Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ReadyPlayerOne

Kicking off 2015 with a bang, I’d seen Ready Player One reviewed positively by many of my friends so of course I had to get in on this good thing.

Time to tackle the first item on my TBR list.

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Available from: Amazon or BookDepository
Goodreads: Ready Player One

What’s it about?

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 fiendish puzzles that will yield 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 late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

What’d I think?

Do you enjoy 80s nostalgia? Do you have a love affair with technology and video games?
If yes to either of these, you’ll probably fall in love with Ready Player One.

Ernest Cline has crafted a future reality that is actually not that far removed from our own. A reality in which virtual life in OASIS is an easy escape from the horrors of a planet suffering from an energy crisis. Much of what is happening in the book can be seen as an extension of such games as Second Life, and hardware developments like the Occulus Rift and Zero Latency. Dying planet aside, it really made me pine for a time when fully immersive virtual reality is available.

“I’d been so proud of all this high-tech hardware when I’d first purchased it. But over the past few months, I’d come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist. Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.”

Ready Player One is a love letter to the 80s, with pop culture references on every page. One particular movie, WarGames (1983), is mentioned heavily throughout the story. So much so that I had to grab a copy and watch it (fantastic 80s fare, thanks for the recommendation Ernest!). It is these constant references that turn into one of the few annoyances in the book. Coming too thick and fast, turning a subtle hat-tip to full blown info dump of John Hughes movie trivia (thankfully happens only once or twice).

WarGames1983
Starring Matthew Broderick, WarGames is pure 80s hacker bliss.

Plot wise, comparisons to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory are hard to avoid. While reading I kept seeing hints of cliche plot development, but thankfully each and every time I was surprised by a twist. The last few chapters are absolute page turners and had me on the edge of my seat (I ended up having to leave the house near the end, and finished reading on my phone!).

In researching the book further, it seems the rights for a film adaptation were snapped up quickly. Unfortunately the project seems to be stuck in development limbo. I wonder if this has anything to do with the massive amount of licensing that would be required for all the movies, music, video games, comic books and board games. I’ll be keeping an eye on the film for sure, as i’d love to see some of the scenes from the book on the big screen.

What’s the verdict?
Perusing the Goodreads page for Ready Player One i can see that no less than three of my friends have given this book a 5 star rating. Does it deserve it? In the absence of a half star, I would say yes. The pop culture reference overload never becomes a huge issue, and the fresh take on a Willy Wonka-esque competition carries the plot along nicely. Highly recommended.

★★★★★

This book is available on the Kindle book store, often a little cheaper than the paper version. I generally read my books through the Kindle eReader or the free app on my Android phone.

KindleRead more about my review policy.

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