Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nick Logs On, Draws Comparisons

Ready Player One is not the first book to explore the idea of virutal reality as a place to escape the monotony of real life. Neal Stephenson did it with a sense of futuristic, Gibsonesque flair in Snowcrash -- a book which only serves to make his later name-dropping, "look how fucking clever I am" works like the Baroque trilogy seem like exercises in forced cleverness. However, while Snowcrash certainly pioneered the idea of the avatar and online persona, it's a little dievergent from what reality would end up being, as lead character Hiro Protagonist (best name ever? possibly) is just as much an impressive, katana--wielding badass in real life as he is in the digital world.

A more apt comparison would be Bruce Bethke's Headcrash. That work, published three years after Stephenson's, also deals in the realm of avatars and Internet escapism, but certainly more accurately mirrors the reality that would come to be online identity. Jack is an IT guy in St. Paul who likes "Weird Al" and model rockets, but online, is the hacker god MAX_KOOL. The concept of taking the anonymity of the Internet and using it to one's social advantage has been set, and we're off and running.

Cline's book obviously owes a massive debt to geek lit the world over. All those footnotes in the introduction? Totally swiped from Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. It's also continuing the Headcrash comparison, jam-packed as that book is with asides in the form of pop-up-like infonuggets.

Unfortunately, all of the authors/books I've name-dropped thus far have much better sense of humor. Ready Player One is perfectly suited for PBR Book Club, in that the references are more in the vein of clever and smart, rather than funny and witty. This is a book that's desperate to show off that it knows more than you, rather than you marveling at how great it is that you get the references therein.

1 comment:

  1. It's just a little too fun to be the "perfect" choice for us though. Hipster books should really be a drag to read!

    Also, I'm going to read Snow Crash one of these days and hopefully sooner than later!