All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
review by Caroline Cook
I had been wanting to read All the Light We Cannot See for a while, so when I spotted it at the library I grabbed it. A woman passing by immediately commented what a good book it is. It won the Pulitzer Prize as well as other accolades. I was not disappointed. Doerr’s World War II narrative, split between a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy, is hypnotic. His beautiful language draws the reader into each story deeply. The two protagonists experience the war on opposite sides but are also intwined, sometimes in surprising ways, and increasingly as the novel progresses.
Marie-Laure’s world is beautifully realized and written, allowing us an intimate window into her experience. Her father carves meticulously accurate models of the places where they live so she may learn each street and shopfront by touch. She has a deep love of books, and devours giant Braille copies of novels like 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Werner lives in an orphanage with his sister and has a love and aptitude for radios, which is what sends him to eventually become a radio technician with the Nazis. However, Werner is not cast as a villain or a stereotypical Nazi (though there is another character in that vein). He is portrayed as a victim of circumstance who is swept along with Hitler’s great military machine.
There is also a mysterious and priceless jewel that could almost be considered a third character in the novel, that is a part of both Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories.
All the Light We Cannot See is one of the best books I’ve read in a while, and I’d highly recommend it.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
review by Aaron Downey
A flurry of nerd pop-cultural homage, Ernest Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One, is my choice for someone to film immediately. I don’t often say such things about books I like; typically a good book is good enough for me. But if done properly, a film version of this could be extraordinary. And now it looks like it’s in the right hands: Steven Spielberg.
You might be sick of dystopian fiction, but this one takes you from the destroyed real world into the online fantasyland of the OASIS, where literally anything is possible. We are on our way there, as a society, so it’s fun to see what Cline has imagined for our near future.
Our hero, Wade Watts, is a young high schooler who prefers to jack into the OASIS and live his life as a “gunter” (or egg hunter) searching for the world’s greatest Easter egg: a multi-billion dollar fortune hidden in the OASIS by the cyber-universe’s deceased creator, James Halliday, a sort of Steve Jobs, Gary Gygax, Bill Gates, Willy Wonka, and the Wizard of Oz rolled into one. But this is not just a treasure hunt. Standing in Wade’s way is a corporate army intent on finding the egg and turning the OASIS into their own product, thus destroying it. As far as Wade and his friends are concerned, the fate of the universe—albeit the better, pixelated universe—is at stake.
Fans of 8-bit throwbacks and new 80’s homage pieces like Netflix’s brilliant Stranger Things will likely enjoy this book. If you played D&D and Pitfall or watched Ultraman and Voltron (like I did), you won’t help but smile at the many references. One could make complaints about the sometimes contrived plot of hunting for the egg and the following of clues, but one would be taking this quick and delightful read much too seriously.