A novel of mystery, videogames, and the people who create them, by the best-selling author of Soon I Will Be Invincible.
When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers of both technology and entertainment. In part, he's finally given up chasing the conventional path that has always seemed just out of reach. But mostly, he needs to know what happened to Simon, the strangest and most gifted friend he ever lost, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit.
Then Black Arts' revolutionary next-gen game is threatened by a mysterious software glitch, and Russell finds himself in a race to save his job, Black Arts' legacy, and the people he has grown to care about. The bug is the first clue in a mystery leading back 20 years, through real and virtual worlds, corporate boardrooms and high school computer camp, to a secret that changed a friendship and the history of gaming. The deeper Russell digs, the more dangerous the glitch appears - and soon, Russell comes to realize that much more is at stake than just one software company's bottom line.
Austin Grossman's debut novel Soon I Will Be Invincible announced the arrival of a singular, genre-defying talent "sure to please fans of Lethem and Chabon" (Playboy). With You, Grossman offers his most daring and most personal novel yet - a thrilling, hilarious, authentic portrait of the world of professional game makers; and the story of how learning to play can save your life.
©2013 Austin Grossman (P)2013 Hachette
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
Sadly, You could have been so much better, but as it stands, I don't recommend it unless you are really interested in the history of personal gaming computers and games. I picked up the book because someone said it reminded him of Ready Player One which I loved even though I'm not a big gamer. Be warned, You has almost nothing in common with RPO except that video games factor in the story. The plot lines of the two books are not similar at all and YOU is strictly fiction not sci-fi/fantasy fiction.
The plot of You is one of its problems - Russell, the main character, is struggling to find himself and his place in the world. By going to work for a video game company started by his old friends he tries to reconnect to his past and work through his existential questions while exploring the games as part of his job. The title YOU comes from the large sections of the book that are conveyed in second person as Russell works through his questions and problems as an avatar in different games. Example: You are a 14 year old girl, you are on a space ship, you encounter a cave, etc. Its not that the plot is dull, it just sort of seems to wander around and I found the second person sections a little confusing and tiresome after a while. In addition to trying to resolve his own identity crisis, Russell attempts to delve into the mystery of the death of his genius friend, Simon. If Grossman had made the resolution of mystery a larger part of the plot, that might have helped create more tension in the narrative, but ultimately, the mystery takes a back seat and the book leaves many related questions open.
In addition, the characters, although interesting, are difficult to relate to. They don't seem to relate to each other well so maybe its not too surprising that I didn't invest in them much. And there is one character, Don, that I never understood quite where he came from - he seems to have history with the other characters but he isn't part of original friendship. In addition to the human characters, the four central video game avatars are really characters and they are no more relatable than the people. The humans and the avatars all seem a little spacy and not well defined.
Narrative is all first and second person so it isn't a great challenge to a narrator, but Will Collyer was fine.
Ultimately, the book just sort of ends without a clear or satisfying conclusion. The book's summary describes it as thrilling and hilarious and it is neither. I didn't hate it, I was entertained by much of it, but I don't recommend it.
Eric Raymond is the author of "Confessions from a Dark Wood" published by Sator Press, 2012. He lives in San Francisco.
Definitely listen to this book if you've ever wanted a story combined with fairly exhaustive narratives of actual game play and the mechanics of game design and videogame history.
Will Collyer does an excellent job with the voices of the characters and provides pitch-perfect delineation between voices. His portrayals of Matt and Lisa are entertaining.
Grossman's a fine writer. YOU is worth the time, though if you're so inclined you can skim or double-time some of the longer sections describing particular games as they don't, for the most part, contribute materially to the overall story.
Grossman needed an editor who would have held him to cutting redundancies and forced him to extract the essential elements from the game play segments. Some of the earliest philosophical writing on the nature of videogames and the first generation to play them is absolutely stellar, envy-inducing prose. If you're looking for fiction combined with credible, authoritative perspectives on gaming and game design, you'll get it here.
Interested in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Biographies and great oratory.
YOU was a bitter-sweet experience for me. On one hand, it revisited a period of video gaming that was exciting to be a part of, and having been in the gaming industry at the time, it was certainly faithful to the game design process and mentality. The author clearly has a reverence for 90s gaming, and that was enjoyable to discover.
The characters and story, however, were completely forgettable to me. Even as a self-identifying geek gamer of the era, I never attached myself to anyone in the story, and found it very hard to care about them or what they were doing.
An attempt is made to bridge the real world and the game world by means of some clever computer code (and possible mental trauma) that never quite defines itself and ultimately goes nowhere. It's a safe book that explores some quaint what-if scenarios surrounding a game franchise's evolution, but as for thrills and suspense, I felt neither.
I loved Soon I Will Be Invincible by Grossman and would definitely read anything by him going forward despite my tepid experience with YOU.
I'll state right off the bat that the headline of this review may be unfair but I felt like I should give fair warning. I loved Grossman's previous novel, "Soon I Will be Invincible" and highly recommend it. I was looking forward to "You" but unfortunately, it was a disappointing listen. For me, it was the equivalent of listening to a gamer talk about their character or tell you about their video game experience for 13+ hours.
Video games are fun. I've been playing them most of my life and they can be an immersive, engaging experience. One of this novel's themes deals with that aspect of gaming, the degree to which a player identifies with the protagonist they're playing. However, video game characters rarely have much depth and that's where "You" runs into trouble. Grossman's a talented writer but the stakes in this book never feel high and the characterization is pretty thin. There are long passages describing game play that I found very dull, difficult listening. The descriptions of generic characters in fairly generic fantasy and science fiction settings engaging in the sort of activities you'd expect from that combination of elements really dragged. Perhaps readers who avidly play the kind of games described in the book or readers with a keen interest in video game design and programming will find this novel an engrossing listen but for me, it was a tedious slog and I barely made it to the end. After enjoying "Soon I Will Be Invincible" so much, it pains me to say that about "You" but I still consider Austin Grossman a talent worth watching and I hope I'll find his next novel more satisfying.
Meanwhile, unless you're really captivated by the sort of characters and experiences found in fantasy games, think twice about investing your time in this novel. It may not be for you.
I had a real hard time getting into this book. I have a lot of things in common with characters in this book - I'm a software engineer, I play video games, and I'm roughly the same age. The book seemed to flow between a narrative novel and a lesson in game design and software development - some of which wasn't even correct. The main driving force of the story isn't remotely accurate, and the way it would be overcome is not accurate either. And even if it was, they totally gloss over the fact that the main character in the story is totally unqualified to do it. I thought the alternate use of the game engine was a strained and frankly stupid way to make the plot have meaning. There are huge problems that make the plot beyond a huge stretch of the imagination.
Besides that, there are some other issues I had that don't relate to software development. In the flashbacks, I kept waiting for the interesting bit that would put a new perspective on the current developments. It seemed like it was always on the horizon, but it never happened. The book tries to draw a parallel between the game characters and the person playing the game by switching perspective mid-sentence. It's sometimes confusing, but mainly it doesn't work, and it plays heavily into the geek-in-moms-basement stereotype. Also, there are several loose ends and things are just never really made clear. He tried to clean some of that up in a way that reminded me of the end of Animal House and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where they throw in a "where are they now" kind of add-on blurb. And despite the similarities between myself and some of the characters, I just didn't care about any of them.
The narration, however, was perfectly fine. He doesn't jump completely into it like Roy Dotrice, but characters are clearly distinguishable by voice alone and his female voices don't sound silly or cartoonish.
Austin really captures what it's like to be in your late-20s: reminiscing about being "young" while struggling with the idea of still being able to make a change in your life while other peers seem to have already achieved success.
Like Grossman's other book, "Soon I Will Be Invincible," the story jumps around in both time and setting a lot. This book basically presents itself as a series of short stories that intermingle with one another to progress the core narrative. Any time I heard a mention of the plot's core conceit, my ears perked up - I *knew* this part would be important. It was almost as though I wanted to take notes so that I'd be able to solve the puzzle before the main character. I really felt the tension to solve the mystery. It was like being right there with them, no matter what time or space they were in.
Will Collyer's were really on-the-nose. There were a lot of scenes where 4 or 5 characters would hold an extended conversation, and Collyer's impressions were so distinct that it really felt like 5 separate people were talking. The way he captured each person's level of aloofness was pretty impressive, too.
Is life just a game?
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