Quinn Rollins's Reviews > Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
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's review
Oct 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, audiobook
Read in February, 2012

I saw reviews of Ready Player One that had elements that I liked—a dark, dystopian world where humanity has retreated into virtual reality instead of confronting their problems; young heroes who fight back against that darkness; and oddly, tributes to the 1980’s embedded into that virtual reality. But the premise of Ready Player One is also so intertwined with videogaming culture that I feared I wouldn’t be able to get into it. The only video game I’ve ever really loved was Tetris, and I worried that, despite being exactly the right age to appreciate this book, I wouldn’t enjoy it. I shouldn’t have worried.

Ready Player One is Ernest Cline’s first novel, but he’s already made a movie, “Fanboys,” which got to the heart of Star Wars and geek culture. He’s a fanboy himself, and he’s written this book about a future where the geeky obsessive nature of fandom ends up ruling the earth. It’s the year 2030, and the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs dude who invented the virtual reality OASIS that everyone lives in has passed away. When he died, he left a message that will leave his vast fortune and control of OASIS to whoever can solve his final puzzle—play and win his final game. The book follows a young hero, Wade Watts and his comrades through a race to win that game, and prevent a global megacorporation from winning OASIS. Wade’s more comfortable in the online game-world than he is in his real life, and is adept in one world, a loser in the other.

The OASIS itself is set up with tributes to the 80’s culture that the Creator loved so much, so there are references to Goonies, Star Wars, War Games, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, Monty Python, Star Trek, Max Headroom, and dozens and dozens of old video games. If you miss a reference here or there, don’t worry, because you’ll understand and enjoy others.

In many ways, this nearly 400-page hardcover is a simple adventure, with a predictable but enjoyable plot. In other ways, Cline provides an insightful commentary not only on geek culture, but on a world where we’ve retreated from real human contact, and real relationships, to one where online relationships are the more real ones. Having experienced the network of friendships through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, message boards and other websites—meeting people and making friends with them online and then meeting them “In Real Life,” aren’t there times that we prefer the virtual friend to the real one? This and other issues came to mind as I read Ready Player One, and Cline is able to use these ideas with a finesse that makes the hero’s journey a more enjoyable and introspective one than just a video game. If you’re a fan of video games, the 1980’s, or just a mindbending, reality-warping adventure, check this book out.
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02/03/2012 page 33
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