Saturday, November 5, 2011

Richard Completes Level One, Retains Top Spot on Scoreboard

[Minor spoilers]

Halfway through and I'm still enjoying the hell out of Cline's book. If it were solely up to me, PBR Book Club would probably read nothing but ponderous, postmodern navel-gazers, but there's something to be said for a book with momentum (and a quest tale, no less). Thanks, Abby! If ever there's a good time for more folks to join PBR Book Club, it's probably now, since the next two months have been officially dedicated (I think) to Murakami's 900 pager IQ84, which should also be fun, but time-intensive and heavy as a son-of-a-bitch.

Abby's prior post suggests that, despite her enjoyment, Cline's book (at least early on) is largely a mish-mash of sci-fi ideas we've seen everywhere from William Gibson to Tron, combined with a truly impressive command of 80's pop culture. I tend to agree, although I think the recycled nature of the material correlates with the subject matter in clever ways. Since the novel's virtual world, "The OASIS," largely consists of recycled 80's geek culture, it makes sense that Cline would simply borrow from the "canon" to tell his tale (I love the way the characters modify the usage of the word "canon" to refer to any of OASIS-creator Halliday's obsessions, no matter the quality or obscurity: even Ladyhawke can become "canon").

Cline is interested in the deep layers of pop culture embedded in a fan's mind, the ways that a movie memory might trigger a magazine or a video game image, so certain descriptions that may seem, at first, too clogged with references nonetheless enhance his vision. Look at this passage from Wade's arcade Joust tournament (versus an "undead lich!"):

"It suddenly occurred to me just how absurd this scene was: a guy wearing a suit of armor, standing next to an undead king, both hunched over the controls of a classic arcade game." If the passage stopped there, it would seem to be a completely unecessary bit of description: surely we already recognize the absurdity! But it stretches on for one beat longer: "It was the sort of surreal image you'd expect to see on the cover of an old issue of Heavy Metal or Dragon magazine." Even though Wade's virtual OASIS adventures approximate "reality," his mind drifts out of the virtual moment, back into the kinds of images that led him to seek out this world in the first place.

A favorite quote:

"Overall, she seemed to be going for a sort of mid-80's postapocalyptic sci-fi girl-next-door look. And it was working for me, in a big way. In a word: hot."

1 comment:

  1. It really does turn into an "invincible chosen one" predict-o-fest about 3/4 of the way through, though.