In Brief: Ernest Cline’s first novel is a dystopian cyber quest story set in the year 2044. It’s also a love story with some serious geek 1980’s chops.
Pros: For someone of my generation, the 80’s nostalgia is pretty much irresistible. It permeates the story and protagonist Wade Watts’ worldview. Wade is an appealing sort of misfit hero in the classic John Hughes/Robert Zemeckis/Cameron Crowe mold. Cline’s pacing and descriptions are solid, adding just enough detail without going overboard. And as I’ve mentioned before, I love quest stories…
Cons: For someone outside my generation, the 80’s stuff may be too much. If you’re not a borderline geek on movies, music, video games, comics, and other media, you probably won’t get it… There’s also a bit of convenient coincidence syndrome in the final act – in the best tradition of the 80’s action flick or teen comedy.
Review: I heard an interview with Ernest Cline on one of NPR’s weekend shows (To the Best of Our Knowledge, I believe); the theme was nostalgia. Cline was talking about the importance of media culture for my generation – people who grew up in the 80’s – and how many of us are pretty geeked out about the movies, games, TV shows, video games, and music of our youth. More so, the interviewer implied, than previous generations. More so than was necessarily healthy. At one point the interviewer asked for a value judgement on my generation being so nostalgic for media when previous group were tied to more vital stuff – you know World Wars, protesting the ‘Nam, etc. The question, asked in a classic NPR haughty self-congratulatory manner made me want to HULK-SMASH through the radio. But Cline played it cool, talking about how our peeps were the first to grow up with this much variety of media (advent of video games, widespread cable and satellite TV, VCRs for movie rentals, etc.), also discussing how we grew up being told we were only minutes away from nuclear oblivion.
He talked about the Cold War and the early 80’s TV movie, The Day After, which scared the hell out of him when he was nine or ten (and me, and a lot of my classmates; nightmares for weeks with that one). So when he finally got around to plugging his book – steeped in 80’s pop culture and media – it immediately went on my list. Continue reading