Thursday, 27 December 2012

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline - Review

Ready Player One

This is the final in my Eclectic Readers Challenge for 2012, and as a last hurrah it is your favourite genre time...

I went for Science Fiction (this could also be classed as Young Adult and I think it easily could be both) as this is a genre I go back to an awful lot when choosing books to read. I had also heard alot about Ready Player One and I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

Ready Player One is set in 2044 and the real world is not a nice place to be. High level of unemployment, slums and desperate people trying to live out an existence. However, there is a good side to this world the Virtual World that almost everyone is part of and lives in OASIS. Designed by James Halliday (who I'm not sure is based on but it could be a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs cast from a different mold) OASIS is everything and nothing. Children go to school via OASIS only virtually meeting their classmates but school here is free and obtainable by anyone - all you need to do is jack in to the school world (for free) and you have the same chances and abilities and everyone else.

Most of the rest of OASIS is monatised to some degree i.e. to transport to different worlds you need virtual money (fully exchangeable with real world money).

The protagonist Wade Watts is from the poor end of town, with no parents being cared for by a disinterested Aunt his escape and only chance at a real life is through OASIS and his one passion is to win the prize setup by Halliday before his death. The prize is all his fortune and control of OASIS and all the questions, clues and challenges are deeply routed in Halliday's obsession with the 1980's. 

This sets the tone of the book, it is an adventure set in the virtual world of OASIS against the real world bad guys out to seek control of OASIS. Can Wade and his friends win through and who will find the final clue to open the last gate and win the prize.

Not only is this book a great adventure story set in a fantastic future it is a great ride down memory lane into the pop culture of the 1980's. John Hughes films, arcade games and many many other references bring this world and story to life.

The writing is fairly basic (hence why I think it sits defiantly in the Young Adult genre) it still is a great read especially as a child of the 80's (born in the 70's, grew up in the 80's started drinking in the 90's...)

I would recommended this book.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Suede - Dog Man Star, 1994

1994 was a significant year for me. I had finished high school the previous year, moved out of home, enrolled in the University of Canberra in an Environmental Science degree (never finished), met a bunch of new friends - forged some better relationships with old friends and generally started on the journey of adulthood. But that year also saw me form some of the foundations of the things that interest me and made me... well me.

Science Fiction: through watching marathon sessions of Star Trek the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and meeting some other fans and devotees (I wasn't the only one and I wasn't strange or weird)

Education: Sure I never finished my first degree but I learnt that this was a world I wanted to return to at some point... and I did and still do now and then...

Music: Collecting (buying) new CD's, Mix Tapes from a very good mate, hanging out with bands as a very cheap roadie and mostly listening to it for "hours and hours"

One album that really defines 1994 to me is Suede's Dog Man Star

I had heard some of the tracks from there initial self titled album Suede and enjoyed them. However, for me Dog Man Star will be my first Suede album and the songs are embedded in my mind as quintessential Suede. Which is quite strange as this album is probably not as raw as Suede and saw the departure of Bernard Bulter - who I still associate with that Suede sound (even though they have produced a hell of a lot more songs since Bernard left then before it still IS the sound of the first two albums) that captures (to me) the original spark that mark them as one of my top bands.

I suppose I haven't really thought too much about Suede and the music and sound and feeling of 1994 for a long time. Then a friend posted a link to an article by Brett Anderson (singer/songwriter and main man of Suede) all about Dog Man Star and his thoughts on each of the tracks. 

Reading Brett's thoughts on the album and each track both brought back the memories of that time and place for me and the realisation of what a completely brilliant album this was and is. 

I remember the rough concrete ceiling of my room in ressies, the cell like den where I could put on Dog Man Star plug in my head phones and drift off into Brett's world of speeding cars, the streets of London and observations of life mixed in with the piano and guitar riffs that add gentle touches of beauty. I remember walking through the Uni grounds as one of the New Generation searching for my place in the world.

I would lay on my bed starring up at the beer bottle lids I had pressed into the roof in the shape of my favourite things Star Trek, The Cure, The Wall and Suede. Drifting off to a world where all my wishes and dreams came true. The room where I discovered more about sex then anywhere else, where I drank, ate and experimented with drugs. The place where I became a young man and left my boyhood behind.

Some of my best memories around this time are through music and friendship (both near and far) girl friends and mates, lovers and drinkers and getting letters and parcels from Zles...

Zles - a friend from early high school days, a musical partner (both playing and sharing), joined (in a state of what can only be described as insanity) the Navy and moved to Melbourne for training. We started letter writing to help each other stay sane in our journey into the world, swapping stories, dreams and music (through mixtapes) and many practical jokes and tom foolery.

I remember walking to class, via the mail room, with a very Christian classmate. I collected a fat envelope from Zles, imagining the usual 20-30 page letter and eager to see what would await me later in the day when I could grab a cold beer, quiet space and plug myself in for the read I opened the letter. Peering in I noticed something strange between the pages, not quiet knowing what it was I pulled it out. A soiled condom! 

My classmate gasped and I shoved the offending item back into the envelope and muttered something about a crazy mate and shoved the letter into my backpack hurrying to class saying no more on the matter.

When I did finally get to read the letter (and on the last page I might add) Zles told me the condom was filled with shaving cream and put in as a joke... well at least that's what I will believe to this day!

Music was important to me before 1994 and it remains long after, but this was the year I went to bars with  bands, I hung out at rehearsals and real band members asked me what I thought of this or that song. This was the year I had to go on stage - mid song - and hold the lead singer/guitarists mic stand together (after he broke it) so he could play the lead break and pound out the last few notes of the final song. The year I watched the Far Gone Beauties with Bronwyn Bishop (yes that one) at the Uni Bar. The year I wrote most of my lyrics in a dark room with a multitude of new and old music pounding in my ears, a sweet drop of liquor on my lips and dodgy ball point in my hand.

1994 was a good year, thanks for the memories Brett and co...

Dog Man Star has played constantly in my ears while I wrote this dredging up the memories and visions from some many years ago - 18 to 36, twice a life-time and so much more and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am what I am because of years like 1994.

This still life is all I ever do
There by the window quietly killed for you
In the glass house my insect life
Crawling the walls under electric lights
I'll go into the night into the night
She and I into the night

Is this still life all I'm good for too?
There by the window quietly killed for you
And they drive by like insects do
They think they don't know me
They hired a car for you

To go into the night, into the night
She and I into the night

And this still life is all I ever do
There by the window quietly killed for you
And this still life is all I ever do
But it's still, still life
But it's still, still life
But it's still, still life