Another audiobook. Same narrator as for ‘The Martian’ – same brilliant performance.
This didn’t grab me at first, I was slightly nervous about the “Geek Girl” element and how that would play out and it wasn’t especially captivating. The good thing about audiobooks however, is their ability to keep you company whilst other things are getting done. After a few hours I grew much fonder of it. So, to the premise.
Full to the brim of 80s nostalgia with a dystopian string running through it, we meet Wade Watts, a MMORPG player to the very extreme. Life is being lived through a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game and everybody prefers it that way it would seem. Having spent a significant portion of my time on World of Warcraft back in the day, I completely bought in to the idea that this could happen. The characters are slightly irritating, but generally harmless. A huge puzzle is to be solved, the game is enormous. I’m usually a reader of more emotion-driven books, so reading (listening to, but I’m just going to stick with ‘read’ for simplicity’s sake) action sequences actually seemed rather odd. It was quite a fun, entertaining read. There’s a romance, there’s danger and excitement, there’s loss and tension. It’s all very exciting stuff. I tend to prefer rather meatier emotional engagement, but I do think fondly of it nonetheless.
I was slightly perturbed by the puzzles that are solved by the characters in the game. There is no potential for the reader to solve the puzzle alongside the character, rather we observe their deduction process. For me, this was rather drawn out and a little disengaging – it seemed to put barriers between the reader and the story, rather than letting you feel drawn in. You’re definitely an observer of the story, rather than a part of it. I suppose this is established from the outset really, with Wade saying “This is the truth about my story” – you are definitely being told a story rather than being involved in it, and that rather adds to the lack of emotional engagement for me. The characters are not especially deep – a lot of their development seems to rest on brief characterizations.
On the other hand, this novel really does create an interesting world. The game everybody is playing does sound like fun. I have a clear idea in my head of it, and of the whole story arc. The first half of the book is excellent, the second half less so. This may belie my preference for characters rather than plot however, the action for me was very secondary but I can see how others would enjoy it.
I’ll definitely be recommending this to any kids who enjoy computer games but are more resistant to reading. I’m unsure how they would respond to the references to the 80s, but hopefully it wouldn’t be off-putting. I did enjoy it, it was a good, fun read. I am rather looking forward to seeing the movie too, it could be excellent.