Oct 23 2013
I just finished YOU by Austin Grossman. It’s brilliant, in my opinion. As an elevator pitch, I would describe it as Microserfs meets Ready Player One, but with an existentialist heart. A bit slow in places, but the plot pulled me along pretty effectively, and I enjoyed the old-game nostalgia as well as the philosophical underpinnings. I highly recommend it to anyone who is/was into computer games, especially the early RPGs of the 80s and 90s. The recommendation goes double for anyone who has ever worked as a game developer, or wanted to know what that’s like.
There are many references to LookingGlass, and among the characters are many traits mined from the personalities of LG developers — but he’s re-formed all these elements into a kind of archetypal mythology that somehow tells the story of the whole evolution of games, both as it was and as it should have been, AND does the same archetype-evolution trick with both the people who MAKE games and the characters IN games. This can lead to some occasionally-confusing switches of perspective (1st, 2nd and 3rd person narratives are all used, all four “playable characters” are “played” as both avatars and real characters, and sometimes you aren’t totally sure if the protagonist is playing, dreaming, or hallucinating) — but ultimately YOU has big, audacious goals that, in my opinion, Austin achieves elegantly. It also has a really nice cover by Superbrothers.
Incidentally, I listened to it on audio, and the audio book is really well done. (As is the audiobook for Ready Player One, if you haven’t read that yet.)
Also, I should disclose possible bias, since know Austin personally (we overlapped at LG by a year or so). I don’t think personal bias is playing into my love of this book, but shared experience certainly is. It’s possible that no one who isn’t an LG alum will truly appreciate the full, painful genius of Realms of Golf.