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The Cheat Code for God Mode Paperback – October 20, 2013
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I began this year by reading “The Cheat Code for God Mode” by Andy de Fonseca, which proved to be troubling. Not bad, just troubling, primarily because this book's greatest strength is also its biggest weakness which is what makes writing and scoring this review so difficult.
Margy Plum and Victor Vance live in an odd world, where portals and wormholes are everyday modes of transportation and 8-bit pets are programmed to their owners' needs. But something is amiss. First, Margy is having what she can only describe as psychotic episodes where she thinks she's someone else. Then the two of them discover a game that, after entering a special code, allows them to change and control the world around them. This catches the attention of some rather special people who have been trying to track this game down for a long time. Unfortunately, I can't say much more about the plot without giving away too much. This is part of the mystery of the book which I don't want to spoil.
The characters are well written and even sympathetic. As far as a bizarro book goes, it's also relatively tame, with any sexual references toned down or only implied. The editing is also very good, with few or no errors to pull the reader off the page. Which is good, because the plot is so involving.
Okay, those are the basics. To get more complicated, the book is just the right length. I know that sounds weird to say, but this is one of those instances where it fits. Sometimes I complain that these bizarro books are too short, and they feel like there is a lot more story left to tell. With “The Cheat Code for God Mode,” this is not the case. The author crams a lot of story into a fairly short space, and makes it work. What's even more interesting is that it's a complete story that doesn't feel rushed. You get a full, satisfying tale that doesn't leave many loose ends in a short space.
So, what's the problem? That takes some explaining. This book is a nerd's dream. It has tons of references to pop culture, science, and everything in nerdom. This made it a lot of fun as I read through it and could pick apart all the little things I recognized. Even a large chunk of the book is based on an actual scientific hypothesis of parallel universes.
This is where the problem comes in. When I review a book, I try to see it from more than one perspective when it comes to recommending it. I can tell if I enjoy a book, but I also try to imagine if it will be enjoyed by, well, not-me. And there's the rub. It 's actually very hard to tell if this would be enjoyed by not-me. While it calls out lots of things that will make a nerd giggle with glee, I can see not only the jokes going over the heads of those who aren't familiar with the subject, but possibly missing the point altogether. The book easily feels like it could have been a heavily hyperlinked ebook, or a heavily footnoted book like David Foster Wallace's “Infinite Jest,” just so that people who aren't familiar with the little nuances or the main subject could understand what they are and why they're there, although the humor might still be lost on them.
It makes a great start to this year's New Bizarro Authors Series While this book has compelling and sympathetic characters, a great and full story, and lots of little references and jokes that fit well in the context and aren't simply shoe-horned in, “The Cheat God for God Mode” gets a high recommendation but with grave reservations. If you're a nerd who's familiar with science and pop culture, you'll get a lot out of this. But if you don't, then you may end up feeling very lost in this strange universe.
“Cheat Code for God Mode” by Andy de Fonseca earns 4 8-bit chickens out of 5.
Ridiculous. Hilarious. Clever.
Mixed with the geeky humor is some commentary on creation, evolution, and what it means to be human. But mostly this is an insanely fun read that moves at breakneck speeds. Fun is the word to best describe this book.
Fun, fun, fun.
If you're a geek, that is. Or at all into social networking or video games. If not, you may be a bit in the dark. But who's to say you won't still enjoy this awesome sauce cooked up by the newly discovered Andy de Fonseca? I'm not going to say that. Hell no.
Read and laugh hysterically.
This kind of like...I dunno...a sci-fi, bizarro, gaming world-differing realities-ummmm like the Sims meet the Matrix meets memes!
Like the title says, two friends buy an old video game, figure out the cheat code for god mode, and realize their world isn't quite what they think it is. They have to go between realities/worlds and figure out the code to fix their world.
Okay, it's much more interesting then how I'm lamely describing it. It drew me in. I plan to do one of my rare re-reads on it, so I can understand it even better.
Just buy and read the book, dammit!
000110110111010011011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The code is all around us!! For Margy and Victor, video game addicted best friends, life is a daily dose of Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Starts. But things gets wicked cool when they come across an extremely rare, retro gaming system at a thrift store with a sandbox-style game inside neither of them have played before. They take it home, plug it in, and start playing.
Oh crap, then things turns totally heinous when they realize everything they do in the game world is happening in the real world! They try to contain the mayhem, but when Victor’s parents accidentally get a hold of it they raise the craziness by a factor of 10 (Luckily Margy’s parents are in comas at the hospital so they can’t raise craziness anywhere), and the noise they make in Sprinklesburgh, IL is loud enough to perk up the ears of the higher ups.
Margy finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy involving an Original Player and its original controller. From the city to the Infranet, to the dreaded desert wastelands of the Internet, she hunts for the equation that can save her world, her parents, and her Victor… Oh yeah, and her Victor’s chicken familiar, Mort, whatever the heck that ugly thing is.
I was delighted to discover a major theme of this book the characters were forced to deal with was that of identity. Not satisfied with merely skirting the edges of this difficult idea, Cheat Code follows in the footsteps of films likes The Matrix and books like Archelon Ranch in forcing the protagonist to question who they are and why they are.
Margy at first felt to me like a hapless heroine. She is haunted by recurring blackouts and the pain of dealing with not one but both her parents locked up in a asylum. Deep down, though, she feels that something is askew. A good portion of the book develops her intuition as she slowly comes to realize the truth to her.
Victor is her irritable boweled, best friend and, though he doesn’t arc as roundly as Margy, as I see it he is the deuteragonist of the story and nearly as important. His familiar Mort, a digitally constructed chicken, acts as a sort non-speaking counterpart to easily identify Victor’s thoughts/feelings in a particular moment.
I concluded that supporting roles include, Tyson, a seeker of the equation and the first gamer to use the Original Player capable of godlike creating/destructing in their world. He was caught and banished to the Internet wastelands by a group known only as The Panel. The Panel’s made up of various people invested in keeping the status quo, some being well known characters from actual video games. I would’ve liked to see more about this group, but as it stands in this short novel their presence is minimal.
Seeking the answer. It is what we all want. A simple, short, and clear expression of who/what/when/where/why that includes everything. Even life seems to be pondering, using evolution and mutation in its own code, DNA, to discover the secret of itself.
For the denizens of Sprinklesburgh and the world they inhabit, many do not question their lives. Victor seems totally content eating flying turtle bacon burgers and designing new pet familiars for people. Margy could live with her planetarium job and collection of video game systems, cartridges, discs, and spare parts.
Ms. Fonseca uses a mixture of gaming terminology and subtle hints to pull the plot together as it races towards a big reveal. Surprisingly it is not the reveal, but the reaction of Margy afterwards that completes this story and impressed this reader greatly.
As the line between real/unreal begin to merge, a sense of necessity and righteousness emerge. It’s like the very games Margy and Victor play, and the fate of the entire universe rests in their portable Opus system controlling hands.