Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline is a book that combines a comic convention with Neuromancer or Snowcrash. It’s catnip for people who are into recognising pop culture references from the 1970s and 1980s.
The book concerns Wade who lives in a dystopian 2044 but who escapes into a VR game world called Oasis. The creator of Oasis has died but left an Easter Egg in the game that will give the finder a huge reward. Wade and many others are after it including a predictable evil corporation IOI. There is action, 1980s references and romance. I actually started this book a while ago and abandoned it because it seemed so derivative but after picking it up again I got through it and quite enjoyed it in the end.
The book is reasonably well done and the upcoming movie based on it should be quite fun as well. It’s not fantastic, but it is quite fun.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (2014) by Claire North is a clever, highly enjoyable book. The premise is that the author is repeatedly reborn with memories of how he has lived his life. There is also a plot which is quite good. The book is well written, the premise fun and the plot adequate. The ending of the book is a little anti-climactic but overall the book is really a tremendous read and is highly recommended.
The Paper Menagerie and other stories (2016) by Ken Liu is a great collection of science fiction short stories that includes the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy award winning story in the title.
Liu’s stories are polished, calm and often very moving. They also reflect his identity in an interesting way. Westerners rarely, if ever, write about things like The Great Leap Forward or Japanese massacres in China the way Liu does.
There is hard science fiction in this collection as well as fantasy pieces set in the present, future and the past. For anyone who is interested in speculative fiction reading Liu is a treat.
The Fredric Brown Megapack: 33 Classic Stories (2013) by Fredric Brown is a collection of what are allegedly the best short stories by Fredric Brown. Fredric Brown was a prolific science fiction author from The Golden Age of Science Fiction and a master of super short stories with a twist.
The short stories presented are well done and loads of fun. They are full of clever ideas and twists. Apparently Neil Gaiman, Phillip K Dick, Robert Heinlein and Stephen King were all fans of Brown, after reading some of his short stories it’s apparent why.
Stories of Your Life and Others (2010) by Ted Chiang is a very strong collection of science fiction short stories. Almost all the stories in the collection have won prizes which is remarkable. The film Arrival is based on one of the stories.
Chiang doesn’t write a lot, this is apparently the majority of his writing for over a decade, but what he does write is very creative and very well done. This collection is very impressive.
This is very good work, it’s highly recommended for anyone who likes really creative fiction. It’s like Borges. The stories are really clever and the writing is excellent.
Evangeline and the Spiritualist (2017) by Madeleine D’Este is another episode of Evangeline’s adventures in Victorian Melbourne. This time Evangeline encounters a spiritualist who may or may not be fraudulent and is around as a mummy is unveiled.
Evangeline and her father and her household are now a bit more developed as characters from the previous episodes.There is a bit less action in this episode but even more development of the characters.
It’s still fun though and there is quick wits, plenty of cake and a fair bit of action. For anyone who has enjoyed the other books this one is definitely worth reading as well. It will be great to see what is up next for Evangeline.
A Theory of Nothing (2016) by Thomas Barlow is satire of modern academia. Duronimus Karlof is a scientist at Harvard who takes on a challenge presented by a humanities academic to challenge the laws of nature.
What follows is reasonably amusing but ultimately falls down as the book goes on. The problem is that much of today’s academia has become so ridiculous and so regularly ridiculed that it’s hard to make up fiction that matches much of it. Twitter accounts that feature abstracts of real academic work that are both funny and tragic are very difficult to beat.
It’s not a bad book for a quick, amusing satirical read about modern day academia.