When I have the choice between reading another book or reviewing the one I have just read, I usually choose to read another one. As much as I adore shouting about books on my blog, reading is, after all, my first love!
Therefore, I have decided to do some mini-review posts to tell you about some other books which I have read and think you might enjoy.
The mini-reviews this time are all themed around gaming and virtual reality, something which has always fascinated me, particularly with the leaps and bounds in technology I have seen over my lifetime. I even took a course on Gamification from the University of Pennsylvania offered through Coursera and loved it!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Glad to have finally read this over the summer holidays – I wanted to read it before we saw the movie, but our copy was loaned out before I could get to it. As a result, I really enjoyed the movie but couldn’t understand why people were saying that the book was better…until I read the book and I totally agree! The movie was a lot of fun, but there were scenes in the book that I wish had made it in.
Wade is a lovable main character, even if you want to smack him around the head occasionally. The book is an ode to all things geeky, which made me snigger several times. It is not perfect, but it is a lot of fun to read!
Warcross by Marie Lu
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life.
The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
This was the first book that I read by Marie Lu and it made me want to read more. I seem to be in the minority in disliking the cover, but I really enjoyed the cyberpunk world, Emika’s character as well as the diversity in the characters shown. While not as hyped as many people about the second book, I definitely think that this is a duology worth reading, especially if you enjoyed Ready Player One or are a gamer.
Wildcard by Marie Lu
All bets are off. This time the gamble is survival.
Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.
Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems—and his protection comes at a price.
Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
I really had no idea where this was going to go after the events of the first book and I found myself pleasantly surprised by some twists and left a bit cold by others. If you enjoyed the first book, give this one a go too.
Gamer by Chris Bradford
Life for a street kid is tough. When Scott gets the chance to become a Virtual Kombat gamer, he knows its his ticket out of the grime, cold and horror. But the game is real, the danger is deadly, and the consequences are final.
Yet another fantastic dyslexia-friendly book from Barrington Stoke which I am excited to add to our library. The story follows Scott, a street kid in a dystopian future where most children have lots their parents in an outbreak of a deadly virus that only affected those over a certain age. Now, many children roam the streets while adults live in a hermetically-sealed world to protect them from the virus or other illnesses.
As people become more isolated in real life, living in the virtual world becomes more popular, particularly VK (Virtual Kombat) where anyone can choose an avatar and fight with people across the world. It has become a massive spectator sport, with lots of real money and fame tied up in virtual success. Getting chosen as one of the VK gamers can be a way off the streets for many kids, with a select few every month given access to the gaming school where they are provided food, board and medical care while training to be VK fighters.
Scott’s life on the streets is pretty grim with little food and the constant threat of being hurt by larger gangs or other kids with weapons. Joining the VK academy represents a way out…or at least that’s what he thinks at first. After he joins and begins fighting he begins to notice a few strange things that don’t add up and begins to question just how much of VK’s image is true and how much is covering up something darker.
This was an enjoyable dystopia, although at times details are skimmed over because of the short length of the story. The violence is descriptive and pervasive, meaning that this should probably be aimed at older children than the reading age (12+ rather than 8+). The ending is inconclusive and somewhat of a cliffhanger so it would be good to have Book 2 ready for any eager readers!
Read the first chapter here.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.
I first came across Ender’s Game in a collection of short stories by Orson Scott Card, then read the full-length novel and the rest of the series a little later. The short story collection was a gift from my sister and the first time that I had read anything by this author. I am aware that his views in real-life have caused some controversy, and I am unsure how well this would stand up to re-reading, but at the time I came across it, it blew my mind. It was the first time I had seen such a strong strand of pacifism in science-fiction and I loved how the politics were woven in through the story. Well worth a read!
Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they can Change the world by Jane McGonigal
A visionary game designer reveals how we can harness the power of games to boost global happiness. With 174 million gamers in the United States alone, we now live in a world where every generation will be a gamer generation. But why, Jane McGonigal asks, should games be used for escapist entertainment alone? In this groundbreaking book, she shows how we can leverage the power of games to fix what is wrong with the real world-from social problems like depression and obesity to global issues like poverty and climate change-and introduces us to cutting-edge games that are already changing the business, education, and nonprofit worlds. Written for gamers and non-gamers alike, Reality Is Broken shows that the future will belong to those who can understand, design, and play games.
I read this when it first came out and don’t know enough about it to qualify the criticism it seems to have garnered from those more knowledgeable than myself. Personally, I really enjoyed it especially when the author makes connections between her own experiences and how video games can be harnessed as a way to improve lives. I am sure that both the technology and the study of gamification has moved on a lot since 2010 though, so I wonder if an updated version has been produced?
Have you read any of these books?
Would you like to read any of them after reading this post?
Could you recommend any other books featuring computer games or virtual reality?
What are you reading at the moment?
Thanks for reading!