88 Names

A Novel
By: Matt Ruff
Narrated by: Ewan Chung
Length: 8 hrs and 14 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The critically acclaimed author of Lovecraft Country returns with a thrilling and immersive virtual reality epic - part cyberthriller, part twisted romantic comedy - that transports you to a world where identity is fluid and nothing can be taken at face value. 

John Chu is a “sherpa” - a paid guide to online role-playing games like the popular Call to Wizardry. For a fee, he and his crew will provide you with a top-flight character equipped with the best weapons and armor, and take you dragon-slaying in the Realms of Asgarth, hunting rogue starships in the Alpha Sector, or battling hordes of undead in the zombie apocalypse. 

Chu’s new client, the pseudonymous Mr. Jones, claims to be a “wealthy, famous person” with powerful enemies, and he’s offering a ridiculous amount of money for a comprehensive tour of the world of virtual-reality gaming. For Chu, this is a dream assignment, but as the tour gets underway, he begins to suspect that Mr. Jones is really North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, whose interest in VR gaming has more to do with power than entertainment. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Chu also has to worry about “Ms. Pang”, who may or may not be an agent of the People’s Republic of China, and his angry ex-girlfriend, Darla Jean Covington, who isn’t the type to let an international intrigue get in the way of her own plans for revenge. 

What begins as a whirlwind online adventure soon spills over into the real world. Now Chu must use every trick and resource at his disposal to stay one step ahead - because in real life, there is no reset button.

©2020 Matt Ruff (P)2020 HarperAudio

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    3 out of 5 stars

I love this author... didn’t love this book.

I love Matt Ruff - “Bad Monkeys” is a wonderful, twisty psychological thriller, and “Lovecraft Country” is one of the smartest and most sensitive genre works of the last decade.

This one however felt undercooked, and a bit derivative. “Ready Player One” is a strong influence here (even mentioned by name in the text), but the charm didn’t fully carry over.

That said, Ruff can ably write characters and drama, so you won’t be bored. I was definitely engaged from start to finish, but I felt robbed of a payoff by the end.

The performance was good, but didn’t substantially add to the experience. Compared to the excellent performance on the “Bad Monkeys” re-release, and the sublime performance on “Lovecraft Country,” I found this one wanting.

All in all, not my favorite Matt Ruff work. I was happy to buy it on day one though to support an extremely talented author.