Thursday, November 12, 2015

Recent Reads

Here's what I've been reading recently...

Jennifer Government by Max Barry - One day recently it occurred to me that if I'm still talking about Lexicon (and what the author wrote in the dust cover about librarians) years later (my review), then the author must have written some other stuff and I should be reading it.  So off to the library (website) to download some books to my Kindle.  Jennifer Government exists in a world where the government has been somewhat sidelined by the special interests of major corporations.  Your identity is so wrapped up in your employment that you now take the last name of your employer. So goes the tale of Jennifer Government vs. John Nike, the father of Jennifer's child and a maniacal dastardly marketer who realizes he can make billions off his latest shoes and drive up their price if he orchestrates a mall shooting. He cooly rationalizes the costs, the insurance and any fines if discovered against the profit margins of a shoe that costs nothing to make and sells for thousands due to artificial quantity limits. This turns out to be one of the first forays into a corporate war between two factions rallying behind corporate loyalty programs and between the companies and the U.S. Government culminating in actual literal shots fired (missiles) between the corporations.  The book has great movie potential, but doesn't work well, never quite lifting itself to the level of epic it strives for and the characters are a little disappointing. (Amazon)

Syrup by Max Barry - In the small-world category, Scat finds himself in a game of corporate one-upmanship with his (former) roommate in this interesting book that wants to be a critique of corporate America but seems to live in its own fantasy world. Is this supposed to be fictional commentary? Is this supposed to feel plausible? Is this supposed to make Coke look stupid, or would the book be any different if the author had chosen Pepsi or IHOP?  Is it supposed to be an inside joke about marketing that I only sort of get?  I don't know, but... eh.  I didn't find the characters relatable and the weird format of the book and its foreshadowing didn't remain novel.  I believe this one has, ironically (if you read the book) become a movie. (Amazon)

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - it's about 30 years into the future and civilization has gone into deep decline.  Well, in real life, that is.  Fortunately, everyone has the OASIS to escape to.  Food is hard to come by, the government has largely failed, everyone is broke.  Except for two companies, that is.  One is the company that runs OASIS.  While it's free to use, there are plenty of ways within the worlds for the company to make money (like teleporting and other means of travel).  The other is a large company that provides internet (and OASIS) access to much of the population.  When the creator of OASIS dies, he leaves behind a challenge: within OASIS, there is a game, nay, a quest. Find the golden egg and receive the entire fortune of the creator. Solve the riddles, complete the challenges and you could come out ahead. Fail and your avatar gets reset and you start over in OASIS with nothing. For years, there's no activity and it's largely believed to be a hoax.  And then there's a breaththrough - and the race is on, pitting a few individuals against the large internet provider who wants to gain control of OASIS so that they can monetize more of it and make even more money for themselves.  Oh, and the creator was a big fan of the 1980s, so all the quests and challenges are a chance for the author to namedrop lots and lots of 80s culture. This had originally been featured in Entertainment Weekly and been on my list for awhile.  It was an interesting read, but not one I'd put on my "you should read this" list.  (Amazon)

In This Rain by S.J. Rozan - This book was interesting but way too long. Knowing nothing about New York City politics, this felt really believable/credible. The main character didn't have a consistent voice. There's tailoring your conversation to your audience and then there's this character - almost a different character with each person they were with, more about the author being creative and clever than about defining and grounding the character, in my opinion. The most frustrating thing was the introduction of someone 62% in that you knew was somehow ultimately going to become central. The new character wasn't believable in their relationships with black and white characters when the rest of the book goes to great lengths to portray a fragile and regretable/lamentable rift between blacks and whites. Her introduction also threw the book into the "the world isn't really this small" territory. It was ok. I wouldn't say "Don't read this!" but I would say, "yeah... a bit long." (Amazon)

Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum) by Janet Evanovich - I really like how this series has mellowed over the years.  In the earlier books, characters were more one-note and so much more was over-the-top.  But as the series as progressed, characters have become more fleshed out, events more believable, like the characters (mostly) have become wiser with time. The ending seemed a little rushed and unpredictable, but it was still a good read.  Only one true gross/groan moment (involving Bob the dog) and lots of loud-out-loud situations.  In one aspect it feels like the author has almost painted herself into a corner with one element of the ongoing saga that is Stephanie Plum's life but it's better than the fake drama the situation used to cause.  (Amazon)

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