Archive for ernest cline

File this under “A” for awesome…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 11, 2015 by Christopher Pearce

IMG_7433

Back in 2011, I read and enjoyed Ready Player One, a dystopian science fiction novel written by Ernest “Ernie” Cline. The novel posits a brutal future for humanity where people find relief from the ills of the world in OASIS, a virtual reality utopia steeped in nostalgia for 1980’s pop culture. The novel’s protagonist, Wade Watts, works to unravel the secrets of OASIS while taking part in an elaborate treasure hunt created by OASIS’ inventor James Halliday.

It’s a great book. It received a lot of press when it first came out for the way Cline used ’80’s culture to define OASIS… but there’s quite a bit more depth to the book than references to Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. Readers loved that aspect of the story so much, they overlook the desperate sadness of the state of the world Cline’s created in 2044, and I find that the most interesting part of RP1. It’s a solid read and one I’ve passed on to my students many times.

The detail about Ready Player One that immediately arrested me when I first read it was the backstory of James Halliday. The computer genius and billionaire who incites the plot of RP1… is a graduate of the high school where I’m currently teaching 9th grade English Language Arts. Middletown Ohio is specifically named in the book several times and at one point, the protagonists find themselves in a virtual reality simulation of Middletown.

Well, I knew I had to prevail on the civic pride of Ernie Cline to donate a class set of Ready Player One to my classroom’s library

…and lo and behold, he did!

I’m going to end up doing some comics about Ready Player One and teaching the novel but I wanted to shout out to Mr. Cline and his publishers at Crown for the act of kindness.

odds and ends

Posted in odds and ends with tags , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2011 by Christopher Pearce

Ah, Black Friday. Some folks look forward to it even more than Thanksgiving. As I’ve mentioned before, being wretchedly poor severely curtails both a person’s ability and interest to stand in line for five hours to buy a $200 dollar laptop computer or whatever. I’ve never been big on venturing out on Black Friday until we moved to Ohio and I started frequenting Half-Price Books. Since then, I’ve been in regular attendance at their Black Friday sale wherein the first 100 shoppers receive a $5 dollar gift card. Book lovers aren’t like people looking for a good value on flat screen televisions; you’re not apt to be trampled to death by someone who’s looking for paperbacks.

That being said, there is ONE non-literary Black Friday deal I would consider pursuing. Target seems to have excellent deals on DVDs throughout Friday and according to many advertisements, it looks as if they will have every season of Gilmore Girls on sale for $8 bucks today.

I am a great fan of Gilmore Girls and yes, I am in possession of a Y chromosome. An ex-girlfriend of mine started me on watching GG during my college years; I expected the show to be a candy-colored nightmare based on the premise (They’re mother and daughter… and they’re BEST FRIENDS!). Imagine my surprise to discover the incredible depth of character that series’ creator Amy Sherman-Palladino infused in Gilmore Girls. Further, GG was often laugh-out-loud hilarious, with mile a minute dialogue that put one in mind of the screwball comedies of the 1940’s.

I’m looking to pick up Season Five of Gilmore Girls; I already have Seasons 3 and 4. S.5 is, from what I gather, a controversial season. Fans were (rightfully) invested in the relationship between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) and knocked for a loop when S.5 diverged from the usual happy pattern to find the mother/daughter at loggerheads for much of the season. Fans were upset, but I could never figure out the reason why, as the Lorelai/Rory split allowed room for Lorelai’s budding romance with curmudgeonly diner owner Luke Danes to blossom.

God, I sound like such a weeny in the above paragraph! Look, trust me- it’s a good show. I’m not anxious to fight the legions of deal-lust-crazy shoppers to snag a set, but if I was going to venture out to a big box store on Black Friday, I might be tempted.

————————————

I’m in the thick of Stephen King‘s newest novel, 11/23/63 right now and I’m enjoying it immensely.

11/23/63’s high concept (time traveling man goes back to prevent the assassination of J.F.K.) is fun, but I’m far more interested in the subtext of the novel. It shares quite a bit in common with my other two favorite novels of 2011, 2030 by Albert Brooks and Ready Player One by Ernie Cline.

In all three of these novels, there is a pervasive feeling of hopelessness for the future and wistfulness for the past. Both Cline and Brooks’ books are set in the bloated future of the United States of America, where problems are intractable and conflict is inevitable. King’s novel takes place in the past, but the main characters machinations intend to change the course of history in a way such that America will not end up in this sorry state. All three books convey a sense of defeatism for the United States and its’ position on the world stage.  King, Brooks, and Cline seem to be of the same mind: America’s best years have passed her by and the next century is set to be uncomfortable and ugly.

Although two of the three novels end in an ultimately hopeful fashion (I’m not yet finished with 11/23/63), I found it interesting this message was baked into the core concepts of these books. They’re not deep ruminations on the state of world affairs; they’re ultimately light entertainment. Still, I can’t help but wonder… did every generation feel this hopeless and bleak about the future? I honestly don’t think they did, but I miss optimism in my fantasy literature. Perhaps I am simply reading the wrong books.

……………………………..

One more thing: As with last year, Thrift Store Finds are going on hiatus for the next few weeks. Replacing it will be the Christmas Comics Cavalcade!

Tomorrow and every Saturday leading up to Christmas, I’ll take a look at some holiday themed comic books. I really enjoyed writing those posts last year and I thought I’d make it a yearly thing!

odds and ends

Posted in odds and ends with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2011 by Christopher Pearce

Gotta give some love to Ernest Cline‘s terrifically fun Read Player One.

Set in the not-too-distant (but infinitely cruddier) future, mankind has plugged itself into OASIS, an Internet-based video game where you can be anyone you want and do anything you please. OASIS’ creator James Halliday, hid an elaborate scavenger hunt into the video game and before his death, invites all users to attempt to figure out the puzzle. The winner receives Halliday’s estate, fortune, and control of OASIS. The book is something of a 1980’s nerd explosion, as Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of that decade… which, in turn, means Wade Watts, the erstwhile protagonist of the novel, is similarly inclined.

Man, I loved this book. Fast paced, lots of fun ideas, and a veritable buffet of references to the movies, music, and video games with which I grew up. The characters are a bit thin, but they work in service of the plot… and what a fun plot is is!

I also got a bit of a charge out of an interesting detail of Ready Player One: Cline, an Ohio native, chooses to set a gigantic portion of the novel in Middletown, Ohio… the city where I am currently employed. He makes James Halliday a Middletonian and in one key part of the book, has Wade Watts travel to a virtual reality recreation of Middletown. I know for a fact several of my students will flip out when they read Ready Player One and find such a key detail of the novel reflecting their hometown!

————————

I also added a copy of cartoonist Kate Beaton‘s Hark! A Vagrant! to my library this week.

Often focusing on world history and the dusty corners of literature both high and lowbrow, I (along with most of the world) love Beaton’s art and was looking forward to this collection from Drawn and Quarterly. Included here are works originally published online ranging from such topics as Canadian prime ministers, American writers, and children’s literature.

It’s lovely to have some of these works in a permanent print collection. As a high school English teacher, I cannot begin to express my love of Beaton’s cracked take on The Great Gatsby; the phrase “old as balls” will never not be funny to me.

At the same time… I feel as though some of the comics collected here are better served as being creations which live on the Internet. Beaton’s line work has an exquisitely fine but occasionally sloppy immediacy that’s perfectly suited for some of her goofier, thinner jokes… but I also think the very nature of those thin jokes work better as a quick scan and post rather than a printed collection. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy these comics and wasn’t happy enough to pay for a nice hardcover book of them.

I should also mention that although the history strips are Beaton’s hallmark, my favorite subject of the author’s are her Mystery Solving Teens. The “kid detective” genre is one that has, in recent years, received a lot of ironic play in the media, and with good reason. I’m thinking of Cartoon Network’s The Venture Brothers, Joe Meno’s The Boy Detective Fails and so on. The concept is inherently ridiculous… but there’s a wish-fulfillment/power fantasy going on with the kid detective genre that continues to make it compelling.

Beaton’s perspective on the “boy detective” is by FAR the most canny of all the examples I cited above, making her boy sleuths completely disaffected and uninterested in either their cases or anything besides smoking and cursing at one another. If you have affection for the genre, you’ll love those comics as much as I do. I’d love to see her tackle a longer format Mystery Solving Teens story someday.