Cover Image: 88 Names

88 Names

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Member Reviews

I think I need to be a gamer to really understand this book on gaming. Lots of jargon, and I got lost by the middle of the book, sometimes I felt it was meandering….and it just didn’t hold my interest.
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This was a lot of fun book. At first glance it seems like another Ready Player One but the world is actually much more original and is based more on modern gaming and MMORPGs. This was definitely an amusing book and for people that play these types of games there is a lot more to it. I think there are a lot of jokes and situations that may go over someone's head that isn't into gaming culture on any level. For me that made this book more interesting but perhaps for others they would appreciate something less focused on a specific culture. I appreciated that there weren't a lot of times where the book went into lengthy descriptions of the world and the few times it does it was genuinely interesting to read and didn't feel too drawn out. The story itself was a bit on the silly side, and if you're looking for a serious sci-fi with groundbreaking insights to politics, this isn't it. But the insights that were there were interesting and the story itself was a lot of fun. I enjoyed a lot of the characters even if they didn't have a lot of depth. I would definitely recommend this title, especially to those that play MMORPGs regularly.
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I've been reading Matt Ruff's work since Fool on the Hill came out when I lived in Ithaca. He continually pushes his ideas to their edges, while maintaining humor and depth in all his writing. While his writing is speculative fiction, it is firmly rooted in everyday experience. At different times, his work is reminiscent David Foster Wallace, Neal Stephenson, Michael Marshall Smith, and Elan Mastai.  His writing can be very touching, and his imagination is simply wild. Set This House in Order is  one of my favorite books ever—moving, hilarious, and imaginative.

I liked 88 Names, and will continue to read and recommend Matt Ruff. But this novel felt a bit colder than some of his other writing.  As noted in the book description, John Chu is a sherpa to those who want to pay for someone to guide them (successfully) through online video games. In the course of this world, lines are blurred between VR and actual reality, and Ruff explores questions about identity, gender, and sexuality, as the real-world characters and their many avatars. As Ruff works through all these broader issues, his characters struggle through their games and assorted intrigue. 

Ultimately, while this was an interesting novel of ideas, it left me a little cold.. The protagonist, John Chu, had a solid, witty, consistent voice—acerbic and witty—but all the characters felt more like avatars than fleshed out people. The novel lacked the emotional undepinnings of some of his other work. Still, though, it was a fully engaging read and looked at important questions with thoughtful intelligence.
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I really, really dislike the trope of referring to novels as something like "Harry Potter for adults," but there's really no other way to describe this book than as "Ready Player One for adults". It's an only-slightly futuristic cyberthriller about a "sherpa" who guides amateur players through higher levels in VR games. John Chu, 3rd generation gamer, and his team of 3 employees (none of whom have met in person) are running a successful business if you forget about the mysterious new clients and John's angry ex girlfriend. The novel is an exploration of the social ramifications of VR in the future, but also a commentary on today's issues.

Here's what I love about it: everything. The narrator's unique voice and perspective keep the reader interested in the action that is, after all, mostly in John's head. The use of VR allows Ruff to explore the question of what identity really is in a world where anyone can be whatever they like. The snark is strong with all of the characters, and is a main aspect of all of John's relationships, even his romantic one with his online ex, Darla.

Here's what I hate about it: almost nothing. This book is going on my shelf at home, it's going on the shelves in my library, and it's going on the "Hot Reads" table because I'm worried that it isn't going to reach as many people as it should reach. The only negative thing that I can say is that the ending isn't as strong as the rest of the book, but if you've read anything else by Ruff you're likely anticipating an anticlimax.
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3.5 stars. I LOVED the first two thirds of this, but the last third needed to up the stakes and/or quicken the pace a bit; I did eventually finish it but I found myself not really caring as much towards the end.

I feel like the setup and the fact that a significant chunk of the story takes place in VR is going to get this book compared a lot to Ready Player One, but I think if we're going to go down the rabbit hold of comparisons, I'd say its appeal is closer to that of The Martian- it's lighter on fast-paced, exuberant action, and heavier on methodical cleverness.

It also has an engaging, snarky tone that had a lot of the same feel as The Martian, but unlike either of those titles, this doesn't contain any of the careless white dudebroness that I've grown so wary of. This is mostly down to the fact that Matt Ruff is great at writing marginalized folks. Even though I would have hoped for more of a dynamic ending, there was enough here to like that I'll definitely be recommending it to the right reader
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Matt Ruff has penned another winner. After Lovecraft County he proves he can change focus and still be on fire. He's obviously played a lot of the MMOs he describes in the book. Characters are smart and thoughtful. Also impressed with the diversity of characters to make it feel like a real world instead of feeling shoe horned.
One quibble is Darla comes across as more of an irritant than a fascinating character with enough allure to draw you in despite her unpredictable behavior.
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Was nervous about the cyber part but turned out to be a pretty great read!
Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.
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