jueves, 12 de noviembre de 2015

Press Start to Play, anthology edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Spontaneous Devotion, by Random (YouTube).

When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time playing videogames. In fact, the first thing I did after my last exam at the University was to spend half the night playing X-COM: Terror from the Deep. Now, I have nor the time neither the energy to play anymore, but I am still very interested in all the pop culture originated around videogames and I was immediately attracted to Press Start to Play, an anthology of science fiction short stories focused on electronic gaming. 

John Joseph Adams and Daniel H. Wilson have assembled a very solid collection of both original stories and reprints. For instance, in the book you will find "Anda's Game", by Cory Doctorow, which is almost a classic now, together with new tales by authors such as Charles Yu, Charlie Jane Anders, Austin Grossman or Yoon Ha Lee. 

There is a quite a variety of topics and approaches throughout the anthology, but I was pleased to find a couple of themes that are shared by many of the stories included in the book. The first one is the idea of videogames invading, somehow, real life. Many of the authors explore the frontier between games and reality, a frontier that sometimes blurs and even disappears as, for instance, in stories such as "Desert Walk", by S.R. Mastrantone, "NPC", by Charles Yu, "REAL", by Django Wexler, "Respawn", by Hiroshi Sakuraza or my favorite in the book: "Save Me Plz", by David Barr Kirtley, an excellent story which also throws some epic fantasy elements into the mix. 

A very interesting variation of the games-merge-with-reality trope is the exploration of how videogames affect our relationships with our friends and family. This is addressed in stories such as "All of the People in Your Party Have Died", by Robin Wasserman, "Coma Kings", by Jessica Barber, the very courageous "Please Continue", by Chris Kluwe, the lovely YA "1UP", by Holly Black, and the super sweet "Rat Catcher's Yellow", by Charlie Jane Anders, one of the best and more thought-provoking love stories that I've read lately. 

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that some of the stories include some of the elements that I like the most about videogame culture, but that are not that popular and are sometimes forgotten. For instance, text-based adventures are the topic of stories such as "The Clockwork Soldier", by Ken Liu, and "end game", by Chris Avellone. Also, I enjoyed a lot how the urban legends about secret games are used in "Killswitch", by Catherynne M. Valente, and, especially, in "Desert Walk", by S.R. Mastrantone, which does a superb job of creating an atmosphere that is equally ominous and fascinating. 

All in all, Press Start to Play is a very good anthology with stories of a great average quality and only a handful of weaker ones ("Twarrior", by Andy Weir, is especially bad) and I recommend it. Even if you are not that much into videogames, you will find plenty of things to like in this book. 

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)            

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