{June 16, 2013}   Book Reviews

So over the last couple of weeks I’ve read two books that weren’t on my 101 books list, and I don’t so much want to ‘cheat’ and replace books on the list with these two books, as I’m really a fan of all the books I’ve got lined up and didn’t know which ones to knock off. So OK – I will have read one hundred and THREE books by the end of 1001 days, hopefully! 🙂 But these were so good, and I have to recommend them as I enjoyed them so much.

The first is ‘Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World’ by David Schiff. A previous iteration of this book was ‘Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children’, and a later version is entitled ‘Game Over: Press Start to Continue’. But I read the second edition.

Now what I liked about this book is … well I won’t quite go so far as to say there’s something in it for everyone, but it covers a lot of ground. It has a lot of savvy about video games, but it’s not just a ‘video game book’. So if you’re looking for a book about the genius behind the development of Mario, or Link and Zelda, or Donkey Kong, that’s not necessarily what you’re going to get here, although there are certainly aspects of that creative process. It introduces you to big names in the entire industry – particularly at Nintendo but Atari, Sega, etc. as well, and talks about some of the creativity and process that goes into creating a great video game. But it’s more than that. It’s a book about business and industry, featuring some international politics and economics, particularly in terms of US-Japanese relations economically and politically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as providing an interesting character study of the big names at Nintendo … and there were/are definitely some characters!

All this and yet it’s incredibly accessible … at no point is the book hard to read or ‘over one’s head’ or boring. It tends to follow threads rather than chronology so it CAN jump back and forth in time a bit, but other than that it takes some large macro- and micro-economic and business concepts and parses them down to make them understandable, laced with intrigue and personalities enough that it never feels like some boring business studies textbook. It’s a fun and interesting read and a glimpse into an industry that took the world – and particularly North America – by storm in the 1980s. And interesting to see the perspective even as this book was written in the early-mid 1990s (around 1993), predicting that electronic consoles (think Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Play Station) would be the predominant electronic communication and entertainment tool, surpassing the personal computer … the predictions about the importance of multimedia were right on, albeit obviously from 20 years on we have a different perspective of how it will be provided.

The second book I read was ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown – the fourth of his Robert Langdon novels. The treatment Brown’s earlier work – “Angels and Demons”, “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Lost Symbol” give to the Roman Catholic Church, the historical Jesus and Freemasonry, respectively, this book gives to Dante’s famous Divine Comedy in general, but the Inferno in particular.

I know Dan Brown isn’t exactly seen as high brow so perhaps I should be embarrassed at just how much I enjoy his work … but he does the pulp thriller better than anyone else I know, while making some fancy concepts, literature etc. accessible to all readers. His books are digestible, fun and intelligent, quick and easy to read … and this one was at least slightly less formulaic than its predecessors (albeit yes … turns and double-turns, not being sure who the ‘bad’ or ‘good’ guys are, travel and suspense a-plenty are of course the order of the day). For anyone who has read a Dan Brown novel, to say he gave ‘Inferno’ the Dan Brown treatment is sufficient; for those who haven’t, while this was a fun and excellent example of his work and style, I’d suggest starting with ‘Angels and Demons’ or ‘The Da Vinci Code’, as I feel like the first two Robert Langdon novels were significantly better than the last two – which is more praise for them than a knock on this one or ‘The Lost Symbol’, but there you have it. 🙂

Happy reading!

et cetera