Matt Ruff is mercurial, and you never know what he’s going to do next. With 88 Names, he tackles the whole online persona/MMORPG thing (also known as “I Know What We’re All Doing This Summer”). Our protagonist is John Chu, who runs a sherpa business, which is a thing where neophytes get guided through the hard parts of online games by parties paid to carry the heavy load. Chu’s latest client is a mysterious individual who has ties to a certain Southeast Asian country. When Chu starts wondering why the supreme leader of a tiny nation needs a sherpa, well, that’s when things get really interesting. Like all Matt Ruff books, this one isn’t exactly what it seems to be. Sure, it’s like Ready Player One, but that’s like saying Ruff’s previous novel, Lovecraft Country, was just about cyclopean horrors from beyond time and space.
–A Good Book, Sumner, WA