Ready Player Two

Oh boy, it’s time we talk about Ready Player Two, the sequel book that nobody asked for.

I really enjoyed Ready Player One, the movie was meh, but the book was really good. It felt unique, was interesting, and had a lot of nostalgia. Plus, it played an hommage to geek culture with the inclusion of things like D&D. I am a big sucker for 80’s nostalgia, despite growing up in the early 2000s. However, where Ready Player One felt new and exciting, Ready Player Two felt preachy and non-unique. The root of this issue is that the first book was pure world-building and nostalgia. Where the second book skipped the world-building and skipped right towards being a Debbie-downer and preached about real-world events. Not saying that commenting on current events is a bad thing for a book to do, but making it your main plot is a big turn-off for fiction readers.

The main protagonist was cast as an unempathetic villain– the equivalent of the Mark Zuckerberg of their universe. Although the book tried redemption for Wade, it came across as flat. To top that off absolutely none of the problems the book got preachy about was ever solved during the book. Instead, we are left with an ending that just introduces a new technology that apparently makes everyone forget about the handbasket of problems the book started off with. Making social commentary about social media/technology addiction is a good thing– there are amazing books that do that. But, Ready Player Two simply drums it up as a big deal to then completely forget it during the end of the book. Nobody can argue that the conclusion that “Technology Will Solve All Our Problems” is satisfying.

And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed is yet another excellent book by Khaled Hosseini, chronicling the story of an Afghan family. As a whole, it isn’t as cohesive or moving as Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, but it is nonetheless a compelling story.

The book was a little confusing to follow at first since it time skips and jumps perspectives each chapter; however, the payoff for this is significant since it gave us a holistic view of the family through three generations, three continents, and seven decades. At the same time, it is hard to really resonate with one character because there are scores of characters introduced. But, it is a moving story since it illustrates the struggles of a family. At the start of the book, the story was heartwrenching because the family went through so much in Afghanistan. As the story moved to France and America, the story became heartwrenching for different reasons. The family’s struggles became more relatable to me, specifically the pain of losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s.

The meta metaphor in the book that resonated with me was: “A story is a lot like a train, it doesn’t matter where you get on, the destination is always the same”. In the book, Saboor told this to Abdullah and Pari while telling stories, but it is also true of this novel. There are a million ways to tell the story of this family; each version would focus on different characters and themes. But, at the end of the day, we are still telling the same story.

The Prince of Milk

It’s incredible how much the novel The Prince of Milk did: love, philosophy, sci-fi, nihilism, horror, thriller. The short chapters and intriguing plot made this a book I couldn’t put down till I finished it.

With all praise aside for the book book. I first picked it up because I found Exurb1a’s YouTube channel and I binged watched 20 of his videos, and I found out that he was also an author. Not all YouTubers that write books necessarily do a good job at it. However, Exurb1a definitely has a way with words, and it is reflected in both his YouTube channel and his novel The Prince of Milk.

Similar to the novel This is How You Lose the Time War, The Prince of Milk is a story that spans both time and space, but this book mostly focused on a small town in England. There is a rather long list of characters in this book, and it is hard to pin down if we have any “main” characters at all since the narrative is spread out among a dozen people. This sacrificed deeper character development, but it paid off since it managed to tell a vaster story in a shorter amount of time. This is juxtaposed to This is How You Lose the Time War, which only had two really fleshed out characters.

A similar thing could be said for the themes of the book. It was definitely a science-fiction book at its core, but it also had romance, horror, mystery. This amalgamated something very unique and interesting, but it lost its focus, likewise with the science-fiction concepts. The Prince of Milk wasn’t a single science-fiction concept explored to its max and crafted into a grandiose story like a Neal Stephenson novel; Exurb1a gleaned a giant heap of spaghetti science-fiction and threw it on paper to see which would stick with the reader. Not to say that this was a bad thing, I found this aspect fascinating. But, for a relatively short book, it is hard to cover this grandiose vision while giving the reader something salient to walk away with at the end.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why was initially published as a novel by Jay Asher in 2007 and then later turned into a Netflix original series in 2017. This is a particularly hard book to review due to the outrage and support it has sparked since its release.

With that said, I feel like it is worth taking a deeper look into. The Netflix series had amazing cinematography and was overall produced well. The novel told the story via two simultaneous narratives, with Hanna on the tapes and Clay Jenson providing live feedback. This was an interesting way to tell a story like this since most dual narratives in print media are separated by chapters instead of being interwoven. The novel only spanned the night that Clay listened to the tapes, where the Netflix series dragged out the time that Clay listened to the tapes and had him interact with the other people on the tapes. This change was obviously done to make the show more compatible with the format.

Why the hate for Thirteen Reasons Why? This all boils down to whether the series did a good job at portraying suicide, rape, and mental illness. After a first viewing of the show, and reading the book I would have to say that it did an “ok” job at portraying these subjects. It invites a discussion around suicide and what we can do to help people dealing with mental health. Although it uses one-dimensional tropes found in your typical angsty American high school drama, it gets the message across.

However, doing an “ok” job isn’t good enough because portraying these things in the wrong way can encourage suicide among people at risk — which happens to be the target demographic. According to experts, you should not sensationalize, romanticize or portray suicides as heroic. Does Thirteen Reasons Why do any of these things? Well… the Netflix documentary definitely does a lot more sensationalizing than the original novel did, often using gory imagery of Hanna’s death. The original novel only briefly mentioned how the suicide happened, and it didn’t go much into the details.

This all isn’t to say that media shouldn’t discuss suicide — experts say that it is important to have more stories about both suicide and suicide survivors.

There should be MORE stories about suicide survivors and MORE stories about suicide, but the emphasis should ALWAYS be on suicide prevention, awareness, and support.

In the novel, it was explicit that there were people who were willing to help Hanna, but she pushed them away– like Clay. Moreover, other people failed to see the warning signs of her suicide–Tony. This all emphasizes the importance of awareness, support, and prevention. It would be acceptable to have peers who are ignorant about suicide, but it sends the wrong message when Mr. Porter, who was supposed to be the trained expert, could not give Hanna the help that she needed after she reached out to him.

The novel finished with Clay ignoring class to run after Skye to talk with her since she has been showing suicidal tendencies. Great way to end since it focused on what we should be doing to be aware of mental health and how we can support others. The Netflix adaptation decided to thicken the plot and add a second season that focused on bringing justice to Bryce: the serial rapist. Rather than focus on suicide prevention, the Netflix series turned Hanna’s death into a heroic act that was used to bring down Bryce.

Most of the hate that Thirteen Reasons Why has received is solely due to the glamorization and messages introduced in the Netflix adaptation. This is a shame because the Novel has real potential to connect with teenagers and send a good message.

Anyone who is suicidal may receive immediate help by logging onto or by calling 1-800-SUICIDE. Suicide is preventable, and if you are feeling suicidal, you must get help. So please visit or call 1-800-SUICIDE immediately.

Fahrenheit 451

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life”

How can a book like Fahrenheit 451 stay relevant after being published over sixty years ago? It is well known that comedy ages fast due to the shifting culture from generation to generation; however, do allusions in fictional literature have to face the same fate as comedy? Is it the use of universal allusions towards the Bible and mythology that makes Fahrenheit 451 relevant, or is it the timeless debate it ignites over ignorance and dystopian societies?

What purpose do the Bible and religion serve in Fahrenheit 451? Is religion good for society? Was religion portrayed in a positive or negative light in this book? Can anybody use the Bible to fit their purpose? Can it be argued that the pulpy commercialized version of Jesus was only used to control people? Does this bear any resemblance to what Carnegie in the movie Book of Eli tried to do? Is Montag pleased after going through a set of hardships like Job did in the Bible? Does Montag resemble the preacher in Ecclesiastes? Was Montag a successful preacher at spreading literature to others? Was Montag ever able to clear the Tower of Babel in his own head? Is it reasonable to say that religion was destroyed since only the Book of Ecclesiastes was preserved? Do you need to have the entire book for its full meaning to be passed on? Will the Bible ever lose relevance in society? If the Bible or Shakespeare were to be updated to more closely resemble the modern English language, would its meaning be transformed? Would it be ethical to do? Does the King James version of the Bible convey its message exactly the way the original version did? Was anything lost in translations? Does literature have a half-life? Why is it that the older a book is, the harder it is to understand? If that is the case, then why is the Bible still relatively easy to read and understand? Will Montag and the group of professors have to do their own rewriting of the Bible? Is it the wording or meaning behind a work of literature that makes it so meaningful? Does the extent to which its meaning is transformed vary between the Bible and a work of Shakespeare? Would future rewrites of the Bible render the allusions in Fahrenheit 451 indistinguishable?

Is ignorance good? Do we keep ourselves willfully ignorant over what we do not want to deal with? Does ignorance make us happy? Who was happier, Mildred with her artificial family or Montag bearing the burning burden of knowledge? Is knowledge worth more than ignorance and happiness? Is it ethical for the government to keep us ignorant about a situation if it means that we will remain happy? Did the government keep people ignorant about the consequences of war to keep the masses happy or maintain control? Would our government do the same thing? If everyone is ignorant, then who runs the country? Is it even possible to keep everyone as ignorant in the information age as they are in Fahrenheit 451? Does the information age lead to different types of ignorance? Are we in our own ways ignorant to things happening outside of our own bubbles? Is it possible not to be ignorant? What is the difference between willful ignorance and just being ignorant? Were the masses in the book ignorant or willfully ignorant? Why is willful ignorance so dangerous? Does willful ignorance burn away at society’s achievements? How would you measure society’s achievements? If you measure achievement in people’s happiness, then is it better to be ignorant? Could everybody be willfully ignorant? If you chose not to know something, are you really ignorant of it? To what extent does turning your nose to something hinder your knowledge of it? Did Beatty choose to stay ignorant of the benefits of books to rationalize his job? How is Beatty’s ignorance different from the ignorance of the depraved youth in this society? Did Mildred’s friends only cry and get upset at Montag when he read Dover Beach because they wanted to stay ignorant, or was the realization of their ignorance emotionally too much for them? Why is ignorance a universal topic to write about? Will we always have an issue with ignorance?

How long will Fahrenheit 451 stay relevant? Does the book retain its full meaning without any of the allusions making sense? Will we ever win the battle against ignorance? Does knowledge really equate to power or just the illusion of it?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip Dick can definitely go down on the list of things you must read to be cultured. This was a short book; however, what it does with those pages, achieves more than several novels that I have read.

This book is popularly known as being the base material for The Blade Runner films. Although the general premise is the same in both the book and movies, there are significant differences between the two. The biggest difference is that the book focuses on a religion called Mercerism. I don’t think focusing on this would have made the movie more interesting; however, it certainly made the book more interesting. Nevertheless, the core discussion of the book revolves around the morality of killing a robot that has human-like consciousness. This discussion is made even more interesting because the main character, a bounty hunter hunting robot, is himself a robot and yet not aware of it.

According to the main character(who is a robot), androids have no empathy making them cold machines that need to be put down. Additionally, he believes that robots don’t have any love for animals -which are held sacred in this post-apocalypse world- and robots won’t do anything to help each other. The test used to determine if someone is a robot measures their reflexes to emotionally stimulating questions. However, this notion of human vs. robot breaks down as the story progresses. If robots don’t have empathy for each other, why is a group of escaped robots protecting each other? If robots can never care for animals, why does the main character spend an absorbent amount of money buying a goat that he spent years dreaming about– to replace his electric sheep.

If robots are empathetic like humans, what rights do we give them? What rights do we give other people? In the book, “specials” were people with mental defects due to the radioactive dust on the earth. These specials were treated as outcasts in society and barred from having kids. Like the androids, the Specials were treated like trash because society views them as inferior to humans. In the book, Mercerism (their religion) suggests that what makes a human is our common plight. To fight adversities by climbing the metaphorical mountain, constantly getting pelted by rocks, yet continue.

At the end of the bounty hunter’s ordeal of killing the newly escaped robots, he ends up questioning his own morality– he is still unaware he himself is an android. Isn’t questioning morality and other philosophical debates the most quintessentially human thing to do?

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Yesterday I finished the book “This is How You Lose the Time War” by Alal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I bought the book on a whim since I’ve heard really good praise on it. I started reading the book, and I was immediately confused for the first ten pages. It was very poetic, yet mysterious and it can catch you off guard if you didn’t at least read the back of the book. Essentially there are two sides of an epic war where each side has the ability to control time and space. The character Red was created by an AI singularity– led by someone called “Commandant”. The other main character is called Blue and is an agent created by an entity called the Garden which is a vast consciousness embedded in all organic beings.

The entire notion of two sides fighting each other through the depths of time and space, vying for a better position is fascinating. This alone could make for a thrilling action or fantasy story. But, instead, this was a poetic book about two star-crossed overs from different sides of this epic battle. Each page pulls you deeper into this mysterious premise and every letter exchanged between these two characters emotionally attaches yourself to the characters.

I feel like this book worked so well since it was in fact different from most other books I have read. A lot of books have poetic phrases, etc, but few compose themselves entirely as poetry. At first, it is confusing yes, but as you go on everything starts to click into place, and the story builds to a magnificent climax at the end. However, I don’t think that this poetic prose of writing would work as well if it was a full-length novel.

The main takeaway from this I believe is that love transcends all boundaries. It didn’t matter that Red and Blue were mortal enemies fighting on different sides of a bloody war, their love still persisted. In the end, Red and Blue are reunited and form their own threads of time-space. Their goal is to forge a place where they could live in unity– despite doing so also means fighting the two sides they defected from. But, that is how you win the time war, together. Does love always win? Does Red and Blue actually win? This book doesn’t offer concrete answers, but at the very least this book suggests that it wasn’t disjoint sides with heterogeneous beliefs that win the time war, it is together we win.

At least, that is what I took out of the book. Beautiful love story. It was a quick read, but well worth it.