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review 2016-08-04 22:45
Book Review of Automaton by C.L. Davies
Automaton - C.L. Davies

In the not too distant future, after the huge successes of role-playing games, virtual worlds and reality shows, it was only a matter of time before somebody went too far. Welcome to Gameworld, a remote island with a population unaware that they exist only to entertain players. People's lives are dictated by their 'owners' and broadcast around the clock and around the globe. It's the world's biggest game and the stakes keep increasing. Dean 3012 is a good guy living on the Island with his girlfriend, Lily. With a baby on the way, life is perfect. But when things take a sinister turn, the couple are plunged into a world of darkness. In the real world, Lily's owner Amelia is more than a watcher of the game. Obsessed with Lily's happiness beyond reason, Amelia will threaten anyone - real or virtual - in a misguided effort to protect her. Dean must somehow find a way to gain self-determination and fight for all their lives, even if it means discovering that his life isn't real.

 

Review 4*

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

 

This is a very interesting story. I really enjoyed it.

 

Dean and Lily are interesting characters. They are characters who live in a virtual reality game, though they do not know this. In their world, they are living their own lives and are unaware of the outside world who watch them with close scrutiny. When Dean's owner sends a new instruction, it creates a ripple affect and lives are changed forever.

 

I have been wanting to read this book for some time. However, due to my rather large reading list, I have only recently been able to do so.

 

I started to read this book and was quickly hooked. In a way, this story reminded me of the computer game The Sims. It also reminded me of two movies: The Truman Show and Westworld. The author has taken a look at the "what if" scenario of what consists of virtual reality. If we lived in a game, would we know? And, if we did, what we do to survive? However, she has also explored the darker side of obsession, in this case Lily's 'owner', Amelia. Amelia is possessive and protective of Lily and when Dean's owner throws a spanner in the works by making him do something that threatens Dean's and Lily's relationship, Amelia becomes bent on revenge. What follows is a chilling tale that made me rather uncomfortable. So much so that I had to put the book down on more than one occasion. It has a very dark undertone that unsettled me. However, I had to keep reading in order to find out what was happening next.

 

This story is told through various points of view, which, although this gave the reader a broader understanding on what was going on, also caused confusion as I struggled to remember which characters were in the game and who was in the real world.
James Madison is the creator of Gameworld and the characters within it. Although he is only in a few scenes, I did like him even though I don't think he sees the characters he creates as real. He doesn't have an emotional connection to them and is a businessman through and through. However, the public love his Gameworld and have created an emotional bond with their characters. It is the modern equivalent of watching a television soap opera or Big Brother and the viewers developing feelings for the characters, though also having control of the characters' themselves. Scary!

 

My only complaint is that I struggled to form an emotional attachment to the majority of characters. The only one I felt anything for was Dean. This made it extremely difficult for me when I reached the end of the book, as I was left slightly disappointed in the way it concluded. However, other readers may have a different experience to myself.

 

C.L. Davies has written an interesting science fiction novel that takes a chilling look at virtual reality games and what can happen when it becomes all too real for those who live in them and for them. I enjoyed her fast paced writing style, though felt that the flow was somewhat compromised by having too many characters. Nevertheless, I would consider reading more of her books in the future.

 

Due to scenes of violence, I do not recommend this book for younger readers. However, I recommend this book if you love science fiction or horror genres. - Lynn Worton

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text 2016-03-31 23:01
Wirtualna rzeczywistość wkracza do e-czytania [prima aprilis]

Zainteresowałem się koreańskim rynkiem czytników przy okazji poszukiwania przyszłego modelu czytników marki inkBook. Trafiłem przy okazji na ciekawy wpis koreańskiej blogerki 강소라 zajmującej się technologiami mobilnymi. Otóż wpadła ona na trop nowatorskiego pomysłu koreańskiego start-upu Virtual Books (kor. 가상 도서), wpisującego się w tak modny ostatnio trend rzeczywistości wirtualnej. Czy jest to szansa również na ożywienie rynku e-książki, podobnie jak to będzie na rynku gier 3D?

 

Google Cardboard - czy to przyszłość e-czytania? (źródło: https://www.google.com/get/cardboard/)

 

Na czym polega pomysł? Idea jest prosta i nawiązuje do Google Cardboard. Ekran małego i taniego wyświetlacza (telefonicznego) dzielony jest na dwie części. Każde oko otrzymuje trochę odmienny obraz, co tworzy wrażenie otaczającej użytkownika trójwymiarowej rzeczywistości. Do stworzenia wirtualnego obrazu w wykonaniu Koreańczyków nie służy jednak w tym przypadku androidowy telefon a czytnik książek elektronicznych!

 

Na razie blogerka z Korei nie mogła uzyskać od inżynierów z 가상 도서 informacji o udostępnieniu ich technologii szerszej publiczności. Przyczyna jest prosta, Koreańczycy wykorzystali m.in. dwie nieudokumentowane, ale istniejące już możliwości tkwiące niejako w czytnikach Kobo. Brak więc potwierdzenia, ale są jednak na ich temat bardzo konkretne poszlaki. Pierwszy trop prowadzi przez opcję zaawansowanych ustawień menu "Font Settings" czytników Kobo. Oficjalnie są to ustawienia poprawiające czytelność tekstu, ale podział ekranu na dwie sekcje, które osobno dla każdego oka wyświetlają obraz jednoznacznie nasuwa skojarzenia z okularami 3D! Wystarczy się o tym przekonać, wpatrując się intensywnie raz jednym, raz drugim okiem w dwie sekcje przykładowego tekstu na zrzucie ekranu poniżej. Można do tego celu oczywiście użyć również oryginalnego czytnika Kobo.

 

Wygląd sekcji "Advanced" w ustawieniach wyświetlania tekstu ("Font Settings") czytnika Kobo Glo HD

 

Drugi trop prowadzi do pliku konfiguracyjnego czytników Kobo. Pisałem o niektórych możliwościach z tym związanych, przy okazji artykułu "Jak zainstalować własny słownik w czytniku Kobo - poradnik". Ja już korzystam np. z opcji "FullScreenReading", ale przypominam, że każda samodzielna zmiana oprogramowania czytnika może być ryzykowna i każdy wykonuje takowe na własną odpowiedzialność. Na razie zdecydowanie odradzam włączanie nieudokumentowanego oficjalnie parametru "CardBoard3DView". Koreańczycy mają ogłosić, kiedy ta zmiana będzie w pełni bezpieczna dla funkcjonowania czytnika.

 

Sekcja "[FeatureSettings]" pliku konfiguracyjnego czytników Kobo może być rozszerzona o nieudokumentowane parametry, prawdopodobnie również "CardBoard3DView"

 

Podsumowanie

Moim zdaniem potrzebne są nowe pomysły na eCzytanie, aby podnieść atrakcyjność słowa pisanego w oczach młodych pokoleń. Słowo pisane zdaje się tracić na atrakcyjności z każdym kolejnym rocznikiem dorastającym w otoczeniu technologii cyfrowych. Może nowa technologia wirtualnych lektur 3D koreańskiej firmy 가상 도서 będzie jednym z elementów zmieniających niekorzystne trendy w czytelnictwie?

 

 

To moja pierwsza przymiarka do szablonu, widać, że dawno nic nie wycinałem szkolnymi nożyczkami... Z zasobów internetowych można już pobrać koreańską wersję szablonu Google Cardboard. 

 

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review 2016-01-30 21:34
Log Horizon vol. 1
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World - Mamare Touno

I must say I picked this one because I had watched (and liked) the anime series, and I would recommend the latter overall. The book tells pretty much the same thing, only it's not as good, even though the themes themselves remain interesting: waking up in the world of your favourite MMORPG, having to make out what happened and to find out how to live from now on, being confronted to rules that make a lot of things redundant... How do you create a functional society in a world where you cannot die, and where going hungry and poor mostly won't happen, since just about anyone can kill a couple of monsters to earh their board and bed for the day? What happens to standard human rules, how do people keep their dignity and not devolve into doing anything they want, bad things included?

The concept and themes are definitely good. However, there isn't any definite plot (it read more as an introduction than as a real story for now), and while the rules of the "Elder Tales" video game are detailed, allowing the reader to easily discover this new world, they're also repeated a little too often. Granted, I'm familiar with MMORPGs, so I don't need their basic concepts to be explained, but I think even a reader who's never gamed doesn't need to be reminded three times how many magic-wielding classes there are, or that Character X is really tiny. It made me wonder if the story had been published as a serial first, with such means being used to, well, remind the reader of previous episodes. All in all, it felt a little repetitive and boring.

I still think "Log Horizon" makes for great world-building and story arcs. I'd however recommend watching the anime instead. It's much more interesting.

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review 2015-12-10 19:37
Nirvana
Nirvana - J.R. Stewart

[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I can't remember how I got approved. I think I received an invitation, months ago, but didn't get to reading the book until now. And then, halfway through, I realised what I had was the first ARC, and that I needed to download it again, because the author had rewritten a lot after the first batch of reviews. Or something to that extent? Anyway, I got the second version, and I'm glad I did. I still didn't like "Nirvana" in the end, but I can commend the effort, as there was quite some improvement compared to the first version. (On the other hand, it gets to show that when a book's in a first draft state, or close to it, it's really best not to publish it... Reviewers aren't beta-readers.)

The premise was definitely interesting: future dystopia, post-apocalyptic world after a series of environmental disasters, people living under tight control from corporations (mainly Hexagon), and blowing their hard-earned money on a virtual world named Nirvana—even as little as one quarter of an hour a week, as it's the only escape from daily drudgery in bunkers. In typical dystopian fashion, our heroine, Larissa (prefers to be called Kenders) discovers dark secrets while investigating into the death of her boyfriend Andrew. Also in typical dystopian fashion, there's a clear cut between the elite, the rich and famous, who can afford housing in "the Bubble", whereas the others are left to survive however they can: as Nirvana operators if they're lucky, as slaves in the Farms if they're not.

To be honest, it's pretty difficult for me to review only the second version, without thinking about the first one. The second version felt, all in all, smoother: where the first one threw me in a world where Kenders patrolled the wastelands as a soldier, without much sense of direction, here she felt much more integrated in her world, being a Nirvana operator. The technology seemed more real, too, better thought and described, and the narrative more logical: moving fast, but clearly not as over the place as the first version's was. I could tell where the story was improved, and in a way, I'm glad I got to read both versions (at least partially).

I didn't like it, though. A shame, but, well, it happens.

- The character's age, first. In the original story, Kenders was 24, Andrew and Serge a couple of years older... And this was good. Now Kenders is 17, the guys are 19-20, and this felt just so weird. I could believe in a 24-year-old now-soldier, ex-punk rocker/university student. But the same character aged 17, reflecting on all that stuff she had done "years ago"? Not believable, especially not when surrounded with people of the same type (so many "gifted kids" in one place, when nothing highlighted that fact = strange). Moreover, it cast a shadow on the Kenders-Andrew relationship: I always have a hard time with those "old couple-slash-soulmates forever" tropes when the characters are so young.

- The environmental disaster(s). They felt like they happened in 1-2 years, even if they were nothing new for the characters, and the world-building here was kind of lazy, too. The bees disappeared, OK, but they're not the only way plants can reproduce. Other species play a part as well. I wasn't sold on that one reason.

- The explanation heavy-handed "corporations are evulz" message.

- The beginning of the novel was smoother (the parts with Serge and in the Bubble made much more sense!), but the last chapters went so fast! One moment, this or that character was alive... then they were dead, and it happened in such a quick and dispassionate way that I was all "Wait, what... Oh... Am I supposed to feel sad, now?" I couldn't get invested in their lives, their emotions, in what was at stake for them. Kenders being in a punk rock band didn't add much to her personality, and the part with her father... didn't lead to much either?

- Some very, very stupid decisions. Of the too-stupid-to-live kind. Literally. Why did so-and-so have to engineer such a situation where they would end up dying along with the enemy, when there were likely other solutions? Why didn't they anticipate that the "bad guys" wouldn't come alone / wouldn't be fooled by the diversion? *That* kind of decisions. And Kenders wasn't especially clever.

- Nirvana itself. Mostly it was Kenders meeting Andrew in their 2-3 favourite online places. In the end, I didn't get the effect I was expecting (i.e. "lost in a virtual world / confusing virtual world with reality and vice versa"). Both worlds were always very clearly delimited in my opinion.

- The Red Door program. It gets lumped on us in the beginning and at the end, but there was no real central thread regarding this. I was under the impression it was here just because any dystopian world needs its oppressive, gets-rid-of-"dissenters" program.

- Info dumps. Lots of them. This didn't change much between the first and second versions.

- The love triangle. Not even worth mentioning. Uh.

Conclusion: An improved version, but one that would still need lots of work for me to enjoy it.

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review 2015-12-01 02:46
Solarversia: The Year Long Game - Toby Downton
Solarversia - Toby Downton

I received a digital copy of this book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.

 

The story of a teen girl, Nova, who with her friend Sushi sign up to play a year long game to win money and the chance to help design the next year long game.  Along the way Nova is struck with tragedy when Sushi is killed in a terrorist attack on a gaming cafe.  With the assistance of her friend Burner, Nova vows to track down Sushi's killers putting herself and those she loves in more danger than she realises.

 

The novel is well written and quite clever, I enjoyed the gaming aspects and the augmented and virtual realities in use.  However, pacing issues with the story made it feel as though it was dragging in some places.  

 

I was not a fan of Nova, she really didn't appeal to me.  Her personality seemed to be somewhere between narcissist and spoiled brat.  Using people to get ahead in both the game and life.  And if anyone called her out, or disagreed with her she's have a tantrum.

Charlie is just flat. A 2 dimensional character with no interest to the reader, very little effort was put into building him into anything more than Nova's love interest.

 

Burner is the character I liked most, and in my opinion the true hero of the story.  He's described as the nerdy genius that helps Nova in game and out.  The closest thing she has to a real world friend after Sushi's unfortunate demise.   If anyone deserved the victory it was this guy.

 

I'm not writing this book off completely, like I said it was quite clever in some aspects, so if you are a fan of Ready Player One I would suggest checking this out, but don't have high hopes.

I give Solarversia 3.5/5 stars.

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