Thursday, August 4, 2016

Video Game Madness

Hola Readers.  Time for another ramble.  Today let's change our pace a bit and ramble on a short story collection shall we?  The book is Press Start to Play edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams.  I picked it up because I was in the mood for something technological and nerdy AND I am pretty much trying to collect all of the collections that John Joseph Adams has a hand in 'cause he tends to have collections I love.  In this anthology every story is based on the concept of a video game.  How did this work out?  Some worked better then others, here are some of my favorites.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Respawn by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, translated by Nathan Allan Collins - An average guy is working in a beef bowl joint when he is killed in a botched robbery.  How surprised is he when he wakes up in his killers body.  He, in the killers body is sent to jail for his own murder and while there is killed again...and respawns into another body.  This continues as he realizes that he is pretty much immortal and respawns into another body every time he dies.  His thought process on this new power is really what makes this story, I found my self enjoying it very very much.

1UP by Holly Black - A group of gamer friends who have never met in person gather at the funeral of one of their own.  Sorry's last request after a long illness was that they attend his funeral.  As the group examines Sorry's room after the funeral they discover a game.  Following the game reveals a story of horrific origins and reveals how and why Sorry died.  In true video game fashion, when the friends follow the game to the end it leads to Sorry's actual grave, where upon digging him up he "comes back to life" as he only faked his death in a last ditch desperate bid at freedom.  This was a great read on games, friendship and their connection.

Survival Horror by Seanan McGuire - One of my favorite authors writing a story featuring one of my favorite characters...of course it is gonna end up on my favorites list.  Antimony, the youngest Price girl from the InCryptid series is chilling with her super nerdy cousin Artie when they are both sucked into an evil video game that if they lose, results in the freedom of a potentially world ending monster.  We watch them play through, all while bantering with their signature snark of awesome.  This was a perfect blend of my favorite type of puzzle video games and one of my favorite series.  Pretty much all a girl could ask for.

Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley - Meg hasn't heard from Devon in four months.  They had dated for a while but his obsession with the computer game Realmso  Eldritch eventually ended their relationship.  So Meg grabs her sword and set's off to buy the game to try and reconnect with him.  As soon as she logs on Devon sends her a message "Save Me Plz"  Of she sets to find a gnome to help her on her quest which he does by giving her the Wand of Reification.  She goes through the quest and ends up at a castle where Devon is working on his computer.  He tells her he found a loophole that allows him to collect extra Wand's and he is using them to slowly morph the "real world" into a world resembling the game.  He tells Meg that she has voluntarily done the mission multiple times and she finally agrees to continue.  Really cool story.

The Relive Box by T.C. Boyle - A new game console has come out called the Relive Box.  The purpose of this is to allow the user to relive their own memories in real time.  In our story Katie and her father fight over the use of the box.  Katie who is a young 15 wants to go back and relive before her mother left.  Her father just want's to relive his younger day's, trying to find what went wrong with his life.  This reliving essentially takes over his life to the point of losing his daughter.  I think what really hits me about this story is all the thinking it made me do.  If people are constantly reliving the past, how do you make new memories?  What happens when younger users with limited memories spend their whole life fixated on a single memory?  So much to think about!  I love it!

Gamer's End by Yoon Ha Lee - In the distant future where things are done on a galactic level, realistic immersive games are used to train soldiers.  A soldier who is up for a promotion is sent up to a space station to be put through a simulation.  At this time the bulk of the government is at war with a group called the Taurag Republic who while willing to wage war, do everything in their power to not hurt civilians and non-combatants.  After a few minutes into the simulation he is pulled out when the station he is on is invaded by the Taurag Republic.  He is directed by voice to fight his way to the core and use the stabilizer as a weapon against them.  He is forced to kill a couple of the enemy on his way, which disturbs him more then he thought it would.  Once he gets their and get's directions he realizes that while using the station as a weapon would stall the enemy and buy them some time, it would also kill millions of people on the planet surface.  He refuses to do it.  He wakes up and is told that the whole thing was a real scenario designed to test his empathy and willingness to kill civilians.  He has "passed" and the promotion is his.  Great thinking story, loved it.

Killswitch by Catherynne M. Valente - I love this author, mostly because of the imagery she can evoke while still telling a fairly cohesive story and this story is no exception.  The game is called Killswitch and it can only be played once then the game deletes itself, it cannot be copied, it cannot be saved, it cannot be shared. This drives people crazy because there are two different playable characters to choose from the impossible, invisible Ghast that nobody has ever been able to play past the first level and Porto, a human female who the game is about.  The maker of the game has hinted at all kinds of secrets...but nobody can find them all because of it's unreplayability.  The story ends with the last of the limited game being bought by a player who has vowed to play it on a live stream, but the only footage is a minute of him starting the game and crying...
This collection as with all anthologies was a bit hit or miss.  Some of the stories felt a bit generic or flat, but over all I enjoyed the majority of the stories and will definitely be reading many of them again.  There were a lot of familiar authors that did not disappoint, and I got to read some great stories from writers I have never heard of, which to me is an awesome perk of short story collections. I give this book 7 out of 10 game controllers and recommend it to anybody who has enjoyed any sort of video or computer game.  Happy Reading Everybody!

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