identity. How much of a person is defined by the body he wears? If you copy yourself into another sleeve, at what point are you no longer really the same person? Right away? Never, since your two copies shared 100% of their formative experiences? It's fascinating, and the philosophical questions somehow don't slow down the well-written action sequences. Possibly the best book I've read in the last couple years.