Friday, February 10, 2012

#9: Plugged by Eoin Colfer

An ex-soldier leaves Ireland for what he thinks is the relative peace and solitude of suburban New Jersey, only to get wrapped up in a few riotous days of kidnapping and murder in Eoin Colfer's Plugged.

Colfer is probably best know as the author of the Artemis Fowl young adult novels, and seems to have made a concerted effort to reach the other end of the spectrum with this foul-mouthed, raunchy action-oriented comedy.  The "Plugged" of the title refers to not only the euphemism for killing but also two characters' obsession with hair transplants done by a shady doctor (whose ghost speaks to the protagonist throughout).

Although I felt the humor seemed strained at times, I enjoyed the action and plotting of this brisk little story and would look for more of Colfer's adult work.  It is definitely not for young adults, however, and woe be to the parent that buys it for a young person.

I listened to a good audio book version of this from Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

#8: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

Third-string sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout makes a pilgrimage to a small midwestern town, where a brush with an unstable car salesman sets off a sad series of events in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions.

I have been a big Vonnegut fan since my teen years and have read practically all of his work, but somehow this one slipped through the cracks.  When I saw it at giveaway prices for my beloved Kindle I snatched it up and gave it a try.

In a way I'm glad I did not read this as a teenager because I think I have a greater appreciation for it now.  Despite some funny drawings and observations it is as melancholy a piece of metafiction as I've ever read. 

Vonnegut writes as if he is telling someone who is unfamiliar with the world of the early 1970s what is going on, and now some forty years later this conceit seems more resonant.  He is a major character himself in the story, literally injecting himself into a bar at the Holiday Inn at the tumultuous denouement.

Rewarding for fans of Vonnegut's work, as Breakfast of Champions features the appearances of many characters from other novels, including his alter-ego Trout.  Recommended.

Monday, February 6, 2012

#7: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In a depleted future world, society has largely retreated into OASIS, a virtual world coded by a Bill Gates/Steven Jobs figure with an 80s obsession.  Upon his death, he releases a "treasure hunt" into the virtual world that spells danger for a teenager in the real world in Ernest Cline's debut Ready Player One.

If The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz was the ultimate tribute to growing up in the 70s, then Cline's book will have the same importance for readers who grew up in the 80s.  Cline name-checks everything from old arcade games, imported Japanese TV shows, Matthew Broderick movies, and dog-eared D&D modules in our protagonist's quest to escape his trailer-park life and reach his reward.

I thoroughly enjoyed Cline's novel and read it quickly, and can think of a few friends who would enjoy this just as much.  Recommended for fans of nerd-dom from the 80s forward.

I checked this out from Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.