Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Cultural Space Invaders, 15 April 2013
This review is from: Constellation Games (Kindle Edition)
I finally caved and bought Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson after hearing yet another endorsement from Cory Doctorow on a podcast. I'm glad I did.

If you're a science fiction fan, who occasionally busts out an emulator to play retro video games but who also likes to have their synapses stretched thinking about how our culture affects us, and how it and we have changed over the years, then this book is tailor-made for you. There's an almost complete absence of what you'd call conventional "action", so that audience might be quite limited.

But it isn't "literary" science fiction, so don't be put off by that. In fact the narrative is primarily delivered through a series of blog posts (it was originally an on-line serial novel, the archive for which is still on-line) and personal email exchanges.

The "hero" of the work is Ariel Blum, a disaffected video game programmer who feels trapped making pony games for pre-teens. Then the aliens arrive and start digging great big holes in the moon.

What follows is similar, if you can imagine, to what might happen if humans tens of millions of years in the future (I don't fancy our chances of lasting that long - also an issue tackled in the book) approached a newly discovered alien race and as part of the outreach to the suddenly no longer alone populace, sent them an Atari VCS emulator and a copy of Space Invaders. Using the ancient video game culture of the various (there are several) alien races that have just appeared is a genius idea that allow the writer to explore not only what makes the aliens tick, but how various previous races reacted to first contact.

What follows is nothing short of brilliant. Several unique alien individuals and races are described and fleshed out. There's humour, there's romance and snappy dialogue. There's everything you could want except for the lack of peril. I don't want to keep going on about that, but I did hit a lull about a third to halfway through when little had happened but by the end I was turning pages compulsively. If you want to try something intelligent, with aliens that are fully realized and with concepts that go beyond the idea that every alien we meet has to be slavering at the mouth fronds and waving a massive blaster then give it a chance.

4.5 out of 5.
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