Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

When I first read the description of this book I was a little skeptical. It touted the book as "a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches." Now I've read most of those books and really enjoyed them, so my interest is piqued. Anything compared to Jane Eyre must be good. And you know what, it really was!

The book is a masterpiece of intrigue, innocence, the paranormal, historical, and mythological all in one. It centers on Thea Slavin, a piano prodigy from Bulgaria starting her first year at Princeton. But she is also there to uncover the secret of what happened to her sister, whom she didn't even know existed until shortly before leaving, while she was at Princeton several years before. That curiosity pulls her into a world unlike any she has ever seen before that presents a combination of Greek and Bulgarian mythology.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was its sensuality. It was rich, dark and mysterious that wraps around the reader, adding a little spice yet still being below the line of full on erotica. It is difficult to achieve that kind of balance, and I think the author did it splendidly.

I also loved the descriptions of Princeton. I've never been there, but through this book I felt like I was really seeing it. She placed me at the scene and with Thea I went to the landmark buildings that make up this stunning campus. I think a little visit may be in the cards soon. Who knows, maybe I'll find my tall, dark and handsome stranger too!

History lesson!
the story of Orpheus in Greek mythology. The tale of Orpheus features prominently in this book. It is the tale of a musician so gifted that the Gods would sit up and pay attention. He could charm all animals, trees, and even stones with his lyre. He shows up in Greece around the 6th century BCE, although noted writers of this period such as Homer don't mention him.

One of his most famous stories stems from devotion to his wife, Eurydice. When she dies Orpheus travels to the underworld to bring her back. He charms Hades who tells him that he can have Eurydice back, but must lead her out of the underworld without once looking back at her. Unfortunately, the temptation proves too much- he looks back, and Eurydice dies all over again. Orpheus is devastated and never gets over it. He meets his end at the hand of Maenads (servants of Dionysis) because he has betrayed his god. Or is that really the reason? Read Wildalone for another perspective.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Have you ever just wanted to escape the constraints of your own life? Have you ever wished that instead you could live in a world where your fantasies can become a reality of sorts? Well that is the world in which Ready Player One is set. It's really only a few years away from the present given our trajectory. This virtual world, the Oasis, is a 24 hour dive into those fantasies. Here you can be anything and everything you ever wanted to be. Just plug yourself in and you're ready to go! Sounds amazing, doesn't it? I know you are nodding.

But let's take a moment and think about what a fully immersive dream world might do to the real world. I'm not the only person who would prefer my dreams to what is currently my life. So let's say that an entire society makes this call. Then the country. Then the world. Who is left to encounter reality?

So the real world deteriorates as people only really care about how much electricity and bandwidth they have. And that enables some to rise up and take control of that reality now that no one is looking. So then everything, real and virtual, slowly gets enveloped as you lose more and more control over everything that was once important- the internet, human interaction, the economy, leadership. While no one was paying attention the world got taken over by tyrants who believe they can do whatever they want, because hey, that's the whole point of the OASIS, right?

They slowly make the virtual populace dependent upon them in order to achieve those dreams and fantasies. And before you know it your life is no longer your own. And you don't notice because you're still dreaming.

I'd be lying to myself if I said I didn't want to experience the OASIS. But having your economic future dependent upon how much the tyrants want you to pay for those now necessary items to your new life is very shaky ground. They could pull the rug out from under you at any time, for any reason that they want.

So when a teenager becomes enemy number one due to a contest that would hand off total control of the OASIS to the winner, things get ugly. Your dream world turned into a nightmare. You have to hide your real self so you aren't found and exterminated before you can finish the quest. Nothing is certain anymore and the game keeps changing.

But this story is not all dark. It is also a story of hope, that in every point of darkness a light will emerge to bring things back to center. In Ready Player One, it was one boy in whose hands the future, both virtual and real, lies. He is the one to stand up to the tyrant and tell them that there is someone who will fight to save control of our dreams and realities. And that beacon of hope inspires countless numbers to wake up, look around, and realize that what is being taken away is precious. So they join the fight.

This book is amazing because of the many layers it has. On the surface it is just a video game. Then you dig deeper and find the criticism for where our own society is headed. To that all I can say is not to give up your dreams to someone else, even if it seems easier. Take control of your life. That is the only way you can really live.