Tag Archive | video games

Book review: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to quote the Publisher’s Weekly synopsis here: “…[an] intricate and imaginative novel by one of China’s most celebrated genre writers. In 1967, physics professor Ye Zhetai is killed after he refuses to denounce the theory of relativity. His daughter, Ye Wenjie, witnesses his gruesome death. Shortly after, she’s falsely charged with sedition for promoting the works of environmentalist Rachel Carson, and told she can avoid punishment by working at a defense research facility involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. More than 40 years later, Ye’s work becomes linked to a string of physicist suicides and a complex role-playing game involving the classic physics problem of the title.”

Excellent work. That complex game and the detailed description of its play take up several chapters of this novel. They were probably the hardest for me to get through — I am not a gamer and I don’t care about video games. At. All. But these chapters serve to advance the plot, they’re relatively interesting (I’m aware some folks find them “awesome”) and, eventually, the implications of each game-playing session become clear.

I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination. But the author and translator did an excellent job of explaining astrophysics to the unwashed masses (that means me), and I was able to follow enough of the science and reasoning to make sense of the direction of the plot. Plus the sheer educational value of the history of the Cultural Revolution, of which I knew nothing, made this a worthwhile read.  I’m looking forward to the second book of the series, as soon as it becomes available at my library.

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Book review: Headcrash by Bruce Bethke

HeadcrashHeadcrash by Bruce Bethke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My, how things change, and how they stay the same.

Headcrash tells us the story of one Jack Burroughs, a sysadmin for a multinational conglomerate, who keeps his day job only because it finances his excursions into cyberspace, where in virtual reality he is cool dude MAX_KOOL instead of a nerd. Unfortunately, due to internal politics and the innate inability to keep his mouth shut at inopportune moments, Jack loses said day job. Thus unemployed, he plunges head first — or butt first, as the case may be — into his virtual world, eventually taking on a commission to do a little cyberpiracy in exchange for a considerable remuneration. The fact that he’ll be looting the database of his former employer has nothing to do with his acceptance of the job. Nope, nothing at all.

Written in 1995 and taking place in 2005, the storyline is somewhat dated and improbably technologically advanced from the perspective of 2011. And, being neither a gamer nor a computer geek, I can’t say whether the virtual reality environment as depicted here is realistic or even possible. The story moves at a frenetic pace, with hardly a break to catch one’s breath. Regardless, it’s great fun, full of inside geek jokes and pop culture references.

And seriously, how can you not like a book that begins:

C:\DOS
C:\DOS RUN
RUN, DOS! RUN!

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