Chris's Reviews > Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
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Mar 30, 12

bookshelves: adult, not-graphic, sci-fi, ya

“Jim always wanted everyone to share his obsessions, to love the same things he loved. I think this contest is his way of giving the entire world an incentive to do just that.”
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It suddenly occurred to me just how absurd this scene was: a guy wearing a suit of armor, standing next to an undead king, both hunched over the controls of a classic arcade game. It was the sort of surreal image you’d expect to see on the cover of an old issue of
Heavy Metal or Dragon magazine.

We learn from a footnote in the prologue that James Halliday, the pivotal eccentric genius orchestrating things from beyond the grave in Ready Player One, was eight years old in 1980. As was author Ernest Cline. (As was audiobook reader Wil Wheaton.)

As was I. That has to make me, I would think, an ideal reader for the book--its target demographic--since it is based on obsession with the popular and geek culture of the 80s, our formative decade. I suppose I was merely a geek--not a mega geek like the characters in the book (and, I assume, Cline) are. I took my Dungeons & Dragons and comic books to school, read sci-fi and fantasy almost exclusively, devoured TV and movies, and delved into music, but was only moderately into computers and videogames. Still, I don't have to wonder about the constant references that form the basis of this book because I lived them and they are mine.

Which makes me wonder what the reading experience must be like for older and younger readers. In terms of our numbers, Generation X is the smallest of all the defined generations reading right now, so I would think we must compose the minority of this book's audience, yet it's been widely well-reviewed. Maybe we're just at the right age to be the majority of influential readers and reviewers at the moment.

Or maybe there's something particular about the 80s. This is just an off-the-cuff theory, but it seems to me the 80s was the last decade of basically mass, homogenized consumption before the rising popularity of cable TV and the Internet allowed popular culture to splinter into ever smaller, more specialist foci of obsessions, as people with particular interests were allowed to connect across distances and define themselves around those interests. Perhaps that gives it a special place in pop culture history.

Or maybe this book has so much more going for it than the fun of its nostalgia and geektastic reminiscing. Maybe it's simply a good book whose appeal doesn't lie in its witty references, but in character, plot, and deeper themes.

It's probably a combination of all of those things plus some others I haven't mentioned. Regardless, I can only review this book from my own perspective, the perfect one from which to identify with it and geek out about it.

So what did I think? I devoured it. It was as addictive as a videogame, in the best possible ways: entertaining, challenging, gripping, action-packed, and compelling. I was engaged by the characters and drawn into their concerns, rooting for them all the way. I think the 80s obsession is a nice bonus for readers like me, but is not at the heart of the book’s appeal. There might be more literary options out there, more thoughtful sci-fi, more moving reading experiences to be had, but for pure fun and entertainment value this one is hard to beat.

The year is 2044 and the world’s foremost videogame designer and virtual interface inventor has just died. He has willed his entire estate to the person who can win his final game by deciphering a trail of obscure clues and references to experiences from his youth hidden in the OASIS--the virtual network experience he created that has overtaken the Internet. High school senior Wade is one of those obsessed with winning the game--and, thus, with all things 80s--as his lottery ticket hope for a better life in a world that is slowly collapsing. There is more than videogame glory at stake, though, because a competing company will stop at nothing to win the prize and control the OASIS, will even go after players in the real world. What starts off as a game for Wade quickly becomes an all or nothing need to win, and his life--and the future of the OASIS--may depend upon his ability to get high scores in videogames, navigate old Dungeons & Dragons modules, recall song lyrics, live out movie scripts, and solve all manner of 80s-geek-based puzzles. Trivia has never been so important. Or fun.
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