Harold Ogle's Reviews > Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
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's review
Sep 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: humor, science-fantasy, pop-culture
Recommended to Harold by: Mary Pascual

One of my favorite comedy films is "Free Enterprise," which is about a number of guys who are dealing with the fact that they are adults and yet are emotionally still twelve-year-old boys obsessed with science fiction fandom. For someone like me, who peppers his conversation with obscure quotes from science fiction TV shows, novels, films and video games, "Free Enterprise" is both identification and validation. Ready Player One is a novel for the same crowd. Like "Free Enterprise," the plot is a simple contrivance to set up a breathtaking chain of pop culture references that mostly resonated with me quite strongly (I have never understood the appeal of Rush). Rather than being put off by the cavalcade of pop culture, I often found myself hoping that a favorite video game, song, TV commercial, or feature film would also have a cameo appearance in the book. For instance, I would have had a section each on Phantasie II and FTL's Dungeon Master games. But the book is still quite fun without my "obvious" choices.

The premise is rooted in the idea that our current behavior - spending our lives and our paychecks to play games and watch streaming movies online incessantly - is extrapolated into a future in which everyone spends all of their time in a virtual game world: not just the ten millions World of Warcraft players we have today, but everyone who can afford it. Then the lead designer of the game dies, leaving a will to the whole planet Earth that his entire fortune will be imparted to the first person to "finish the game" of classic video game challenges, interspersed with detailed knowledge of pop culture from the 80s and 90s. After a brief introduction, we meet our protagonist after he and everyone else on the planet have spent ten years trying to find the first challenge: ten grueling years spent learning everything they can about the 80s.

But, as I say, the plot is far less engaging that the references liberally peppered throughout the book. One of the challenges involves Dungeons of Daggorath, a game I spent many hours playing in my youth (strangely, the author makes no reference to the bizarrely unique control scheme for the game) and to which I make occasional reference even to this day. On top of that, there is a fight between kaiju mecha, quotes from "Schoolhouse Rock," sections of "Zork"...essentially, if you are not either someone who came of age in the 80s or someone who obsessively studied the 80s like one of the characters in the book, Ready Player One will entertain you but may seem overly long with all the pop culture references. For those of us who do know the 80s, the book is a comforting blanket of nostalgia.
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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Babcock Kudos to the shout-out to Free Enterprise. Star Trek was my first fandom, something I entered into as a kid. I first watched Free Enterprise as a teenager, and it was helpful in making that transition from a child/adolescent perspective on fandom to a more mature/adult perspective. That and Fanboys are both fantastic sort of satires (and I love William Shatner in both of them).

So, I appreciate the comparison and think it’s quite apt.

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