Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #11: Books About Video Games

prosenpixels16

Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I wanted to share a selection of books that feature video games as a major plot device.

I’m always excited to find a book that features or is set in a video game. It’s so fun to combine these two interests of mine and see how they interact. Normally I end up wanting to play the video game myself… So here is a selection of books where video games play a major role.

Erebos by Ursula Pozanski

Erebos

When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur.

I haven’t read Erebos, but it sounds like an interesting concept. From the blurb, it sounds like less of the book takes place within the game than others on this list, and that it is perhaps a bit of a psychological thriller. It was originally written in German, and was translated into English a couple of years after original publication.

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

I read and reviewed The Eye of Minds by James Dashner in June this year, after it had been sitting on my Netgalley shelf for a while. It comes from the same author as The Maze Runner, and whilst I didn’t find it quite as enjoyable or fast-paced, it was still a fun read. The third book in the series (The Mortality Doctrine) was released last month.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.

Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

I have written a LOT about Ready Player One in the past – I’ve reviewed it, shared five reasons why you should read it, recommended it to YA readers, listed it as one of my top ten books of 2013, made it part of my definitive sci-fi reads challenge and listed it as one of my top ten sci-fi reads overall. So, yeah. I like this book quite a lot. It can be a bit hit and miss depending on when you grew up and if you’ve always loved video games, but most other people I know who have read it absolutely loved it too.

Elusion by Claudia Gabel

Elusion

Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications — or consequences — of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.

Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion — accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous — Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty… a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

I’ve not read Elusion and found it especially for this post. It sounds like the program within the book, Elusion, is a Second Life type game, where the player can become whoever they want, and do whatever they want. It seems to have received quite mixed reviews from my Goodreads friends though!

The .hack// series

.hack//Legend of the Twilight Volume 1

Old-fashioned role-playing games have experienced a renaissance on the World Wide Web. Twins Rena and Shugo are two middle-school students who enter ‘The World’ as level one game characters. When Shugo’s character dies, he is transported to another level where he is entrusted to bear the Twilight Bracelet by the mysterious Aura. Shugo must find out who Aura is and why she gave him this powerful weapon to protect his sister from the peculiar characters in ‘The World’.

The description above is for .hack//Legend of the Twilight, which is one of my favourite manga series. However, there are lots of different .hack// series with different story arcs and characters, all set within ‘The World’. Most of them have also been adapted into anime series. If you’re thinking of trying them out, I’d recommend you start with this one – it’s fairly short and a good introduction.

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe. And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada — in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills — as well as those of millions of gamers across the world — are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little… familiar?

Yep, another Ernest Cline book! Armada was released earlier this year, after a long, long wait. I was lucky enough to get a review copy, and reviewed the book a couple of months ago. It didn’t have quite the same wow factor as Ready Player One, but it might work better for those who don’t get all the 80’s/video game references in the previous book.

What books about or set in video games have you read and enjoyed?

Review

Review: The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine #1) by James Dashner

16279856.jpg

4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

The Eye of Minds opens with the protagonist, Michael, witnessing a girl commit suicide within the game world of the VirtNet. But before doing so, she talks to Michael and tells him she will never be free. She cuts out her Core, the device which keeps the virtual life separate from the real one – meaning that if she dies in the game, she dies in real life.

The VirtNet is a place of escape for millions of people, who link up to the game via boxes which provide them with nutrients whilst they play. To some, having a virtual reality world to escape into 24/7 may be perfect. However, this shocking opening shows that there is a dark side to this virtual utopia – because it’s never a utopia, right? Through witnessing this act, Michael becomes involved with something he never expected, something that requires him to risk not only his virtual life, but his real one too.

The Eye of Minds is a very fast-paced novel that almost constantly kept up a sense of terror and fear, with Michael and his friends being pursued at every move. It took something that sounded like it could be an amazing invention and showed how it could go horribly, horribly wrong. Whilst I love the idea of a virtual reality online game, this was pretty terrifying. Whilst Michael’s friends, Sarah and Bryson, felt a little flat in all that we knew about them was that they were excellent coders, this also reflected how little Michael knew about his own best friends.

With a fantastic twist that I did NOT see coming, this is a fast-paced and action-packed science fiction novel with an element of mystery. It ended at a great point and got me really excited for book two. Whether you’re a gamer or not, I highly recommend this book – after all, just like with virtual reality, you forget the characters are in fact within a game for the majority of the book. Perfect for fans of the .//hack series or Ready Player One.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: May 2015

monthlyru16

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.

May 2015

Last month I read a total of seven books: Tracer (Tracer #1) by Rob Boffard, City of Dark Magic (City of Dark Magic #1) by Magnus Flyte, The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine #1) by James Dashner, Tarzan of the Apes (Tarzan #1) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion, Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon, .

With a short break between thesis draft hand-in and feedback, I was able to get some time to relax and read for fun! I should have the same again halfway through this month, as my thesis is due on 15th June! The stand-out book of May was definitely Outlander – a book which stole my heart and mind, it’s an absolutely gorgeous tale of unexpected romance and sexy Scotsman… I would like my own Jamie Fraser, please and thank you. Tarzan of the Apes was also highly entertaining, more so than expected, and Batgirl of Burnside was my first ever DC comic!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge and managed to defeat Gorilla Grodd. Next month’s villain is Bullseye, and I’m still hunting for some books that fit him…
  • I have currently read thirty-one books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

How was May for you?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #11: Tron Legacy

tottvheader

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.

Tron Legacy

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

.hack//Legend of the Twilight Volume 1 .hack//Legend of the Twilight Volume 2 .hack//Legend of the Twilight Volume 3

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?