Player One : Are You Ready?

Recently I picked up the novel “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline because the Steven Spielberg film comes out March 29. The ad didn’t look that promising but I wanted to see if the book was any good. So how is it? It’s interesting. It’s a mixture of the teen dystopian science fiction that’s so popular right now and a far more interesting postmodernism which I haven’t seen in literature recently. It’s about a future where Earth is a shithole so everyone spends all their time on the OASIS, a high-speed virtual reality internet wonderland where you can lose yourself in gaming and movies. and chat rooms. The founder of the OASIS, a reclusive billionaire, dies and leaves his fortune to whoever is smart enough and a good enough gamer to win. In order to win, you have to be a pop-culture genius and retro video-game expert. A group of five teen gamers and film buffs must get to the Golden Egg before the villainous Sixers do, or virtual reality will be forever doomed.

This book’s greatest attributes are its armada of pop-culture references and pop culture jokes. From Delorians to Johnny Five, Max Headroom to “Blade Runner,” 80’s pop culture is constantly referenced and joked about. This could lead to some very interesting filmmaking if Spielberg has the satirical chops. What’s not so good are the geeky characters, the predictable plot, and the unnecessary infusion of politically correct messages. For example, we are supposed to believe that a 168-pound girl is hot. Sorry, Homey don’t play that… also, another girl has gender issues. Not to be mean, but I don’t care about that. Eventually, the paper-thin characters and annoying “positive” messages wore me out and the book took too long to finish.

Will the movie be any good? Spielberg’s a genius but he may not be good enough at comedy to pull this off, as evidenced by his super-mediocre flick “1941.” Also, audiences may be tired of the whole teem dystopia thing. However, the film has buzz of perhaps being a real special FX breakthrough. If it’s better than “The Matrix” FX and imaginative enough, maybe it’ll be a surprise success. We here at GROIN are planning to post a review of this film on opening weekend, and here’s hoping it’s amazing!

Pinball Links Music Death & Sex

Do you ever feel like the world is just kind of slapping you around from one situation in life to the next, like you don’t belong anywhere with anyone? Or that people sometimes bounce off each other in dramatic ways: some succeed, some die, others fade into obscurity.

I recently finished an interesting book called Pinball, by Jerzy Kosinski.  Supposedly, it was written for the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. The author is a Polish guy who was on the way to Polanski’s the day the Manson family killed them. He only wrote five books or so and is a cult author, known for so many revisions and being compact in his writing style. The author is like a well kept secret. And as the book shows, sometimes our secrets can be liabilities.

The plot involves a love triangle, which involves a number of pianist (performers) and composers. The main ploy is one of them is a very famous but reclusive composer, whose identity remains unknown. Throughout the book, the link main emphasis is on sex as a catharsis release of energy which then engages the creative spirit. Chopin is brought up as a sick but pertinent example. The author demonstrates tons of  knowledge of classical up through modern synthesizer music. And a bit about early rock and roll. He does this historically, as well in terms of performance art knowledge.  The love triangle is very intimidate, because the lovers are affecting each others musical compositions or performances, so that each act of lust takes on a higher meaning.

The climax of the book results in a final bloody and fatal feud, not unlike American Psycho crossed with a Tarentino script. The author is clearly a musician and probably sexually obsessive himself. The honesty of the writing style gives it power and purpose. In an age where the slightest touch on the ass of a hot female will result in the Gulag, reading a book such as this, or 1984, reminds one of the importance of the human touch, and the ability to freely associate and express oneself , free from tyranny.

Note that the one eye on the cover is probably Illuminati symbolism.


Presumed Innocent Sequel Prevails

In the late 1980’s Scott Turow’s first novel “Presumed Innocent” set the publishing world aflame with its sexual explicitness and its dense, riveting mystery. It was a number one best-seller and was turned into a classic thriller film with Harrison Ford. Twenty years later, Turow came out with a sequel called “Innocent” which is not sexually explicit but does have just as riveting a mystery. Why does it work so well?

At the end of “Presumed Innocent,” the protagonist Rusty Sabich is acquitted of murder charges. At the beginning of “Innocent,” he gets implicated in a woman’s death again-this time, his wife’s. He ends up on trial again and even his loving son Nat wonders if he is guilty or not. Further complicating matters is Anna, Nat’s girlfriend, who used to be lovers with Rusty and may have some involvement with the wife’s death. As the trial goes on, the twists and turns continue.

“Innocent” is a spellbinding thriller because it keeps you guessing till the end. The guessing is not so much who killed whom as it is what twist and turn in the trial is coming up next. The novel is told from the point of view of several different characters, which actually helps build suspense about what’s going to happen. Several characters, such as Rusty and the prosecutor Tommy Molto, have complicated character arcs and many good and bad character traits. That sort of complexity is a breath of fresh air in an age of writing for dummies. I was spellbound through 400+ pages of this book, and by the end I felt I had been put through the literary ringer. In short, if you’re looking for a great thriller, try “Innocent”!