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88 Names: A Novel (2020)

por Matt Ruff

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Intriguing premise but a bit underwhelming on story.

I'm a sucker for what I think of as EconSF: stories that extrapolate from known concepts and explore how they will get twisted and exploited by real people just trying to make a buck. So the concept of sherpa guides leading entitled rich tourists on safari through virtual game worlds was conceptual catnip to me, and on that level, 88 Names delivered. The language, behaviors, and customs of these imagined gamers of the near future had an authenticity that I enjoyed. Some of the references were a little "inside baseball," so some readers may not get them all, but I suspect Ruff has a lifetime of experience with gaming of all kinds and that love certainly came through, enriching the gaming scenes with enthusiasm and sparkle.

But that's where the solid extrapolation ended for me. Once we took off the VR headsets, the rest of the world seemed disappointingly commonplace. To use his own scale, it was neither interesting, creative, nor imaginative. It was just... now, plus immersive gaming. Even the political backstory was taken straight out of the modern world with no real forward projection, so I found myself oddly conflicted, trying to reconcile the futuristic gaming experience with a surrounding world that did not feel advanced enough to sustain it.

The plot setup seemed promising at first - take a newbie on a tour through the full spectrum of future gaming - but in the end, we saw too few examples, and none that were particularly new or clever - so it never really delivered on its promise.

There was also an early moment where the title was explained, in a way that teased an interesting sort of countdown-to-doom story coming, but that promise was never cashed in either.

In the end, this felt like a one-trick pony. Cool idea for a gaming sub-industry. But its straightforward plot, with too few twists, too easily resolved, left me lamenting the story that didn't happen rather than reveling in the one that did. ( )
  Jefficus | May 5, 2021 |
With a narrator who is a twenty something male nerd who relies on his parent to fix his problems, it is no surprise--but still a disappointment--that this book's style includes a lot of useless technical details, over explaining, and arrogance. Most of the "action" takes place online in the world of virtual reality role playing games, which may sound interesting to some readers, but I found it low inconsequential and dull. Only the climax is set IRL (in real life), but at that point I had stopped caring.

I expected a lot more from the author of Lovecraft Country, which is a brilliantly structured commentary on racism in America within the frame of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres of literature. Not recommended. ( )
  librarianarpita | Apr 2, 2021 |
John Chu is a video game sherpa - rich people hire him to guide them through video games, so that they can go kill the big bosses without having to do all the work of leveling up. A strange client approaches him one day and asks for a tour of every major video game in exchange for ridiculous sums of money. John begins to suspect that this client is working for the North Korean government, and realizes he is involved in something huge and potentially very dangerous. Meanwhile, the book is peppered with flashbacks to John's virtual relationship with a woman named Darla, a talented but caustic gamer who holds a grudge for being kicked off John's team.

The book is fun fluff. The "surprise" at the end is hardly surprising at all, and a bit disappointing given Ruff's penchant for wacky plot twists. It's also one of those books where there are too many convenient coincidences: John's mom just happens to work for the FBI, his employees just happen to have the skills and connections he needs to survive the book, and his dad just happens to pop up at the end with the connections and helicopter John needs to pull off a plan. It's all very tidy, which is satisfying, but also feels a bit like cheating. Despite all of that, the book is engaging and entertaining, so if you're looking for a fun way to kill a few hours, it will do the trick. ( )
  Gwendydd | Dec 27, 2020 |
I think I need to be a gamer to really understand this book on gaming. Lots of jargon, and I got lost by the middle of the book, sometimes I felt it was meandering….and it just didn’t hold my interest. ( )
  brangwinn | Apr 5, 2020 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Matt Ruffautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculated
Jordan, AlexandraTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Ruoto, WilliamDesignerautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Taylor, JarrodDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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