Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Backward Compatible

Title: Backward Compatible
Authors: Sarah Daltry and Pete Clark
Genre: YA, romance
Published: 8 December 2013
Pages: 316
Rating: 5 / 10
Challenges: NetGalley Challenge

Synopsis: "A YA Gamer Geek Comedy in the vein of Scott Pilgrim and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Ideal for fans of The Big Bang Theory, The Guild, and all things Joss Whedon.

WARNING: There is no sex in this book. Your Kindle or other device will remain at a pleasant room temperature. At no point will your panties drop. Your significant other will be allowed to snore in peace as you read. You may, however, laugh yourself out of commission.

Not too long ago, in a town that, depending on your current location, is either not super far or actually quite close... (insert Star Wars theme music here...)

It is a time of chaotic hormones.

Two nerdy gents home for winter break have discovered a female gamer at a midnight release.

During the break, the gamer trio manages to reveal the game's secret boss, a hidden enemy with enough power to destroy anything in its path.

Pursued by other gamers who want to be the first to beat this boss, George and Katie race to level up, and, in so doing, restore decency and sexual activity to their personal galaxy..." (from GoodReads)

My Review: Ok, here's the thing. I'm not the target audience for this book. I thought I was (I'm a geek, I'm [relatively] young, I'm a fan of all those things listed in the synopsis, I picked up on almost every single reference in this book, etc), and yet I really didn't relate to the characters in this book. For one thing, they are REALLY immature. When they talked about being in college, I didn't believe them. I teach high schoolers with better socialization skills than these kids. For another thing, they are REALLY mean. And not just to the random mean girls who show up towards the end and harass one of the main characters; George and Lanyon, supposedly the best of friends, spend most of their conversations trading insults. When they game as a group, they gang up on one player in particular (a "hipster douche" who had the temerity to grow a goatee IRL) and constantly attack him verbally and kill him virtually. The two main geeks are pretty one-dimensional: Katie likes to game and has boobs! George also likes to game and he also likes boobs! Neither one of them really has much personality, and they don't really know anything about each other. Katie seemed like she was getting some characterization and growth (she appears borderline-agoraphobic and admits to feeling depressed and anxious about her budding relationship with George), but that is magically dealt with when he - no joke - pulls a Spider-Man-esque stunt and cheers her up. George, for his part, spends a lot of time quoting Shakespeare (along with literally HUNDREDS of pop culture references) and reading books, so of course he's an English major. I felt like these were stock "geek" types rather than being fully fleshed-out people. There was no need for George and Lanyon to constantly allude to Star Wars, Portal, WoW, etc. And some of the allusions didn't make sense! Sephiroth's forehead compared to a bright light? Seriously? And can we please, for the love of all that is holy, drop the "That's what she said!" jokes? There were other minor things that bugged me as I was reading (ripping on The Hobbit sequel, referring to it as The Hobbit 2, sexual harassment during said movie, Katie's vehement anti-girly agenda), but honestly I'm getting more annoyed now as I'm thinking about it.

Which is not to say that it was all bad. There were parts that I liked - the "secret boss" of the video game and what it entails reminded me of Ready Player One, but I really enjoyed the twist in this book. It's also got some humor, although a lot was lost on me because it involved insulting someone's mom or threatening violence or rape. Ultimately, it's a lighthearted romance that just didn't work for me.

Full disclosure: I received an electronic ARC of Backward Compatible from NetGalley.

Other Reviews:

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