Some of you may already have heard of Ready Player One. It is a speculative fiction novel which was released a few years ago with the name Ernest Cline on the cover.

The book is apparently being turned into a movie by no less a genius than Steven Spielberg. I see a massive box office hit.

The narrative contains a series of puzzles which need to be solved to inherit ownership of the VR system the whole world uses. There is a rival conglomerate trying a hostile takeover via attempting to win the contest.

After finishing the novel I was pondering some issues I had with it, these are around lack of depth of characters as well as a tendency towards telling not showing and it occurred to me all the gripes I had with it were the same as I had with The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

The plot of Ready Player One is straight out of the Dan Brown play book and the style of writing is quite similar in my opinion.

It is not unusual for novelists trying a different genre to be asked to use a pen name so the change in direction does not effect sales of future books back in their usual arena. Speculative fiction would be a new genre for Brown as all his works I am aware of are current day thrillers.

I may be way off base here, but did Dan Brown write Ready Player One under the pen name Ernest Cline?

If he did, is there some puzzle within the novel which can be cracked to solve the identity of the writer – from what I know of him, that would be very Dan Brown.

Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments section…

Advertisements

“It’ll murder me in my sleep,” is Frank’s (Frank Langella) first response to receiving a robot from his son in this light-hearted movie directed by Jake Schreier.
Set in the near future this film shows us a world where older people with memory problems can have a 24/7 companion, allowing their family who live far away to know there is some support on hand.
The film explores the parameters of this relationship and the robot tells Frank early on that he meeds a project. With initial attempts to bond being around planting a vegetable patch.
What actually gets them to bond is planning a burglary. Frank explains to the robot teaching it to pick locks is the hobby he needs.
The comparison of robot to human care is telling. Frank’s son and daughter live far away and when Madison (Liv Tyler) does visit, she doesn’t always want to do what Frank wants, while the robot has no other needs or agenda. Even the most giving human is not 100 pet cent altruistic.
There are some interesting insights into legal aspects of robots. And I don’t just mean it doesn’t come preprogrammed to not collude in criminal activity with the human it supports. But Frank cannot switch it off as its owner is his son Hunter (James Marsden) who has said he does not have user rights to do this. The machines memory can also be accessed by law enforcement, although I would assume a warrant was required, but this is not made clear – and the police seemed able to search Frank’s house on circumstancial evidence, with the victim of the crime present, with no mention of a judge considering the issue.
The movie touches on the politics of robots, notably when the machine asks if Madison is against robot labour.
One thing I thought robots who are used in health / social care settings should be programmed to request is a name. We wouldn’t give someone a pet and expect them not to name the animal. Susan Sarandon, the librarian in the film, has a work place robot she has named Mr Darcey. Part of the bonding with the support robot would be selecting a name.
Finding a project and keeping a routine are both vital for older people, particulary those with memory issues, any occupational therapist can tell you. But having someone on hand to help you keep to the project and routine will be priceless.
The film is not perfect, but it does raise a number of issues we will face in the near future in an accessible way.

* I mentioned this film when I first heard about it, but have only recently got round to watching, so my post is quite tardy.

50 years ago today JFK was assassinated.

Who did it and why has been a question on many people’s lips for much of the last half century.

They say in crime novels and TV shows the person who did it is usually the one with the most to gain.

What did Lee Harvey Oswald have to gain from JFK being dead? Not much that is apparent, mostly his prize seems to have been being shot a couple of days later.

Did someone else have more to gain?

To be honest, I don’t believe I will ever know what really happened that day in Dallas 50 years ago.

Like many people, I still care that someone murdered JFK. He was a young President with an agenda for positive change in the USA. Some of that seems to have been carried thru by LBJ, but we’ll never know what two terms of JFK would have done for the US or for the world. That is probably the real tragedy.

Great post here about NASA robots and Mars – there are, I guess two general schools of thought – send humans into space or send robots.

Robots are hardier and dont need as much oxygen / heat / organic fuel (food) / water as humans, so cheaper to achieve and health and safety aspects lower too.

 

 

iPad vs Kindle

January 31, 2012

One steaming hot July 4th I ended up waiting for a transfer at Dallas Airport.

That day in 2007 I saw a Kindle for the first time. I was in the transfers section of the airport for six long hours.

There were ads for the device on the transfer side, but the shop selling it was in the regular departures side. I looked longingly through the glass at the Kindle.

I flew out of Dallas that day, with fireworks exploding in the rouge Texas twilight sky. But with no Kindle in my hand.

I have to admit, I still do not own a Kindle. By the time they arrived in the UK the economy had bombed and I was less keen on buying gadgets.

Now tablet computers have really come into their own. The iPad does so much more than display books – it costs a lot more than the Kindle too. But the Kindle only shows text.

I am thinking it is now time I put right the injustice of Independence Day in Dallas* and got my hands on a digital reader (I do have a Kindle app on my android phone, but the screen can only display about three paragraphs at a time). But the BIG question is:

Kindle or iPad ?????

Advice please…

(*I have been in the USA for Independence Day twice and may describe the other time at some point…)

This news feature discusses the movement towards digital text books and learning in the developing world and the United States.

Cost could be a major driver here – when it is cheaper to give a child a tablet /laptop (whatever) than it is to provide them with text books, exercise books, pens, then the move willl become widespread and the days of paper’s dominance in schools will go the way of the blackboard and chalk…

Imperial Bedrooms

October 4, 2011

I was sceptical about a sequel to Less Than Zero, the scorching debut novel by Brett Easton Ellis written in the 80s while he was still at college. (Having written my uni dissertation on American Psycho, his take on the human cost of American capitalism, I have a bit of an interest in the work of Ellis)

If you can forgive the need to make the sequel also take place in a short period over Christmas in LA, when the protagonist has just returned from a period of time on the east coast, it is actually a reasonable read.

We find the characters of the first novel now middle aged and jaded. (This theme has resonance for me as I have recently made the mortifying discovery I am middle aged, and not the person I was at 22) The opening of the book casts Ellis as a friend of the group who wrote down what happened to them in the first novel. This is mentioned to explain how they all ended up at the premiere of the film version of the first novel, watching brat pack era movie stars play them. And unlike in the novel, one of them is killed off. Apparently the ‘real’ character was mortified to discover he was killed off.

The examination of what the Less Than Zero characters became is interesting, particularly for those who have followed the career of Ellis. The novel is really readable (unlike Glamarama, which I have still never finished). At some point (the vanishing point?) I would like to read Less Than Zero again, quickly followed by Imperial Bedrooms, as I think that would show just how good the first novel is and give an exact measurement of whether the sequel stands real comparison to the debut novel, which was one of the best fiction written in the 1980s.

%d bloggers like this: