Monday, February 22, 2016

The Eye of Minds

Title: The Eye of Minds
Author: James Dashner
Format: ebook
eISBN: 978-0-375-98463-1 

I am a fan of The Maze Runner trilogy. When you love a series by an author you simply can't resist tasting the next. So when I came across with this other book by James Dashner, I just had to dig in.

Set in the future New York, The Eye of Minds starts with a daunting scene of suicide attempt. A girl named Tanya was about to jump off a bridge. Michael, a teenage boy happened to be there tried to talk to her, to convince her not to. Luckily, it was just in a game. Or so Michael thought. He thought that this was just some kind of event where he could get experience points by successfully negotiating with the girl. After all, they are in the Sleep, in Lifeblood Deep, the most famous massive multiplayer online game in VirtNet. But he was wrong. This Tanya situation was serious.

The event before him was real. Michael was now sure of it, when Tanya started to rip off her Core out of her. The Core is a little thing planted in the head of the virtual body – which is actually a code in real life – that protects a player from being unable to separate the game life from real life. By removing the Core, when the virtual body dies, the player cannot process that as simulation therefore the physical body will die due to experiencing brain dead.So when the girl removed her Core and jumped off the bridge and died, the shock lingered in Michael's mind even after he's Lifted back to the Wake.

Disturbed by the experience, Michael shared it with his friends in Lifeblood; Bryson and Sarah. Despite never actually met each other in real life, their friendship was real. So real so that when Michael all of sudden was kidnapped and given mission by VNS – VirtNet Security – to find the mysterious cyber-terrorist named Kaine, Bryson and Sarah agreed to accompany. Even when things became more serious and complicated.

As the three friends explored the game finding clues of how to track down Kaine'swhereabout, the plot thickened, the scenes got bloodier, everything led to a shocking truth that twisted up the whole story.

"Things don’t have to be real to be real."

At first, to me, the idea of futuristic online game seemed a bit outdated. The ‘virtual simulation starts to ruin real life' thing is not that fresh either. But as I read on, I was totally absorbed by the intensity of it. The fast pace, the actions, very much James Dashner’s thing.

If you have read Dashner's works, the style is not much of a difference. The way the characters talk to each other, the slang, the humor.

Taking gaming life as a set makes The Eye of Minds full of gaming terms. Ranging from universally understood terms like experience points (XPs, we usually call it), firewall, and bulletin board, to specific terms like Sleep, Lift, Wake, Coffin, Core, etc. And then there is one term called Tangent; an artificial intelligent which manifests as characters inside the game that is not played by a gamer. I think it is equal to NPC (Non-Player Character) in role playing games. Those terms might be a bit overwhelming. Having said that, they don’t really form a barrier for readers to understand the story, thus readers - gamer non gamer - would enjoy the action and the thrill.

Along the story, the main character Michael developed from just a teenager who was bored with real life, to someone with full understanding of who he is and what his purpose.

I was once a gamer myself, so I do understand that feeling when waking up and all that's occupied your mind is what's happening in the game. That nothing is more interesting than the game. Not even life. But those seemingly idle hours of playing were not there meaningleslsly. It led me to a critical point of realization that changed the course of my life. I guess reading The Eye of Minds sort of taking me back to that journey, to that moment of truth.

"That’s what so great about the Sleep.
I know who you are inside, and that’s all that matters."

The Eye of Minds is the first title in The Mortality Doctrine trilogy. The second book “The Rule of Thoughts” was released in 2014 and the third “The Game of Lives” was also already released in 2015. Those sequels are soo gonna go into my wishlist. I'll probably wait until my next bday so that I can get PEC member discount at Periplus ^^

All in all, The Eye of Minds is a very promising start for The Mortality Doctrine trilogy. The twist which left the story hanging is rather unexpected. I really didn’t see it coming. Four cups for Michael and friends!

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Guest Cat

Title: The Guest Cat
Author: Takashi Hiraide
Language: English
Translator: Eric Selland
Publisher: New Direction Publishing
Year: 2014

A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife the days have more light and color. 

My thoughts:

I struggled for the first 20% of the book. But then, little by little it absorbed me into its little world. And by the end of it, I said, " Ok, you won my heart!" :D

Written by a Japanese acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, this book is like a cat coming to your house silently. Wandering around, and before you know it your heart is hooked. Just like Chibi who comes silently into The Couple's life. Its slow pace, poetic tone lulls you to a point of unawareness, then suddenly it grabs and catches you. Just like Chibi who is usually calm and collected, suddenly bites The Wife.

As you approach to the very end, it will leave you like "wait, what? whaat??!" and you probably will want to browse or even reread the book in case you miss something. Just like having time flies in daily life, and at certain point you suddenly stop and try recollecting things in the past you might have missed, you might have left unaware of.

A serene story with a little touch of mystery. Just like a seemingly monotonous life, with a little spark of joy. A book worth collecting. A life worth loving.