Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: August 26th, 2011
Source: Checked out from the library
In the year 2044, 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.
This was a fun idea that would have been better executed as a short story. I know a lot of people loved this book, so I’m going to be specific about why I almost DNFed it until the final three chapters:
- Wade is an infallible main character. Until the third-to-last chapter, there is no contingency he hasn’t planned for (off-screen, of course, so as soon as the surprise happens he can tell us he planned and prepped for that months ago, in his copious free time). This makes him both annoying and boring.
- The villain is a shallow and unrealistically pointless evil. At first, it’s a stand-in for the homogenizing corporate capitalism machine, but then Cline has to put a face on it (of course), so he goes for the most obvious, shallow, summer-movie villain, pulling out all the immoral stops for a relatively pointless prize.
- There’s an energy crisis that causes most people to work virtual jobs instead of driving to real ones, yet enough energy to power servers around the world and everybody’s computer and hardware setup so they can log in to the Oasis.
- Oasis credits spend like real money in the real world, and yet the world economy still operates somehow.
- The primary love interest is sassy, intelligent, persistent, so OF COURSE she also has to be sweetly vulnerable with a disproportionate low self esteem regarding how she looks.
- This book can’t decide if things in the Oasis are serious (again, economy!) or goofy (Og thinks it’s great fun to watch the game). And nobody finds it creepy that Gregarious is running the world, apparently.
- This is STUFFED with references to everything 80s non-mainstream, from computer models to anime to TV shows to music. Not to books, though, because those don’t count. *ahem* It’s a cute concept, but after awhile it felt like Cline has a checklist of things to put in there, and he was just creating scenarios so he could reference each thing on his checklist.
- Things didn’t get surprising, or good enough to make me care, until the third-to-last chapter.
- Previous to that, this book was filled with redundancy, sometimes literally copied word-for-word from previous passages and pasted in later. Was this a NaNoWriMo project??
- There were contradictory fact statements, and a lot of data-dumping (which obliterates what little tension there was).
If you want to read a book that is pretty much exactly like watching a summer movie, where you don’t have to think too much or care at all, then this is a decent book. But my problem with that is: it’s a book. Books are a medium where you can take that shallow summer movie vibe and make it gorgeously emotional, evocative, resonant, and explored. Instead, it was bulked up with fluff.
I would rather have watched this as a movie, or three-part mini-series, than wasted my time trying to force myself to enjoy a book because other people loved it, and it references my childhood a lot.