Fifty Shades of Feminism, edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach

If you had met me at fifteen, sat me down and explained Feminism, I would not have wanted to know. The idea of change to my normality would have frightened me. Even as recently as two years ago I would have been uncomfortable calling myself a feminist and while I no longer live in that bubble or mentally liken all feminists to butch lesbians or Germaine Greer, I still was not sure it was for me, or that I even needed it.

While my attitude has changed in those two years, it was the reading of How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran that lead me to publicly call myself a feminist, and since then I have been educating myself to the cause; noticing the obvious, and the ingrained subtleties, oppressing women.

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Poetry: Talent by Carol Ann Duffy

Talent

This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
a man, inching across it in the space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

There is no word net.

You want him to fall, don’t you?
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
The word applause is written all over him.

Could this more aptly sum up our feelings toward people with skill or talent? Especially when famous. As if we are just waiting for them to fall, and if they happen to succeed we praise them for meeting our expectations.

Together in Electric Dreams: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I often ramble on about the best novels presenting you with worlds you feel as if you could climb into – fully established communities with depth and endless content. As someone who spends a little too much time inside their own mind, these sort of stories give me a strange high as I journey through them.

While Ready Player One by Ernest Cline will not be one of my all time favourite novels, the world it presents is a fascinating and intricate one, one I would gladly explore.

rp1Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready player one?

For the first half of this book I was riveted, the trivia, the fanatical 80s detailing and overall geekery was wondrous – even if a lot of it passed over my head. Unfortunately once a romance plot came into play I became disinterested – not that it was written badly, just not what I wanted or expected. However, the novel is still marvellous; a heartfelt tale of geekery, friendship, tolerance, and the brilliance and danger of technology.

The OASIS, the ultimate of RPG game, is definitely a place I would only want to be if I had the money to make use of it. While the Earth steadily decays and the class divide is more prominent than ever, the majority of the world’s population takes solace in virtual reality. In the OASIS you can be anything you want to be, players avatars do not need to look anything like their human counterparts, you do not even need to be the same gender or species. Wade/Parzival (real world/OASIS) is our teenage protagonist, from the trailer tower slums Wade is at a social disadvantage, so poor he can barely afford food, let alone afford anything to accessorise or level up his OASIS avatar. Wade is obsessed with James Halliday, creator of the OASIS and the Easter Egg Challenge, equally as knowledgeable on all Halliday’s 80s obsessions.

I used to think I knew about the 80s, I knew nothing! This is an epic example of nerdery at its best; detailing games, popular entertainment, technology and culture in delicious detail. The 90s were my playground, but for anyone generation 80s Ready Player One will be a welcome reminder of a decade of geekdom. However, this is not just an 80s nerdy indulgence, Cline layers the novel with an interesting lesson. With the technological ability to become everything we are not, the OASIS is the perfect platform to escape the world and further ‘other’ certain traits, ethnicities or genders. It is important that we do not get lost in technology, to not detach ourselves from the real world – to enjoy all this geekery, but to find happiness in the real world as well.

The romantic element of the novel killed my momentum; I was not expecting it to be a prominent part of the novel. While I understood its importance in ensuring Wade remained grounded in the real world, it tainted my enjoyment of the rest of the novel. Art3mis, a female rival and romantic partner to Parzival, is a smart, independent player, unfortunately, in being used as a tool to progress Wade’s story she was sidelined into a trope. I would have preferred a female character with a story independent of Wade’s journey.