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Reader Advisory

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I received Ready Player One in a box of monthly subscription items for geeks. Even before I received it, the book had been highly recommended by several friends. I took its arrival in a box of monthly geek goodies as a sign that I had run out of excuses not to read the book.

It is difficult to determine the age group this book is written for. The writing style is most certainly for young adults. The heroes of the book are high school age. However, many of the references to games and pop culture are from the 1980s, making me wonder how well the references land with young adults. References to the original Star Wars, War Games and the band Rush would seem to be better suited for millennials and older.

The themes of the book are appropriate for all ages. Ideas of over-dependence on technology, the addiction to online spaces, the nature of relationships existing purely online, and the subsequent decay of the world and the environment because of these developments are all a part of the book’s world.

One of the best aspects of the book is the world building, which Cline describes, at great length, to a fault. He spends several chapters describing the world the character is living in while the character barely walks from his trailer to his hideout. This inevitably slows the pace of the book to a crawl. And while this may be acceptable at the beginning of the book, it hampers the overall pace of the book because Cline describes the world, at length, every few chapters.

He even takes the time to explain the pop culture references in the book, making it nearly unbearable for some adults, like me, who are well-versed with the references. I imagine this is how Cline deals with the possibility that adults and young adults may not get his pop culture references. However, I found that it detracted from the book. After all, if you base your entire book on pop culture references, then proceed to explain those references in order to accommodate everyone who may not understand them, the entire prospect can become long winded and tiresome.

Reading the book is like being stuck next to a person while watching a Quentin Tarantino movie, who insists on explaining every single piece of witty dialogue with a reference, while simultaneously employing the Pause button, to ensure they have your attention.

That being said, Ready Player One would be a great read for adults and young adults looking for adventure. The premise is a great one and is entertaining. The book’s exploration of themes, like the growing disinterest in the real world in favor of the digital world, is interesting. And if one can overcome Cline’s long winded explanations about the world and its references, the characters and the story can become a page turner.

Many readers have enjoyed the book and rave about it at length. I understand I am judging the book based on my knowledge and experience, and although I disliked it, I am glad I read it. My goal is to provide an alternative opinion about the book. My recommendations would be classics like Neuromancer by William Gibson, The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke and Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett. Cline’s new book, Armada is also available if you’re looking for more of Cline’s work.

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal By G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

I’ve recently rediscovered my love for comic books over the past few years. I began with binge reading Fables, which was manageable while I worked full time and pursued my Masters degrees. Once I caught up, which was no easy feat as I burned through all 120+ issues, and the Fairest issues currently available, and all the Cinderella tales, I began to look at how the comic book industry had changed since my absence.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that women in comic books were experiencing a revolution. Fueled by female writers, female-driven story, and female executives, women are buying comics in record numbers. The female incarnation of Thor is currently outselling the last male Thor run. With writers like Gail Simone and Kelly Sue DeConnick at the helm, women readers are suddenly living in a female comic book paradise.

So where does a beginner or someone who has recently rediscovered comics begin? How does one begin their adventure into female comic book heaven? When recently chatting up my sister, who has never read a comic book on purpose, I insisted on sending her some comic trade paperbacks for her birthday. And the first comic book on the list? Ms. Marvel: No Normal, compiling the first 5 issues of the new run.

Traditionally, Ms. Marvel was played by Carol Danvers, a beautiful blonde pilot who received her superpowers from an alien named Mar’vell. Carol is bold, witty and fierce, having been a fixture of Marvel comics since her first issue in 1977. With the help of a recent reboot, and brilliant Kelly Sue DeConnick, Danvers received a promotion, taking on the mantle of Captain Marvel and leaving a space open for a new Ms. Marvel.

The new Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani-American teenage girl named Kamala Khan. And she is smart, witty, geeky, an effervescent force of nature in a world in need of a hero. The most amazing part of the comic? Kamala’s amazing family, who writer G. Willow Wilson portrays with a wholehearted embrace and understanding of Muslim culture.

This is a great book for teens through adults, both male and female. G. Willow Wilson also wrote the book Alif the Unseen if you’re interested in more of her work. She is also currently working on the series A-Force for Marvel which only has a few issues under the title. Other comics to read in addition to this would be the Captain Marvel run of 2012 and 2014, both with Kelly Sue DeConnick as writer, and Batgirl 1-35, which was written largely by Gail Simone, except for an absence due to Simone being replaced, and then quickly reinstated due to fan outrage. It’s a great time for women in comics.

Modern Romance: An Investigation By Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

This book was absolutely unexpected, in a wonderful way, much like my experience with the comedian, Aziz Ansari. I’d only heard a small amount, bits and pieces, of Ansari’s standup. My impression of Ansari initially was that he was loud and raucous, a comedian who designed his comedy around eliciting laughter based purely on his delivery, not his wit or personality.

It wasn’t until I began to watch Parks and Recreation that I realized that Ansari was much more, and that my first reaction was absolutely wrong. Tom Haverford, in the show Parks and Recreation, begins the story as a seemingly shallow and materialistic man who, over the course of the series, reveals a sweet, endearing, and ultimately vulnerable side to an otherwise banal character. There is something truthful and sympathetic about Ansari’s portrayal of the character.

This was also the case for my first impressions with this book. I thought it would be the predictable book that most stand up comedians publish after their careers reach maximum visibility. Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, though fantastic and funny, are all stories about the comedian’s beginnings, their career, and their take on life. I thought this would be the case with Ansari’s Modern Romance. I was, once again, completely wrong.

Yes, Ansari’s comedic voice is present in the book. But instead of a book about comedy, the comedian, and his co-writer Klinenberg, compiles research data and findings, creating a large picture of trends and challenges of dating in the modern age. The method of research is impressive. The team uses a wide range of data, from a study of marriage licenses in the 1930s, through focus studies conducted in retirement homes,  and with parents and their adult children. Ansari recounts stand-up done in 2013 in which he asked participants in the audience for permission to log into their online dating accounts with a projector onstage and discuss their experiences. The team traveled to Japan, Buenos Aires and France to examine the dating and romance trends in 3 very different countries. Some participants even consented to a data gathering app to be installed on their phones.

The result is an examination of what Ansari defines as “Modern Romance”, including the psychology of texting and delayed gratification, the influence of danger on attraction, the difference between perceived qualities of attraction vs real qualities of attraction, the history of apps like Tinder, and phenomenon of Japan’s herbivore man. Along the way, Ansari sprinkles his own personal experiences with dating and his current relationship, providing a grounded and very real view of the man himself. The journey is a hilarious, fascinating, shocking and sometimes sad view of the state of modern dating. What is impressive is that Ansari was a business and marketing major at NYU, and this is his very first book, a far departure from other comedian’s freshman literary projects. Even more impressive is Ansari seems to be the first to write on this large subject, gathering together research on different aspects of dating and marriage and bringing them under a single book.

This book is a great nonfiction book for adults looking for a fun and easy read. Single, committed and married readers would all love and identify with themes in the book and the experiences recounted within. Other books similar to this would be those named above, in addition to books by Nick Offerman Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers and Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, which can be read in conjunction with Yes Please by Amy Poehler to round out the Parks and Recreation books in order to alleviate the withdrawal you inevitably feel now that the show is over.

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