Book review of YOU by Austin Grossman

YOU bookcover

I read YOU by happy accident. Being a comic book guy, I’d heard of Grossman’s first novel, SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE, but hadn’t got around to reading it because…because I was reading actual comics with real supervillains. (That came out wrong. Anyway…)

YOU is about a law-school dropout who goes to work for his old high school pals at a video game developer. It starts with Russell (the protagonist) going through an awkward interview at Black Arts Games. Anyone who has ever had to work for (not with) a friend, knows how weird it can be. They’re not your buddy anymore, they’re your boss. And it’s weird.

There are plot lines all over the place. Programmers would call it ‘spaghetti code,’ but man this is some tasty spaghetti. Did Russell’s old pal, eccentric genius Simon kill himself? Does Lisa, a math and programming wizard with the social skills of a snapping turtle, like Russell? Is someone sabotaging their newest game? And why are there three times as many chairs as there are employees at the office?

This isn’t a plot driven novel. If you’re looking to solve a murder mystery, seek a different dungeon. Where Grossman excels is characterization. He takes us back and forth in time with Russell–from the awkward interview to high school group projects, to computer camp and back into the current crisis at work. We see Russell grow, and yet he is always believably himself.

Whether you first cracked your knuckles and began to type on a TRS-80, or a Commodore 64, or a 512k Mac, lovers of computers, video games and the RPGs (role playing games) they derived from, will enjoy this. Although I will admit I may be biased–as a writer, gamer, and lapsed programmer, I’m pretty much this book’s smartbomb target.  (I failed a Saving Throw against Loving This Book.)

YOU is innovative in its structure, and fascinating in its characters and subject.  I thought it was terrific.

(The book cover is from Amazon.com)

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2 thoughts on “Book review of YOU by Austin Grossman

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