Thursday, 1 August 2013

Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson

Lowdown: Aliens communicate with a blogger/video game developer through computer games.
Computer games are an important part of my life. Not only do my family and I spend a lot of our quality time with them, they also had direct impact on the course of my life. Case in point is a game called FIFA 99, because of which I bought myself a PC, because of which my career path took a turn it wouldn’t have otherwise taken. I can continue elaborating, but what I am trying to say is that while many tend to dismiss computer games as rubbish – particularly people born before the Internet age – video games matter.
Leonard Richardson agrees with me, it seems. In his book Constellation Games he writes about a disgruntled video games developer, Ariel Blum, who lives in contemporary Texas. Only that in Ariel’s world a historical event is taking place: what started as lots of dust being interrupted on the moon turned out to be a visiting fleet of aliens, the Constellation. As humanity wonders what’s to happen next, Ariel finds himself contacted directly by the aliens who supply him with video games from ancient alien civilizations. And through these games, Ariel learns all sorts of interesting things.
There are three of elements that coconspire to make Constellation Games a unique fish in the sea of alien invasion stories. The first is to do with this one not being your typical alien invasion story; as in, they don’t storm to kill and suck the blood of all humans. Second, and as mentioned, the story is told in first person from the point of view of a gamer and the whole thing is heavily dipped with gaming/Internet culture. And third, the story is told in a rather unique way, but a way which sounds totally natural in this Internet age: Constellation Games is composed of posts published in Ariel’s blog.
The combination of gaming and blogging that makes this book what it is certainly had me identifying with Ariel (he’s Jewish!), to the point where I was wondering aloud whether I can write a book as good as Constellation Games. I can’t, but there was plenty of room for pondering there because of a simple reason: I did not find Constellation Games to be that good a book. Sure, it says some important things about us, humans, but it also seems to drag on and on without getting anywhere. The ending is no saviour, either.
Deficiencies may be attributed to the book’s format, but when the question of whether you, dear reader, should invest your time in Constellation Games comes up, I will have to ask this: are you willing to suffer through eccentricities and a whole lot of nothing just for the sake of a cool science fiction book that’s got both gaming and blogging in it? If your answer is a yes, then by all means – go ahead and read this book. If, however, like me you are in the gray area, then Constellation Games could prove to be a bit of a time waster.
Overall: I would say Constellation Games is an interesting book, but a book that is interesting for the wrong reasons. I did not suffer reading it, but it left me asking for much more than it delivered. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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