Review

Review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw this book on Netgalley, my first thoughts were ‘YESSS a graphic novel about video games!’ and that the cover art was completely gorgeous. The instant I was approved, I sat down and read it in one go.

The story begins with our small-town protagonist, Anda, being introduced to the world of Coarsegold Online. I wasn’t sure about the way it was introduced to her – a woman comes in to Anda’s school and gives a talk on her female only guild on the game. I’m not sure what sort of high school would allow a guest speaker to encourage young people to play MMOs, but hey ho… as implausible as it is, the reader and Anda are quickly introduced to the game, which means they can start the exploration proper.

Like many MMO players, including myself, Anda plays to escape from the real world. She is a shy girl, with little self-confidence and not many friends. The ‘real world’ panels have a much starker colour palette, in comparison to the bright and beautiful colours of the virtual world, which I thought was a nice touch. Definitely an excellent representation of how many gamers feel – I know that I tend to start playing ridiculous amounts of online games when I’m feeling particularly down. Anda is an MMO newbie thrown into the deep end, which gives readers who may not be familiar with MMO mechanics a chance to catch up. However, to experienced MMO players there will be many recognisable scenes. As Anda grows in confidence within the game, this is reflected in real life – and she even dyes her hair to match her character.

I can think of many books set in or around video games, but none of them have the sort of message that In Real Life does. Most of the time, the video game is the story, and real life takes a back seat. However, in this particular book, the video game opens up our eyes to the real world. Anda befriends a young Chinese boy on Coarsegold Online, but he’s not playing for pleasure. He is one of the millions of ‘gold farmers’ who descend upon various online worlds every day, who work twelve hour shifts with no breaks, for a tiny wage.

One of Anda’s guild mates, who sort of takes Anda under her wing, recruits her to help with a ‘quest’. This ‘quest’ (unofficial) involves killing the gold farmer’s characters, in what I can only assume is a PvP of sorts. This is where Anda meets her new friend, when she chases after him. And whilst they only get to chat for a bit at first, she is instantly concerned with how he is being treated. She realises that this is someone doing their job, that he has no choice if he wants to eat. This leads to Anda trying to take action outside of the game – and I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers!

A cute read for fans of MMOs, that also has a deeper message, as well as being very familiar to anyone who has good online friends and hates the stigma that comes with the ‘online friend’ label. The art is beautiful, a cutesy style with some wonderful colour palettes, and the story means well even if it never quite hits the mark. I just want to leave you with this quote, for anyone who scorns at the idea of online friends:

‘”This life is real too. We’re communicating, aren’t we?” — In Real Life, page 188.

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Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of thirteen books – an improvement on February! Bitterblue (Graceling #3) by Kristin Cashore, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, The Cruel Path by David Normoyle, Doctor’s Notes by Dr. Rosemary Leonard, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantastic Four Vol. 1 by J. Michael Straczynski, Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shanarra #1) by Terry Brooks and X-Men Legacy: Aftermath by Mike Carey.

Standout books include Bitterblue, The Book Thief and Fangirl. I was happy to finally read the conclusion to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, and Bitterblue tied the threads of the first two books together nicely. I read The Book Thief as I’d like to go and see it in the cinema, but haven’t quite gotten round to that yet! And finally, I won Fangirl in Lianne’s giveaway, and it was an absolute delight. You can read more about how it surprised me in my review. I’ve now read thirty-six books towards my goal of fifty this year. I may think about raising it in June or July.

Challenge progress:

  • I read eight books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, which I’m very pleased with! I also managed to defeat this month’s villain, Juggernaut. April’s villain is Kingpin, who looks to be quite a challenge.
  • One book ticked off of the Dragons & Jetpacks Ultimate Booklist, which also happened to be our science fiction Book of the Month.

Currently reading:

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Reviews on the blog this month:

Other posts:

Upcoming:

  • Quite a few reviews including Leviathan Wakes, Doctor’s Notes, In Real Life and The Cruel Path.
  • Something to do with Marvel…
  • And more Museum of Literary Wonders posts as I’ve been meaning to do for a while!

Off the blog:

Not much has happened! I’m kind of scared and excited at how quickly this year has gone so far. Only four and a half months before I move to the Netherlands for university. I can’t wait! I’ve also started playing Smite with a friend, it’s an MOBA where you play as gods – perfect for a mythology geek like me, though I keep pointing out the flaws within the system… it’s really fun though! As for the coming month: my mum is running the London Marathon and I’m SO proud of her. She’s running for a charity called WellChild and has raised a fair amount of money so far. And at the end of the month, it’s back to London again for a cocktails & conversation event with Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen – are any of my fellow book bloggers going as well?

How was March for you?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #11: Tron Legacy

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: Tron Legacy.

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Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant Quorra, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. Meanwhile, the malevolent program CLU, who dominates the digital world, plans to invade the real world and will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.

Yep, I’m mixing it up this week with a film instead of a TV series! I’ve chosen Tron Legacy, a film I particularly enjoy for its visuals and soundtrack. It’s the sequel to Tron, released in 1982, and is just slightly more visually impressive… If you’ve not heard the soundtrack by Daft Punk, I recommend giving it a try. And now onto the recommendations!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I read and reviewed Ready Player One near the beginning of 2013, and I’m so happy to see that more and more of my blogger friends are reading (and loving!) it. Set in the future, where a massively multiplayer game called OASIS has become most people’s reality, the story follows a young man called Wade. Like everyone else, he spends most of his time on OASIS – and it becomes even more important to him after the creator of the game announces a lottery. The first person to solve his riddles and achieve the highest score will inherit both his fortune, and control of the OASIS. It’s packed full of 1980s references, as well as tributes and alludes to various video games, and is pretty much the nerd’s perfect book. I absolutely loved it, and frequently recommend it.

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

A more recent read of mine, Lockstep isn’t set in a virtual world – but it is based on one. On his way to claim a planet for his family, Toby McGonigall finds himself stuck and drifting in space. When he awakes, he finds that fourteen thousand years have passed, and many planets now operate on the ‘Lockstep’ system: hibernate for three hundred and sixty months, stay awake for two. To his shock, Toby learns that his family are still alive – and they are the ones ruling the system. His brother Peter is a tyrant, and has based the Lockstep system and cities and planets within it on a virtual reality game that he and Toby created and played as children. It also has a pretty cool cover, which I now know is by Chris McGrath, thanks to Carl!

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

I read In Real Life just the other week, and a review will be coming soon! It’s the story of a young girl, Anda, who plays an online game called Coarsegold Online. She gets accepted into a females-only guild, and has to prove herself in order to be promoted to a full member. One of her fellow guild members, Lucy, invites her along on a quest – only it’s not an official one. They’ve been asked to rid the game of gold farmers by killing them on sight. However, Anda gets to know one of the gold farmers, who also plays in his spare time, and begins to question what is right and wrong within the game, as well as the real world. It’s a sweet story, that picks up on more real world issues and morals than many similar books. Plus the artwork is gorgeous, which doesn’t hurt!

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

I haven’t yet read The Eye of Minds, but I have a copy on my Kindle, thanks to Netgalley. However, I think it sounds pretty perfect for fans of Tron Legacy: set in our future, it follows Michael, who spends most of his time in a virtual reality game called VirtNet – as do most of the world’s population. The trouble begins when hackers start attacking the game, and taking players hostage. Michael finds himself recruited by the government in order to try and stop these hackers from taking over – but there’s a chance this could have a major impact on his life, blurring reality and virtual reality.

The .hack//Legend of the Twilight series by Tatsuya Hamazaki

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I think this is the first time I’ve included any manga in this feature – but the .hack//Legend of the Twilight series is one of my favourites. At only three books long (and twelve episodes in the anime) it’s a nice short series, especially if you’ve not read much manga before. The story follows two twins, Rena and Shugo, who decide to play an online game called The World together. But when Shugo’s character dies early on in the game, he finds himself in a strange bonus level – where he is given a bracelet by a mysterious lady called Aura. After making friends with a few more experienced players, Shugo and Rena aim to find out exactly who Aura is – and that’s when players of The World start dropping unconscious at their computers.

Are you a fan of Tron Legacy? Do you have any recommendations to add?