ready player one

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

WARNING – MAJOR SPOILERS

For awhile I wasn’t sure if this was a subtle work of genius or a badly written pile of cak, and having finished it I’m sorry to say it’s the latter. Spielberg might be able to make a kick-bottom film out of this, but the work as it stands is bubbling over with flaws. Mind you, I’m in a small minority here, as everyone seems to love this, but here we go anyway.

First up, it’s written in the style of a nerdy virgin 17-year-old virtual reality spod who spends most of his time in The Oasis, an online world created by a techno-wizard who has hidden three keys to three gates which, when all are found, will unlock billions of moolah for the discoverer. So far, so average. We’re playing the bog-standard three act setup, which considering Cline is a screenwriter by trade is about as surprising as finding Trump in a brown shirt.

If you can get over the fact that, if the literary style were a human being, you’d get the urge to flush its head down the toilet, we come across the second hurdle, which are the characters. We get every cliché in the book. Nerdy virgin hero who’s super cool really, but with quirks – mainly his freakish obsession with pursuing the spiky shit-hot heroine with her own quirks (apparently a birthmark is a character trait now). We also get the evil-nasty-cackling bad guy who tries to bribe the hero into joining his Megacorp in his pursuit of the keys, and then blows up his family when that doesn’t work. What a bastard! Plus, there’s the bog-standard Gandalf, who pops up to save everything at the end. Yawn.

If you can get over the bad writing and the god-awful characters, we have the next hurdle, which is the 80s nostalgia. Now, the main selling point of this book is the main character’s obsession with the 80’s, but only one particular type of 80s. Mainly, the mainstream 80s – the world of Rush, Bryan Adams, Back to the Future, WarGames and everything else which made a shit load of money. Nothing off the charts here. No Evil Dead or Jello Biafra or cheesy Italian Mad Max rip-offs. That would actually require a good working knowledge of an 80’s that wasn’t rammed down our gullets by mainstream culture. This, in a cloyingly cynical move, is an 80’s culture which is designed to shift copies, where middle-aged readers can go, “Blimey, I remember that really popular thing! How warm and cosy I feel in the embrace of this nostalgia.”

If you can get over that then there’s the bastard-awful plot, where every twist and turn is telegraphed in advance. Oh, look, a stack of papers has fallen over in the apparently secret online virtual reality chat room which you can only get too by invite only. I wonder if they’re being watched by an invisible force? Fuck me, they are! There’s even a bit where the main character gains a coin after playing a Pacman game, and you KNOW that bastard is turning up at a crucial juncture later on.

Then there’s the pacing. We have whole chapters dedicated to the lead character’s living quarters, and then a massive battle is passed over in three pages. Because of the piss-poor characters and telegraphed plot lines we get no tension whatsoever. The lead is great at every game, knows every 80s pop-culture reference, and weaves ultra-complex plans to thwart the enemy which pay off without anything going wrong.

Worst of all, because it all takes place in an online reality, there is no threat to compel the reader. If you die then – no worries – you just lose all your points and have to start from the beginning. To be fair, one player is actually physically killed by Main Bad Dude, but nothing is made to ratchet up any tension around the idea that other players might be for the chop. And the dialogue! Jesus wept! Everyone says ‘dude’ and talks as though a middle-aged man with no memory of being a teenager and has nabbed all his dialogue beats from shit teen films.

The whole project reads like a virtual reality version of Sucker Punch. If you wanted to take it further it’s like a literary version of the video games Saints Row 4, which also took place in a virtual world, and which also trawled through the history of video games, albeit in order to spoof them. Also, Saints Row 4 was bloody hilarious!

A minor point of contention amongst all this – why does everyone, regardless of their fucking age, personality, or situation, smile sheepishly if they get caught out/say something wrong. These characters don’t act like people but cardboard cyphers to be kicked around a playing box full of toys.

For a book which has received so much hype it’s a deflating, frustrating experience. After this I started reading The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway. I’m 20 pages in and it’s bloody awesome! Amusing, believable dialogue. Interesting characters. Engaging writing and situations. Everything a good book should be. And that’s only in the first ruddy chapter!

As a final note, Ready, Player One reminds me of The Girl With All the Gifts – a piece of work designed to be sold to a film company, rather than an actual book in its own right. As a consequence, it’s soulless and empty.

It’s now official. The Daily Mail are no longer exclusively obsessed with slagging off migrants, the poor, and the EU and have turned their sights on the biggest threat to humanity since Hitler. Big Ben will no longer bong, and after yesterday’s exclusive front page whinge about ‘health and safety gorn mad’ they’ve managed to extract a promise from a few MPs that never again will they think about the safety of workers by turning the chimes off.

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People, it’s just a big fucking clock, okay? Get a grip.

The Express have gone back to one of their favourite past times as well, which is sucking up to the government with the cheering news for anyone with a house – but crucially not the poor bastards about to buy one – that prices are soaring again, thus making it harder for those renting to stump up for a starter home with shitty walls, bollocks plumbing, and which was slapped together by some bastard housing firm who couldn’t give a donkey’s ringpiece about quality. What cheery news.

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On a side note, it appears Trump has now reverse-ferretted again and claimed it was the anti-racists who were responsible for Bad Things in Charlottesville because his bestie David Duke has thrown a big sulk. Nice to see the tiny handed, fake weave bonced, orange cretin is still keeping up his credibility as a useless, bumbling, reactionary old joke.

 

 

Donald Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee

Trump definitely not being a racist, yesterday

 

There’s been a lot of talk these days about whether Donald Trump is going to kill us all. I’d like to soothe everyone’s mind by saying no, he won’t personally, or at least not unless you get too close and turn out to be black or Mexican or Hispanic, and even then there’s a good chance his guards will be able to stop him before he bites your head off.

So, stop worrying, The World! Donald Trump is just a harmless, bumbling megalomaniac with his finger on the button and a propensity to start bun fights with equally insane and despotic Bond villains. It’s not like he’s actually, potentially, almost-certainly dangerous or anything – just mostly so.

The basic fact that people have to remember is this – the world has not ended yet. Yes, there have been a few warning signs, like the four horsemen of the apocalypse having a quick snack in the Washington layby, but there are fundamental differences between what the prophesies have foretold and reality. For instance, it is said that the horn-ed one would have 666 as a birthmark on its head, and yet Donald Trump merely has three arses under his weave. The facts are irrefutable.

The main problem we have with the naysayers is their relationship to truth and the ACTUAL truth which Donald and the alt.right have at their disposal, which despite the lack of factuality are more truthful than actual things which definitely happened. As some of the great philosophers have probably said (I’ve no real idea – Donald frowns on book-learnin’), reality is merely a concept, and facts are malleable to whoever the interpreter is.

Take the latest furore over Donald keeping his trap shut over the troubles in Charlottesville. Yes, some people may see this as him tacitly approving of the tactics of the extreme far right, only to have his arm twisted by overwhelming condemnation before capitulating and offering some piss-poor mimsy comment snarled through gritted teeth, like the vacuous lies he normally tells. But those people would be churlish. Being his official spokesman (for this week) I can say without shadow of a doubt that Trump was contemplating the full weight of the events which had taken place, and was trying to think of the most heartfelt and poignant words to fully get across to the people of the world the enormity of his condemnation of whatever it was that happened.

Which just goes to show how much The Donald cares about things and feelings. He didn’t have to spend two days thinking up words which fit together to form sentences to show how bad and stuff the Nazis were, but he did, although most people would have called them a bunch of brown shirted, goose stepping monkey bollocks from day one, but not The Donald. He knows that his every pronouncement is gold, which he then feeds to you – the public – in bite sized nuggets, to treasure.

As a great man once said, “Donald Trump’s pants are definitely not on fire – they are merely warming to the issue.”

Just a minor point to mention before we get to the main thrust of the Corner this week. The Express, peddlers of many statin-based articles and crackpot theories, have decided to forget this ‘news’ nonsense once more and concentrate on a story which is as old as my testicles, which were originally unearthed along with the first mammoth bones.

Yes, it’s that old chestnut that a glass of wine or beer in moderation will help you live longer. As I remember, this was first mooted back in the days when tribes of blonde haired people fought wars with tribes of black haired people whilst dinosaurs ruled the earth. Nice one, Richard Desmond – on top of the game as usual!

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Still, NONE of that matters now that Paul Dacre and his hulking mass of drooling sub humanoid servant-creatures – excuse me – journalists, have decided to trot the old spectre of Health and Safety Gorn Mad out from the cupboard. If we’re dealing with old, smelly headlines, then this one is up there with The Express.

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The cause of this panic? They’re turning off Big Ben for 4 years so the poor fuckers working on refurbishing Downing Street don’t go deaf every time the bastard chimes.

Now, wiser minds that the gibbering hell-creatures under Dacre’s tutelage have obviously deemed this to be serious enough to put a halt to the chimes. I’m sure they didn’t go, “You know, as Health and Safety managers for this project we obviously need to boil the shit of any tabloid editors out there with some health and safety bollocks, just so we can get an earful from some arsehole who’s never done a hard day’s graft in his life, so let’s pointlessly put an end to Big Ben’s chimes BECAUSE WE’RE ALL MAD WITH POWER!!!” Having worked in H&S this shit is usually instigated for a reason, and not because Johnny Worker has to wear earmuffs when the big clock goes ‘bong’.

Little known fact: All sharp objects in Paul Dacre’s office have cushions on the end of them in case he bumps into anything.

 

 

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Trump’s sulky face as he’s forced to say he hates Nazis.

 

Gah! I originally wrote this when Trump was keeping his weird face shut over the subject of condemning racists outright. Now he’s been forced into coughing up a meagre response. When I first heard about it I imagined some old-style Edwardian school teacher standing over him with a cane and threatening to give ten lashes if he didn’t put some effort into saying sorry, only for Trump to stick his bottom lip out in a sulk, stare at the floor, and mumble “allracistsarebad”.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote earlier in the day, AND IT STILL STANDS, DAMMIT!!

“This should not a surprise. Considering the support Trump has received from the alt.right since his bid to become Grand Poohbah, he obviously doesn’t want to upset his voting base by calling them a bunch of Nazi loons.

It does beg the question whether Trump himself is a right-wing Nazi loon, which is a more difficult question considering his flip-flopping political leanings over the years. Let’s never forget, this is a man who once supported Hilary Clinton and touted himself as pro-life.

I’m reading a book at the moment called Ready, Player One, which is written in the style of an over-excited nerdy teenager, and I’m trying to figure out whether it’s a work of art for directly emulating The World of Spod, or whether it’s just badly written. You can almost see Trump in the same light. Is he a knowing grandee, playing the alt.right for all it’s worth, or is his loyalty to the right wing cause a reality? A question which often pops into my mind is, if the US suddenly turned left-wing, what are the chances that Trump would ape their ideology to get his tiny hands on their votes?

As one BBC news pundit pointed out, Trump was always quick to condemn Obama every time there was a terrorist attack for not calling the killers ‘terrorists’. Now he’s shrugging off the idea that the attacker was a Nazi, or even condemning the rally itself, thus giving tacit support to the alt.right fanbase which helped to support his White House bid.

To condemn all Trump supporters as goose stepping brown shirts would be injurious to reality, much as it would be slate all Brexiteers as bigots, but the fact is a lot of support came from the sort of people who want to bring back cross burning as a national sport. This is not your peace and love crowd. The sensible option would have been to condemn the Nazis from the highest pulpit, as the mayor of Charlottesville did, and not show the world the colour of your spine with half-hearted rhetoric blaming all sides.

Trump is not man who is worried by reality. He will shape it to fit his own conceptions, and fire anyone who counters his white wash of the facts. In a presidency filled with lies, distortions, obfuscation and downright bullshit, Trump is the arsehole at the top of the heap, spewing his diatribes, unaware of the effect. History will look on him the same way they looked on Nixon. Hagiographies will applaud, and you can bet those hagiographies will be a written by the kind of people who marched for the right in Charlottesville.

It’s another depressing reminder of the state we’re in as a collective humanity, with one half fighting for inclusion and the other half pushing for exclusion, and at the moment, from a global perspective, it looks as though the exclusion side is winning. However, the push back must not waver, because to waver is allow the right wing to win, and historically that’s never left a good aftermath.”

Just a quick one today (ooer, missus, fnarr, etc) as The Daily Arsepress report on Donald Trump being a total nutjiob. Now, as all know Trump is about as sane as a bag full of mad badgers, so that’s not really the point of this column. Reporting on Trump being bonkers mental would be about as revelatory as reporting that Michael Gove was a total cunt, or George Osborne was originally grown in a petri dish. No – the main point of this little article is to draw your attention to the box-in beside the main headline, which reports that ‘Now migrants are hauled out of cars’.

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It may be a refugee. It may be somebody fleeing from terror, torture, war, social or sexual victimisation, or generally something rather unpleasant. It may be somebody fleeing from the harsh social economics of their place of birth. It may be all manner of things, but The Arsepress decide that they hate migrants, because they’re a bunch if bigoted shit puppets, and have gone for the ‘Cor, lumme – look what they’re up too now’ style reportage.

In this reporter’s opinion, there are some people who should not have any access to the means of mass distribution, and Richard Desmond is one of those people. And Paul Dacre. And Rupert Murdoch. And (goes on forever).

splatter capital

Splatter Capital by Mark Steven

It’s easy to link horror films to societal complexes. Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a comment on the nuclear family, Hostel as a study of the global effect of torture in the War on Terror, Dawn of the Dead as an attack on consumerism, but what Mark Steven tries to do is link horror – and, more succinctly, Splatter – to an economic dialogue; as a reflection and attack on capital in the 20th and 21st Century.

A few small gripes first. Steven needs to be more finickity about his facts. In one segment on body horror he describes the scene in Videodrome where Convex gets shot by Max Renn and ‘his innards try to burst out of his body’. However, if you read Cronenberg On Cronenberg you know they’re actually tumours. Also, Mark comments on Hellraiser and how the fact that half of the cast are dubbed into American as a critique of the US dominance stance in European finance, where it’s actually because the studio flogging the film were trying to make it as palatable to the American public as possible, which also explains why everyone drinks Coors.

Apart from these sections, Splatter Capital is a pretty incisive book. Steven loves his subject, which shines through in the text, and clearly has a boot to kick into the groin of capitalist economics. He manages to come up with some good examples of how Chainsaw represents industrialisation and commercial collapse, and how Hostel is a shout against the rich subverting the poor by literally turning them into an economically disposable item.

Saying that, some of the time this doesn’t work. Sections on capital and splatter seemed shoe-horned into the corner and tend to jar, and the fact that Steven thinks The Devil’s Rejects is a work of art, rather than a tiresome load of old self-indulgent wank it is, count against him. Plus, he’s a bit squeamish. In one chapter he describes a scene in Saw 3 where a lawyer gets pig guts dumped all over him as one of the most hideously revolting scenes he’s witnessed, yet it’s actually pretty mild compared with some of the other incidents in the film.

Films, for me, are a reflection of society as a whole, so to narrow it down to capital alone seems a bit reductive, although it does make an interesting argument, and Mark should be applauded for trying to take a different angle on the subject of horror. Plus, he gets massive kudos for mentioning Splatter by John McCarthy, which is one of the few works out there devoted to the history of gore.

A good chin-stroker for those who like their horror critiques with a bit of meat on its bones. And off its bones, come to think of it. And maybe with an axe in the head. And a face in the blender. And don’t forget the pliers! And (etc, etc)…