Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Blackout - Connie Willis

Great freaking scott, you guys. What I learnt from this book is to trust your bloggers. If they tell you to make sure you have All Clear  the sequel and conclusion to Blackout  on hand before you finish Blackout, THEY MEAN IT. I do not have it on hand and I am STRESSED OUT. Fortunately, I do have Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, so I'm reading that now and feeling considerably better, thank you for asking. But Blackout, people, good gracious.

So it's the year 2060 and people have invented time travel, as they do. It's being used as a research tool for historians, wherein they hippity hop back in time to observe and gain insight. If you've read Doomsday Book by Willis, you'll likely be as pumped as I am that this book features not only the same world but many of the same characters.

In Blackout, we follow multiple historians, three most prominently, who have travelled back to 1940 to observe different aspects of WWII. Things are going well, they're observing away, and then it all starts to feel slightly ... off. I'm trying my best to get less spoilerific here at the Enthusiast, so I'll leave it to the back of the book to tell you "the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past." It's pretty much so tense that my insides feel compressed when I think about it.

Yes, kind of like that.

The story is a page-turner and an extremely well-crafted and well-researched read, but it was the characters that really made the book for me. I feel especially invested in the characters in the Blitz, who are so optimistic and calm, yet hiding their terror just beneath the surface. For all they know, the apocalypse is taking place around them, yet somehow, life goes on.

Wait, that can't be right.

The environments are also incredibly vivid, as if Willis really saw the streets of London levelled by bombs, the beaches strewn with barbed wire, the stately manors packed with evacuees. I was entirely absorbed.

Read this book if you're looking for some historical fiction with a sizeable helping of suspense and a healthy dash of science fiction. Delicious.

Most importantly, make sure you have All Clear on hand before you finish Blackout. THERE IS STILL HOPE FOR YOU.

Friday, 20 July 2012

It's the Little Things

Today was Print Proof Day at the magazine I work at, when our printer sends us giant pieces of paper with 8 pages of the magazine on each piece, and we proof it to make sure we say Porsches and not Porches.

Left to right: our Art Director, Managing Editor, and me.
This was taken a couple months ago, but it was the same deal today.
I figure it's cool to post this because we've already posted it on our Facebook page.  

It is my favourite of days. I feel way more A Part Of It All than when I'm answering the phones and making bank deposits (though I understand those things are important, too). And today, today was exceptionally good. Today's a landmark day, folks. A day that'll stick out in memory even when I have someone answering the phones for me. 

Because they're letting me write things now! It's a little thing, a one-pager (one-paragrapher, in fact), but it's a thing I write! With, of course, a great deal of help from our benevolent Managing Editor. And it wasn't even the piece itself that got me so excited 
 it was the Table of Contents. I'm in the Table of Contents! Right in there with people who are real writers!

Most everyone I tell that I want to be an editor thinks I mean I really want to be a writer but I'll edit to pay the bills. Each time I have to assure them that, no, really, editing is my jam. But given how excited I'm getting over this little thing ... Well, who knows.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Put on your pop culture trivia hats, compadres, because this book is written entirely in references.

In the no-to-distant-future, things have — not surprisingly — gone to shit. The environment is all wonky, we're pretty much out of fossil fuels, and people are living in trailers stacked on top of each other like sad Jenga. The one escape people have from their dreary, poverty-stricken existence is the virtual reality video game OASIS, which is pretty much World of Warcraft except also all other video games. It's all other video games inside World of Warcraft. Except World of Warcraft is also inside the video game. It's basically a Russian doll of video games. Except more. It's an MMO (massively multiplayer online) with all the classic questing, gear, and levelling components, but it's also a chatroom, marketplace, school. It spans hundreds of planets. People can live their whole lives playing, working, and living in the OASIS.

And people do.

The creator of this epic game was an eccentric genius named Halliday. Upon his death, leaving no heirs, he announced a contest. If a player is able to solve some impossible puzzles and complete some impossible quests and find his unfindable Easter Egg, they will be rewarded with Halliday's entire fortune, as well as a controlling stake in his game development company. I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear, people are a bit excited about this.

It's in the quest to find Halliday's Egg that all the references pop out. Mainly '80s focused, I missed a lot of these. But that just resulted in me barking "Hah!" with glee whenever I did get the reference. 


It's completely enjoyable without recognizing every quote, and the plot never hinges on your having seen some Matthew Broderick movie (apparently he did, like, way more things than Ferris). It was, in fact, the most entertaining thing I've read in 2012.

Though Cline (or maybe his protagonist, Wade aka Parzival) has a problem that I completely sympathize with. He gets stuck on phrases and uses them again and again. One thing I came away from this novel being really really clear about was that this place called Dodge is terrible and people should get the hell out of it. My only other qualm was that the obligatory love story felt like an obligatory love story. I think the novel could have been whole and happy without it, so it came off a bit Michael sure-there's-Transformers-and-explosions-but-also-kissy-times-so-now-ERRVERYBODY-LIKES-THIS-MOVIE Bay.

That being said, there are rereads of Ready Player One in my future. When I finished it, I was so bummed that I couldn't actually play OASIS that I levelled my undead mage in WoW from 12 to 63 in, like, a weekend. All I can say is I hope I'm alive for when they release a proper virtual reality game. Until then, rereads.

I will leave you, internets, with perhaps the best reason ever to read a book. If you read it, and if you find a certain easter egg within its text, you can win ...


That's right kids. A mother-effing DeLorean. (Time travel capabilities not included.) Cline celebrated the release of Ready Player One's paperback edition with the announcement of his very own easter egg hunt. This shit just got serious.