Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! Hosts Holly and David made it to see Ready Player One and… they have thoughts. They try their hand at spoiler-lite, which really means trying to keep the book references to a minimum… and then it’s like a full on LitFlix comparing the book and movie. Hope you enjoy!
Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday, or for our weekly news podcast, Week in Geek.
Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! In the wake of the bad reviews for both Valerian and The Dark Tower, hosts Holly and David talk about franchises (and adaptations) that have succeeded – like Harry Potter – and ones that overstayed their welcome or didn’t even get going. They speculate a bit on some franchises and adaptations in the works, and then go through some of the titles they would like to see adapted.
Yesterday I wrote a review of Armada by Ernest Cline, the hard to describe alien-invasion book set with a full pop-culture background of alien invasion. Because of all the pop culture references, it’s a difficult story to judge on its own merits. Even worse, as you can see from just about any version of its cover or all over its page on Amazon, this is the second book from the guy who brought us Ready Player One.
So the most obvious comparisons are between Armada and Ready Player One. They are both chock full of nostalgia and pop culture and use all of that to very specific, plot-relevant purpose. I know I at least was left asking which one of these two was better – more on that below!
However, even while I listened to the audio book of Armada, I was finishing up reading Childhood’s End by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Though the book itself is not referenced in Armada, Clarke is and they are both absolutely alien invasion stories. So while there’s a lot of pop culture I could compare Armada to, I’m going to go with Childhood’s End because I was reading them at the same time.
And finally, how about a recent comparison? How about Mass Effect? I think there’s some parallels there, although the comparison is back story for Mass Effect, but the whole plot for Armada!
Hopefully between these three I can try to get at a better explanation of what and how Armada is what it is and does what it does. More spoilers than yesterday, so if you’re looking to go light on those, check out that review!
But first, I wanted to write this review, just about the book. Trying, really hard, to just talk about this book. Because just talking about this book is hard – like Cline’s first novel, this one is full of pop culture references and does not exist alone in the universe. It’s also hard in general to talk about this book without spoilers, something I would like to try to do in this review.
Meaning I had to take a step back. Look at the description of the book on Amazon. And think back to how quickly, in the opening pages, some of the initial questions you have about the book are answered. With all of that, I think it’s safe to say that this is an alien invasion novel… about alien invasion stories. The book, and the main character, are very genre aware as far as that all goes – and, with video games and the idea of drone warfare, your average gamer could also be the next starfighter ace…
The progress of virtual reality is the key to so many advancements that have already been discussed. So many Science Fiction stories end up with some sort of virtual reality element.
Sometimes virtual reality is simply the next method of escape to be able to be transported to another world. Another option is that it is used as a tool, but does not become the world in which we live. Other times it becomes everything because it becomes the way we exist in the world. It is everyday life and only possibly having to leave to eat and sleep, but at the same time work, school, everything else can exist within the virtual reality.
The idea of virtual reality as a tool that can be used seems like it could be just around the corner. Being able to train virtually to do surgery or even do surgery from a distance because you are in a virtual reality and a machine is following along with your movements somehow.
Of course this would never be used solely for work – it would also be used for entertainment purposes. A great example of how far the technology could go can be seen with the holodeck in Star Trek. Not only is it used to help train officers through specific scenarios it also allows them to live their dreams. They can act out their favorite story or just explore someplace they have never been before. Part of what is great about virtual reality is that the possibilities are endless.
A New World
The next level of virtual reality is that it becomes the way we exist in the world. This becomes most prominent when you look at how it is used in Ready Player One. It is where people go to school and probably where people work as well, depending on their job at least. People can create their own spaces and everything can exist in those spaces.
Already we see games, music, books, videos, photos, etc. existing solely in a digital or online space. It doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch to have those same things exist in virtual reality. In the story Ready Player One they still have to come out of virtual reality to do things such as drink or eat, but the main character gets a machine that allows him to walk and thus keep his muscles from dying by being able to move while in the virtual world.
The big thing that virtual reality does is make the whole concept of space not matter because you really are one step away from being able to be in the same space – even if it is virtual.
This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!