You by Austin Grossman

Mike’s review

The image of a joystick controlling fictional world: “–a physical link into the world of the fictional–” is a good image/explanation of videogames. (Personally, I prefer to accomplish this feat with a pen.)

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It’s easier to forgive mistakes (typos, going to work for high school friends even though you’re afraid and want nothing to do with them or why they think you are based on who you were and have no real motivation, years’ suppressed programming desire, the jacket saying “But mostly he needs to know what happened to Simon, his strangest and most gifted friend, who died under mysterious circumstances” like it’s going to be some murder mystery when truthfully, the narrator doesn’t really care about how Simon died and there seem to be no nefarious reasons behind his death whatsoever) when the book is more or less enjoyable/fun. Easier to move past when you’re caught up in the next thing and don’t have to dwell for fifty pages about how the author dicked you over.

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Another in a string of locally tied books. Author lives in Berkeley. Purely coincidental this time. Just happened to be what jumped out at me on the library shelf.

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Some of the real life narrated inside a video game style sections are clunky, but that’s okay. Hard to tell where the metaphor starts and stops. Would have been nice to have a breakdown: Brendon was modeled after me, the wizard after Simon and so on.

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Probably not gonna let my kids anywhere near a camp called KidBits. With a not at all creepy marker and construction paper sign.

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There are a lot of in-joke references to programming that I’d probably find really amusing if I understood any of them.

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Okay. Here’s my attempt at plot summary. Some of it I understand, some of it I don’t. I’ll try not to dwell too long on what I don’t. I think chronological is the easiest way to do this, though the book doesn’t go in that order. Four high school kids go to a computer summer camp when computers are just becoming a thing.They make a game and everyone at the camp plays in a tournament. The kid who wins is one of the four main characters. He does this with something of a borderline illegal maneuver of using MournBlade, a sword which just fucking kills everything and everyone (including its wielder). So they grow up and three of the kids form a game company and one kid says, “I’m not some fucking nerd, I’m out.” and goes to law school, eventually, after trying a bunch of other stuff. Probably too much stuff for the time between twenty-one and twenty-eight, but who’s counting. And then our narrator loses himself again and for no discernible reason comes crawling back to the gaming company. (Oh, and also, the kid who won the tournament died. This is the so-called “mysterious death” alluded to earlier, but really, it’s next to nothing on the scale of plot points.) So, soon after our narrator rejoins the gang the charismatic leader abandons the company for his own startup, because, I don’t know, money. And then the game the company is creating starts to go haywire. All the games the company has ever built has used the same basic structure as that first computer camp game. MournBlade is back, destroying the world. So now our narrator, who seems vastly more inept at programming than he probably should be, must fix this bug. Oh, and also, somehow this gaming company created some stock market predictor engine thing, which, must be widely used, because MournBlade is somehow causing massive worldwide financial panic. I think? I don’t understand how this works. This is where I pretty much just said, “Well, you’re this far, might as well plow through these forty pages that don’t make any sense and get to the end of this thing.”

Yeah. So, plot wise, there are some problems, but it’s pretty much a fun read. More or less well written. I’d have preferred a little more introspection, like real introspection, not weird, I think I’m on a date with a video game character, this probably isn’t really happening introspection. I mean, there can be both. There was serious potential for a mid-twenties coming of age tale here, that it didn’t really get into, just hinted at and I get it’s about video games and that’s the market and all, but target markets are stupid.

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