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You by Austin Grossman


"In a sense, every computer game represents the commandeering of a military code-breaking apparatus for purposes of human expression. We'd done that, taken that idea and turned it into a thing its creators never imagined, our own incandescent mythology."

Russell's dreams of becoming a hot shot successful lawyer have slipped through his fingers. With a loss of momentum and aim in his life, he turns to his past for answers. This starts by applying for a job at Black Arts, a videogame company founded by two of his old friends from school, Simon and Darren. Simon himself had died tragically four years previous, a death that still troubles Russell from time to time. This is the set-up for Austin Grossman's You, an excellent second novel from the author of the excellent superhero tale Soon I Will Be Invincible.

Russell gets the job at Black Arts, and quickly ends up thrust into a lead position when Darren jumps ship to a bigger and more successful company. With a mysterious software bug threatening to undermine Black Arts' next project (and the company's future), Russell delves into the history of the games Darren and Simon created over the years, hoping to find clues both into the software and his own past.

You is a book that is entirely entwined with the history of videogames, in a way that makes it either incredibly personal for a reader or incredibly alienating. This is a book for those of us who grew up as computer games went from the ASCII world of Rogue to the full dimensions of Wolfenstein 3D to the point-and-click adventures of Guybrush Threepwood and beyond. Those of us who spent sleepless nights at a friend's house as you conquered entire fantasy kingdoms by the flickering illumination of a computer screen. Austin Grossman knows those memories, those feelings, and writes right to that sweet spot of catered, meaningful nostalgia. However, if you didn't recognize any of those references or have never played a videogame in your life, You is definitely not for you. For the rest of us, though, this is a book that feels exactly like reuniting with an old friend.

Tim @ Central


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