So, for now, please enjoy this image of a crocheted Muad’Dib riding a crocheted sandworm, courtesy of my wonderful employer Tor.com. You can find more of these great images here.
Next week: Stefan resurfaces from work to review some books. I hope.
Preamble: As mentioned before, I took a sort-of-vacation from reviewing in the second half of 2014, mainly because I wanted to enjoy reading for fun for a while, without having to take notes and formulate ideas for reviews along the way. (Side-note: this was actually really fun, and I recommend it to any of my fellow reviewers who occasionally feel burned out.) However, since I didn’t stop reading per se, I now have a backlog of about 30 titles I’ve read but haven’t written much about, aside from maybe a couple of sentences over on Goodreads.
So now, vacation over, I’m going to try and catch up by writing mini-reviews for most of those titles, working chronologically from July 2014 up to the present day. My memory being what it is, some of these may be fairly vague (hence my usual need to take plenty of notes) and short (hence the “mini-review” part), but I hope they may still help readers decide whether this is a book you may want to read or not.
First up: Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole!
From the publisher:
On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi possesses mental abilities that might benefit people . . . or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Rafi’s only freedom at the Lyceum is Wallrunning: a game of speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces riddled with variable gravity fields.
Serendipity and Ntenman are also students at the Lyceum, but unlike Rafi they come from communities where such abilities are valued. Serendipity finds the Lyceum as much a prison as a school, and she yearns for a meaningful life beyond its gates. Ntenman, with his quick tongue, quicker mind, and a willingness to bend if not break the rules, has no problem fitting in. But he too has his reasons for wanting to escape.
Now the three friends are about to experience a moment of violent change as seething tensions between rival star-faring civilizations come to a head. For Serendipity, it will challenge her ideas of community and self. For Ntenman, it will open new opportunities and new dangers. And for Rafi, given a chance to train with some of the best Wallrunners in the galaxy, it will lead to the discovery that there is more to Wallrunning than he ever suspected . . . and more to himself than he ever dreamed.
Onward to the review!
In a nutshell, In Real Life is a graphic novel that tackles some of the same themes and concepts as Doctorow’s earlier YA novel For the Win, most notably: gold-farming in online games, from an economic and social perspective; the concept of having a separate online identity, specifically for teenagers who may still be forming a “real life” identity; and feminism and the myriad ways it ties into those first two items.
Anda is a teenager who gets recruited into a girls-only guild in the online game Coarsegold. Before she knows it, a more experienced player co-opts her into hunting down gold farmers, explaining that it’s a good thing to do because gold farming ruins the game. Eventually, Anda learns more about the plight of the gold farmers (in this case, poor kids in China working in sweatshop-like conditions) and, well, basically rides in on a shiny sparkling unicorn, saves everyone, and solves world poverty.
For today’s guest post, I’m thrilled to welcome SL Huang, author of SF novel Zero Sum Game, which I really should get around to reviewing one of these days. (For now, just trust me and read it – it’s great!)
Also, the most excellent Book Smugglers blog recently published SL Huang’s story “Hunting Monsters” as the very first story in their brand new Book Smugglers Publishing venture. (And while you’re there, check out their great review of Zero Sum Game.)
About SL Huang:
SL Huang justifies her MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero fiction. In real life, you can usually find her hanging upside down from the ceiling or stabbing people with swords. She is unhealthily opinionated at www.slhuang.com and on Twitter as @sl_huang. Her first novel, Zero Sum Game, was released under a Creative Commons license. The sequel, Half Life, will also be CC-licensed and is scheduled for release in January 2015.