Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)by Ernest Cline Published 16 Aug 2011
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In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
"Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)" Reviews
I originally gave this book 3 stars as harmless lightweight fun, but my opinion of it declined as time went by. Then after reading Armada I fully realized what a talentless one-trick hack that Cline really is so I changed this rating. Plus, his outraged hardcore fans kept coming on here and telling me that I missed the point since I didn't give it 5 stars so I might as well give them something to really be mad about. If you're one of those Cline fans who wants to whine about it in the comments I will just delete it and block you.
Adventures in Time Mowing
After my laptop fused to my lawn mower due to a freak lightning strike, I discovered that I could use it to travel through time.
“Wow, where’d you come from?”
“I’m from 2011. Got a time mower and decided to come to the future. I’ll spare you the full origin story. My name’s Kemper.”
“I’m Wade Watts. Welcome to 2044.”
“Thanks. I gotta say, things are looking kind of grim around here. Are those mobile homes stacked up like hillbilly skyscrapers?”
“Yeah, I live in one of them. We’ve had a lot of problems once the cheap fossil fuels started running out. Life kinda sucks ass these days. Fortunately, we’ve got the OASIS.”
“It’s this virtual reality that’s kind of a combination of the Internet and the biggest MMORPG ever made. Here put this on, and I’ll show you.”
“Hey, this is pretty sweet, Wade. But what’s with all this old stuff here in your virtual room. It looks like the ‘80s vomited in here.”
“Oh, it’s part of my research for the contest. See the guy who invented the OASIS was this old nerd named James Halliday. He left an Easter egg hidden somewhere in the OASIS and whoever finds it wins the prize. He was totally obsessed with the ‘80s and nerdly stuff like computers, sci-fi, cartoons, movies, comics and video games. He left three keys to three gates hidden in here, and the clues have to be stuff that he loved. So a lot of people like me have to know all about the '80s to hunt for the egg."
“How long has this been going on?”
“For years now. Nobody has found the first key yet.”
“And you what? Watch movies from the ‘80s? Listen to the music? Read his favorite books? Play old video games?”
“It‘s even bigger than that. Because of the contest, the entire world is obsessed with the ‘80s. The clothes and hairstyles are considered cool again.”
“Really? Well, I gotta get the hell out of here then. Thanks for showing me this, Wade. How do I log out?”
“You’re leaving already? Don’t you want to…Oh, my god! You said you were from 2011? And you’re in your 40s, right?”
“Well, just barely…”
“So you actually lived through the ‘80s?”
“Afraid so. High school class of 1988.”
“That’s awesome! You gotta tell me all about it, Kemper.”
“Kid, why would you want to hear about that? You’re sitting here with enough computer power to download everything from the collected works of Shakespeare to the entire run of The Wire and you want to hear about the ’80s? Just for a contest?”
“I love the ’80s. It was the coolest time ever!”
“Uh, not really. In fact, I think the ’90s beat the shit out of them. That not worrying about the Cold War thing was a relief and the music was a lot better. Plus we got to wear flannel. That was fun.”
“But… you got to play the old video games in the actual arcades, and you saw the first generation of home computers come out. Plus, music videos and John Hughes movies and Rubik’s Cubes and Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and….”
“Yeah, Wade. I lived through it all. I remember when MTV played music videos and when Eddie Murphy was funny. But you’re making me sad, kid.”
“Lemme tell you a story, Wade. About ten years after I got out of high school, an old buddy I had stayed in touch with had a birthday bash and invited a bunch of us that used to run around together. So we’re at his house drinking and playing cards just like the old days and catching up and playing ‘Remember when?”. It was a lot of fun, but we’d been listening to hair metal and classic rock all night, and at one point, I was flipping through the CD’s.”
“Actual CD’s! Not downloads?”
“Hell, I’m so old even my post-high school stories are dated now. Yes, Wade, real CD’s. Anyhow, I found a new Foo Fighters album, and I put it in. And this one guy made a face and asked me why I had taken the Guns-n-Roses out. And I said something like the nostalgia had been fun but I needed something from that decade. Being completely serious he said that he didn’t know how I could listen to that stuff, and that he still listened to the same exact music we did in high school. He had just replaced his old cassettes with CD’s. The guy had completely managed to miss grunge and was perfectly happy with the same play list in 1998 that he’d been listening to in 1988. And that was one of the saddest things I ever heard, Wade.”
“But maybe he just really liked that stuff.”
“I liked it too, once upon a time. And I can still belt out a pretty good version of Relax when Frankie Goes to Hollywood comes on the radio, but it was a certain time and place. Now it’s done. I find it depressing that someone of Gen X would want to be stuck there and never moved on to anything new. But it got worse after that, Wade. Because we got older and then the media started catering to us by going for nostalgia trips on everything from trying to remake the Knight Rider TV show to shitty movies like The Transformers and G.I. Joe to the goddamn Smurfs. I’m tired of it in 2011, Wade. I don’t want a new Indiana Jones movie, I want the NEXT Indiana Jones. But no one is working on that because all of us got obsessed with regurgitating our childhoods over and over.”
“That is kind of sad, Kemper.”
“What’s even sadder is seeing it happen to a generation that didn’t even live through it. When I was a teenager, I got sick to death of baby boomer nostalgia and there’d be these kids my age who tried to be like damn dirty hippies by wearing tie-dye shirts and going to listen to Grateful Dead tribute bands. They were nostalgic for an era that wasn’t even theirs, and I always thought it was a waste. Don’t be like that, Wade. You seem like a nice kid. Don’t sit here watching Family Ties reruns and playing Space Invaders and making jokes about Ewoks. That was then. This is now. It’s your time and you should be out there trying to find the stuff that will become part of your own memories of growing up, not rehashing ours.”
“Gee, Kemper. That’s a really good point. You’ve opened my eyes. Thanks a lot.”
“You’re welcome, Wade. By the way, what the hell was this prize that was so good that it got the entire world doing the safety dance again?”
“Oh, the winner gets the controlling interest in Halliday’s company and his personal fortune which is about $240 billion dollars.”
“Did you say $240 billion? Dollars?”
“Yes, so how about we log off. Maybe I’ll take a walk and see if I can find this girl I like. I’ve been…”
“Screw that. Fire this rig up, Wade. Put on some Def Leppard and find me a pair of acid washed jeans and some high top Reeboks. Let’s start looking for clues. For $240 billion I’ll live through the ‘80s again.”
I didn’t actually hate this book. It did a lot of very clever stuff regarding an entire virtual universe. And for a member of Gen X, it was a fast and fun romp down memory lane. It was kind of like Snow Crash meets the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World movie.
But I’ve got a personal pet peeve against people trying to live in the past and since this book is nostalgia porn*, the basic premise did rub me the wrong way. The idea that the kids of the 2040s are just watching episodes of ‘80s TV shows and playing Donkey Kong really kind of depressed me.
*I stole that phrase from Flannery’s review. Sorry, Flannery! It was just too good.
I might have been able to get past it a little easier if at least one of the kids said something like, “Jesus, I hate this ‘80s bullshit. I can’t wait until his freakin’ contest is over so I can live in the here and now.” But instead all of them treat it like it’s the greatest entertainment ever. So even though a few post ’80s things like Firefly or the Lord of the Rings movies get mentioned, we’re supposed to believe that nerd pop culture reached a zenith in the ’80s and nothing worth geek obsession happened between 1990 and 2040? Sorry, but that seems kind of unlikely and the kind of wishful thinking that an aging Gen Xer would write as he pines for his glory days.
So disappointing. The premise of a treasure hunt inside a gigantic immersive online environment is interesting. I like the idea of the people of 2044 being fixated on '80s culture for clues to solving the puzzle. The execution simply doesn't live up to the promise. The writing goes like this:
...and so forth. I honestly don't know who the intended audience is. The author overexplains all the '80s references as if he expects readers to be too young or too disconnected from geek culture not to get them, but my experience with SF fandom is that no element of fandom, however old, ever completely dies out; all of us old farts who were teens in the '80s (and, interesting fact, the creator of the book's treasure hunt has the same birth year I do) make sure the young sprouts experience all the golden oldies. This is a first novel, and I make allowances for first novels, but this stretches my tolerance quite a bit.
More difficult for me to get past was the poorly-conceived dystopian future from which the story arises; to the bugaboos of environmental destruction, overpopulation, and economic collapse is added the fear of giant, evil corporations. This despite the fact that the guy who set up the enormous online multiverse AND created the treasure hunt did so by creating an enormous corporation of his own. His online creation is lauded (in one of those massive infodumps) as being so egalitarian because they don't charge anything for access, just for the things you buy inside it, but the corporation couldn't have set it up in the first place without needing a grundle of cash. (My computer programmer friends will fall on the floor laughing at the idea that all of those virtual items people buy are pure profit for the company because they "don't cost anything to make.") Every time I started to get interested in the story, I came up against some background element that only made sense in a tautological way--it is because it's said to be so.
But what really killed it for me, what caused me to finally give up about halfway through, has always been a deal-breaker for me in any work of speculative fiction. I don't like books that seem to exist independently of the great body of work that has explored the same issues or ideas. In this case, it's as if the author has never heard of Tad Williams' Otherland or (despite the hero's homage to Stephenson) The Diamond Age and Snow Crash. These books (I except Stephenson's more recent book Reamde because it was released the same year as Ready Player One) raised and evaluated issues with virtual reality, and yet Ready Player One does a lot of unnecessary reinventing of the cybernetic wheel. And yes, I do think this is a valid criticism; science fiction is interconnected to a degree that trumps any other genre, except possibly experimental literary fiction. There's an expectation that readers will be familiar with concepts raised elsewhere and have more than a passing familiarity with other SF novels. Ready Player One doesn't do much more than revisit ideas that other authors have explored, and the addition of a high-tech fantasy quest (an admittedly very cool idea) isn't enough to elevate it beyond the ordinary.
"I'm not crazy about reality, but it's still the only place to get a decent meal." Groucho Marx
The middle school I attended was a 1930s WPA project that by the 1970s was a lethal cocktail of toxic mold from the water leaks and cancer causing asbestos. I'm hoping, since several decades have passed, that all the nasty microbes I inhaled while conjugating verbs and wrestling with algebra have long since been frog marched out of my body. I was a rural kid and had to wait for the bus to come pick me up after school. The bus was always late which was a real pain in the ass for a scrawny kid like me who was trying to avoid the hulking, megalithic Hoover clan. They were massive, with beach ball bellies and Neanderthal brows. They had freckle specked Popeye arms and flaming red hair. They were full grown men in middle school with mustaches and sideburns. They liked to grab underweight kids by the neck and dangle them off the ground for entertainment.
A new pizza place opened across the highway. The pizza was passable, but I wasn't there for the pizza. When I walked in those doors I claimed sanctuary. It didn't take long for the owner to 86 the Hoover boys because he didn't want me to be interrupted putting quarter after quarter into this colorful black box called DEFENDER.
If I were to get the high score the pizza guy would give me a slice. I soon learned that I could barter that slice for safe conduct onto my bus. It was worth the investment to buy a piece and watch the Hoover boysmen tear the slice into pieces nearly coming to blows in the process, although I probably could have brought them roadkill with similar results.
The place also had Asteroids which I loved as well, but my first love was Defender. I would only play Asteroids if someone was already playing Defender. Even while immersed in blowing up interstellar asteroids I would catch myself looking longingly over at Defender.
Yes, it was a whirlwind romance born out of a need for survival. When I moved to high school I would stop in once in a while, but I'd grown as a person and Defender...well...had stayed the same. Our romance had gotten away from us somehow and it was time for both of us to move on to other people like Molly Ringwald.
Yes, I know it is embarrassing to admit it now, but I, like a large majority of boys and a good percentage of girls, had a crush on Molly. She wasn't the best role model for girls and I paid the price for her influence. The girls I dated in high school were that much more a pain in the ass because Molly Ringwald was their idol from the clothes they wore to the way they talked. Is that the time period when High Maintenance came into common usage? I wore a Members Only jacket and wished like hell my parents had cable so I could watch MTV. It was always a struggle trying to be cool in Kansas in the 1980s.
Wade Watts, our hero, is an orphan. He was taken in by an aunt because she wanted the extra food vouchers. She doesn't share the food,a bit of a Dickens situation going on, which forces Wade to scramble for his own food supply. They live in these lovely stacked trailers on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.
"We lived in the Portland Avenue Stacks, a sprawling hive of discolored tin shoeboxes rusting on the shores of I-40, just west of Oklahoma City's decaying skyscraper core. It was a collection of over five hundred individual stacks, all connected to each other by a makeshift network of recycled pipes, girders, support beams, and footbridges. The spires of a dozen ancient construction cranes (used to do the actual stacking) were positioned around the stacks' ever expanding outer perimeter.
Living in this world of 2044 would have been horrible except for a man named James Halliday who had invented OASIS a sprawling virtual utopia. You could live in the nastiest slag heap on the planet, but in OASIS, where you spent most of your time, you could build a paradise. When Halliday died he left a series of clues that created a world sensation. The first person to figure out the clues wins the Halliday fortune...$140 billion. Halliday was a fan of 1980s pop culture and built his clues around his love of that era. Those involved in the search have to become experts on everything 1980s. The dialogue of every John Hughes film, the man who brought us Molly Ringwald, must be memorized. They have to learn how to play vintage video games such as Defender, Asteroids, Joust and Pac-Man. They have to watch all the television episodes from that era searching for clues to the puzzle. They have to know Devo lyrics and the words to every other 1980s pop song. Needless to say, most of the population give up, and go back to other pursuits as the years pass without any breakthroughs.
Wade is determined and with the help of his best friend Aech pronounced H they continue to sift through archival material looking for that clue that will lead them to the next clue. When Wade finds the first clue and opens the first gate of the elaborate treasure hunt he becomes a world sensation, and draws the attention of the Sixers, the evil corporation intent on dominating OASIS. If they find the clues before Wade and his friends, and unlock the Halliday fortune, OASIS would be under their control.
During his quest, his online name is Parzival, Wade meets a girl.
"It was Art3mis.
She wore a suit of scaled gunmetal-blue armor that looked more sci-fi than fantasy. Twin blaster pistols were slung low on her hips in quick draw holsters, and there was a long, curved elvish sword in a scabbard across her back. She wore fingerless Road Warrior-style racing gloves and a pair of classic Ray-Ban shades. Overall, she seemed to be going for a sort of mid-'80s postapocalyptic cyberpunk girl-next-door look. And it was working for me, in a big way. In a word:hot.
I'm such a sucker for boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. Cline mines this tried and true formula to perfection.
The reader is shotgunned with 1980s pop culture which I know has bothered some reviewers. I thought it was great. I've been listening to '80s music all week on my iPod because the book brought back memories of songs that I first heard on cassette tapes. I wasn't ever a gamer. My brief fling with Defender has been the only time I've spent any significant amount of time playing video games. To enjoy this book I don't think you have to be a connoisseur of vintage video games or have spent hours playing D&D, but I think those people with that background will enjoy it more because the references will ignite; hopefully, fond memories for them. If you pine for the 1980s you should definitely read this book. The plot was fascinating and kept the pages turning.
This book went viral in the collecting world. First edition, first printing are bringing $200. I read somewhere that the print run was 15,000 which is reasonably small. If a large percentage of the first printings were bought by libraries it could stay a much sought after collectible for years to come. If you have a first edition, first printing tuck it away somewhere safe. It could turn out to provide a really good return on your initial investment.
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**lo! i have made a readalike list for this book over on riffle!**
let me get the gripes out of the way first, because despite overall being a fun, escapist book, there are things that rankle.
i have a crush on the 80's (not an obsession, mind you, but a crush. when i was little i managed to simultaneously want to make out with both jon cryer and molly ringwald and to this day depeche mode's album black celebration soothes many sorrows.
so a book that revolves around 80's pop culture sounded like my kind of thing, even if a lot of the references are video game related, and the minutiae, while impressive, could have been made up for all i knew because i enjoyed the atari back in the day, but i wasn't a serious video game geek. (although i did take my atari 2600 to college in 1995 - i was the original ironic hipster - recognize!)
i am getting to the gripes now after one more brief personal anecdote. i used to go to a lot of new wave dance nights. (if i am being honest, most of them were "dark" new wave, bordering on goth: camouflage, wolfsheim, anything box, the normal, soft cell) and towards the end of my going to this one particular club, they used to frequently slip sit down by james in there. and i used to get so irate. because 1) you cannot dance to that song. 2) you cannot go from the sun always shines on TV to jaunty britpop and 3) (but i just consulted queen wikipedia and learned i was absolutely wrong) it is not an 80's song. as it turns out, it is. 1989. and this undermines my entire argument so let's pretend my initial misconception was correct and i am not just wrong in everything i do.
but that was my problem with this book. if we take as fact that james halliday's obsession was the eighties, than how is quentin tarantino among his favorite directors?? or neal stephenson among his favorite writers?? and unless he really loves the meaning of life, what the hell is monty python doing in there? there is a long pivotal scene involving the acting-out of scenes from the holy grail. i don't even need queen wikipedia to know that that movie came out in 1975. and don't give me attitude about geek culture and how integral that movie is to geeks everywhere because trust me, i am aware. and "well, the seventies were really the eighties..." no. this is a novel. the character has built an entire life around being obsessed with the pop culture of the 80's. commit to your premise!! you wrote this - stick to it! it's not like there is a dearth of source material, that's kind of what the 80's were for.it was ALL pop culture.
but that aside - this is definitely a lot of fun. if there was such a thing, i would call this a popcorn book. it is fun and fast-paced, and if you are old enough, you will chuckle, and if you are younger, you will probably be baffled and miss a lot of the slyly inserted references, but that's okay because you have your whole life ahead of you, so it's a trade off for those of us in our dotage. he gets points for having an oingo boingo reference on page two - that pretty much cemented my engagement in the book, so smart move there. and i loved all the swordquest references. because i know i have gone off about this in another review somewhere, but seriously, doubleyoo tee eff??
i am also glad that he realized he was just writing a tech version of charlie and the chocolate factory. that's all i was thinking of at the beginning, and when he finally references it, it is just to say "nooooo this is different." but it is pretty much the same premise. but he is wise to distance himself from c.a.t.c.f., because, hello?? 1964. not 1984.
dunno - this is going to be a huge hit when it comes out, mark my words. and i expect it will eventually be adapted into a movie. and i will buy the soundtrack to that movie.
Back in 2011, Ready Player One was, perhaps, the year's most well-reviewed book. It received glowing commendations from the likes of NPR, The New York Times, Wired, John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, and many, many more. It maintains a 4.3 average score on Goodreads.com (a significant accomplishment given its 20,000+ reviews), and you'd be hard pressed to find a negative review in any major publication.
In no way can I make any sense of this. Please believe what I am about to write, as it is not even close to hyperbole:
Ready Player One was the most disappointing reading experience of my entire life.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of puzzles that will yield a massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the 1980s. And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize.
And with that, you've just read the best that Ready Player One has to offer: its synopsis.
I should preface the rest of this review by stating that I am, and have always been, a geek at heart. I am as much a byproduct of the 1980s as anyone. I've been a lifelong gamer, a pop culture obsessive, and I once thought I'd married, for real, Princess Peach.
Ready Player One has been hailed by its author, Ernest Cline, as a love letter to anyone who "grew up geek," a sentiment that has been confirmed by every review, in every publication, all over the world. And yet, the Ready Player One that I read was less a love letter to geeks than it was a pat on the back to an 18-year-old Cline, a Stephanie-Meyer-eclipsing Mary Sue that attempts to justify the behavior of an overweight, socially awkward, virginal nerd.
I'm not being mean. It's literally what it is.
At its core, Ready Player One is a fairy tale, a treasure hunt. Albeit, one designed by an 80s-obsessed ultra-nerd whose entire life was steeped in nostalgia. Evidently, human creativity peaked with Zork and Legend. So Wade's hunt for Halladay's "easter egg" is one long excuse for a constant—and I do mean constant—barrage of 80s references.
Actually, scratch that. It's not so much referencing as it is name dropping. 95% of it serves no actual purpose aside from simply mentioning it. At first the references reinforce the story, helping to create a framework that grounds the reader in the "world" Cline has "created" with OASIS. But after the first chapter (yes, the first chapter) these devolve into ceaseless, meaningless throwbacks. The novelty lasts all of ten minutes until you realize that it's all just an annoying form of telling, not showing.
If the point is to re-enact sections of D&D modules and 80s cult classics, then your readers are just getting third-hand retreads of things that aren't even important to begin with. It's sort of like when your socially-awkward friend resolutely recounts a super-sweet TV show for you, word for word, and all you can do is just sit there and wait until he's finished. Pay $20 for that experience and you get Ready Player One.
What makes Ready Player One so disappointing is that these references seem to the be the sole purpose of Cline's writing. The novel doesn't say much of anything. Sure, there are a handful of introspective moments—limp attempts at social commentary—but they're of so little consequence they seem thrown in to fulfill some delusion of grandeur.
Yes, reality really is better and more meaningful than virtual reality. We've been told this in almost every VR-based story known to man. And yet, that's Cline's one takeaway. (Oh, and you should love people for who they are on the inside, even if they have a birthmark on half their face. Thanks Ernest!)
What's confusing about the 80s obsession, though, is the fact that Ready Player One is, at best, a YA-level read. Cline would sit very comfortably beside the likes of Rick Riordan and Suzanne Collins. Ready Player One is inelegant and shallow at the best of times, and yet, this novel is clearly targeted at the 30-year-old-and-up-crowd (if you're any younger much of the subject material is simply too obscure). This subject/reading-level conflict, then, makes the whole mess inherently problematic.
And what's worst—no, I haven't even gotten to the worst part yet—is how the entire thing reeks of elitism. Yes, you read that correctly. This is a book about an overweight, unattractive, lazy, delusional, uber-geek elitist, who believes—truly believes—that his knowledge of 80s trivia makes him superior. And Cline basically affirms this! Some guys buy cars, others put socks down their pants, Cline writes 80s trivia novels.
There is a scene, in chapter 3, in which Wade (or Parzival, as his handle goes), engages in a nerdy rat-a-tat-tat with another OASIS player to see who has more knowledge of 80s pop culture. It is the singularly most embarrassing thing I have ever read from a professional. It's just this much above fan fiction. Actually, fuck that. I've actually read fan fiction more entertaining than this. It was absolutely ridiculous.
Add to all this the fact that Cline's characters are uniformly flat. Wade, our narrator, is blatant author wish fulfillment and his lessons are trivial, at best. His love interest is present only to represent Wade's "true" victory (her heart). The unknowable best friend who harbours a secret you'll never guess (meaning, you absolutely will). And the villain … a one-dimensional, nearly faceless corporation as uninteresting as a rival boyfriend in a John Hughes movie.
"If it's a great book, I want to luxuriate in its greatness. And if it's crap, I want it to magically transform itself into genius. This book just stayed crap." – Amy, a reviewer on Amazon.com
Ready Player One exists solely to glorify hollow pop culture from the 1980s, and yet, Ernest Cline does absolutely nothing to convince the reader that the 80s were cool if he/she didn't think so already. The plot is overly simplistic and plods along with inevitability, making The Da Vinci Code read like a Pulitzer Prize winner. Cline's hero, Wade, is the trivia-equivalent of Superman, where he is so overpowered his "quest" becomes tedious, rather than uplifting. And, at the end of the day, Wade is just an arrogant, elitist prick. (He describes his abject poverty and lack of real world opportunities as like "being in the world's greatest video arcade with no quarters." Seriously, fuck you, Wade.)
Every time I think about this book I want to make my rating lower. It started as a 2, then dropped to a 1.5, and by the end of this review I feel I have no choice but to give it a 1. I hated this book with every fibre of my being, and it escapes the dreaded 0 only because Cline managed to form actual sentences.
Never again will I read Ernest Cline. You can count on that.
Ready Player One is a Fiction/YA/Dystopian hybrid that takes place in the year 2044 where our world is suffering from global energy crisis and everyone needs a means to escape from this harsh truth. This is where OASIS, a genius MMORPG utopia created by James Halliday arrived as the solution to their need for escapism. I’d be lying to myself if I said this book isn’t something that’s written for me. The whole concept and tributes featured in this book are exactly my thoughts and hobbies of the past, some of which still persist to this day.
The plot of RPO itself is actually really simple. Before his death, Halliday leaves a will that stated, if anyone is able to solve the puzzle he hid in OASIS, that person will receive all his wealth and power. This is literally the plot and where the story began for our main character, Wade, who has devoted his life into this treasure hunt.
“You'd be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”
Honestly, I have two main problems with the book:
1. First, almost all problems that appeared in the book were… how do I say this? Too convenient for Wade. It’s like he’s some Gary Stu who can do literally everything that relates with not only OASIS but every software and hacking, out of nowhere.
2. The excessive details hurt the pacing a lot of times. When the plot really starts, I couldn’t put down the book but most of the time, there was way too much unnecessary repetition to the details. This made the book as something that was more written for a movie adaptation (there will be one coming in 2018 and it’s directed by Steven Spielberg so I’m hopeful for it).
Despite these problems, I still enjoy reading RPO very much and it’s because the main strength of the book lies not within its plot or characters but within the concepts and tributes to every single popular entertainment media in the 80’s and 90’s. The whole concept and world building of the book is something that resonates with me so much even though the concept itself is not actually original. If you’ve been following anime and video games like me, you’ll probably know about this franchise called “.hack'”(2002) or this popular anime called “Sword Art Online” (2012) and they’re pretty much the exact same thing as what OASIS is about. Even the way to access it via a VR consoles is the exact copy, the only differences is that .hack and SAO have more dangerous real life repercussion in playing the game. However, it’s the tributes and crossovers with every single popular media in the 80’s and 90’s that made RPO a unique experience to read.
Every single elements in RPO revolves around those tributes, this book is pretty much a utopia for geeks and nerds (don’t take this as offensive, I think geeks and nerds are awesome). Video games, anime, movies, music, movies, cultures that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s were featured here and I mean every popular one from western and eastern culture.
Look at this picture for example:
http://orig02.deviantart.net/4941/f/2... for full resolution
This is from a scene in the book and trust me, I can tell you the name of every single thing in this picture and their stories cause I watched and played all of them growing up. Mobile Suit RX-78 Gundam, Macross, Leopardon, Kurosawa from Cowboy Bebop, the list goes on and on. This picture featured only a tiny fraction of what medias were featured in the book, there are still so much more for you to find out for yourself if you decide to read it (or watch it next year when the movie come out). With the book revolving around this concept and world building, it made reading it a really fun experience and a palate cleanser from my usual “Adult Epic Fantasy” read, don’t get me wrong, it’s my favorite genre but we all need a break sometimes.
What made the book even better for me however is the theme that was explored, escapism.
“Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable.”
This quote is in the book but I’m not kidding, I actually said this quote word by word back when I was in middle school (around 15 years ago). RPO provides a solution to a harsh reality and now, imagine if this solution really exists in our world and by that, I mean something as huge as OASIS. I’m almost quite sure that a lot of people, including me, would be playing that game like we’re obsessed. Mute people can speak in the game, anyone disabled can function perfectly, weak person can be strong, an introvert can be outgoing, the list goes on but most of all, you can actually make a living out of playing the game. Who wouldn’t want that?
I’ve been playing video games since I was 5 years old. Name every popular actions, FPS and RPG from Playstation 1 era until this year, I can guarantee you I’ve played almost all of them. Final Fantasy series, Suikoden, Metal Gear Solid, Wild Arms, Dark Souls, The Legend of Dragoon, Devil May Cry, Pokemon, etc or even anime, TV series and manga that I won’t mention here, the list is way too long. The point is, other than mandatory school and colleges, I spent most of my time escaping from reality with these entertainment.
Guess which one I sacrificed? Good grades. It’s not bad, I rarely study but I passed every subject with average results. Do I regret it? No, the thing is, my form of escapism shaped who I am today. In my opinion, gaming and reading is one of the best forms of entertainment to increase your sense of empathy since you experienced thousands of different lives from different worlds and circumstances. However, these hobbies do cause loneliness if you do them excessively and this, in my opinion is what the book tried to convey. Too much of anything is never good for you, even if it’s something you love.
“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn't know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
I faced major loneliness last year when I played video games way too much, it almost ruined my life. Gaming can be a really lonely hobby, especially once you finished a game and try to talk about it with someone. The community is too cancerous and childish, where you can’t state an opinion without getting any of them riled up. What I meant is something really simple, for example “hey, I think this is the best game I ever played” and the reply you’ll get will be something like “your gaming taste is shit.” I figured, I can’t spend my life on this too much anymore. Don’t believe me? Search on Youtube any new released games such as “Legend of Zelda” or “Horizon Zero Dawn,” look at the comment section and you’ll see more comments bashing Xbox community more than praising the game itself.
It’s one of the reason I tried reading again, starting with Mistborn back in September 2016 and oh boy my addiction to gaming decreased by a LOT. I’m much happier now since I started taking reading seriously. The main reason is this, I have people to share my experience with, in the forms of reviews or discussions. In the end true happiness lies in our world. Balance your life, to quote the Beatles, “all you need is love”, every wealth you have, every hobbies amounts to nothing if you don’t have someone to share it with and that, is what I think the book tried to convey the most to us. Everything must be in balance, besides, let’s face it, without our mundane reality, we won’t enjoy reading or playing video games that much anyway.
Overall, I had some problems with RPO but despite them, I really enjoyed reading it and I find the concept and the theme of the book something that’s really important and resonates with me. It induced a lot of nostalgia factors and again, a really great standalone and palate cleanser. Right now it’s one of the best of its kind I’ve ever read.
I would like to thank my best bookish friends, Sarah, Haifa, Lema, Mary, Celeste, Aria, Eon, TS, Tweebie, Colleen, Caleb, Melika, Melanie, Brittney, Katerina, Samir, Niki, Ivan, Orient, Layla, pretty much everyone who always liked and comments on my reviews or updates, you know who you are. There’s so much more I liked to mention but that’s impossible for me to do in this review, just know that I do remember all of you and you made my reading life much more enjoyable. Thank you very much and I hope we will continue our escapism together in the future, in the right amount of course! :)
This review can also be found on my dear friend, Niki's blog: The Obsessive Bookseller
You can also find the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at Booknest