Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I recall a complaint somewhere or other claiming this book to be just an excuse to spout off ample ’80s trivia. I’m guessing that complaint came from someone who has no appreciation for that incredible decade – no, dare I say … dynasty!
Movies, television and music are already happily tapping into the ’80s and have been for some time, so I don’t see an issue with a book doing so. I am certainly not one to argue, considering I am happily indoctrinating my kids with the things that I loved growing up. It warms my heart to hear them fighting for the honor of Greyskull.
This is also a book that any geek can appreciate because it’s all about us. No, not true, the major focus is on video gaming, but there is more than enough for any comic book, sci fi and fantasy, D&D nerd to appreciate.
The book mainly takes place in and around the OASIS, which is a virtual world of massive proportions that no one would ever leave — particularly because reality has become so desolate. It’s a world where both the social networker and the gamer have a place. (Literally. You can purchase your own planet.)
Ready Player One fortunately does not simply toss out the ’80s nostalgia in random intervals without context. Everything is sewn together coherently, and when it does get carried away with the trivia, it’s usually in the form of the main character, a teenaged boy, doing what teenaged boys do best when surrounded by friends: showing off.
While I’m sure this book was conceived well before #Nymwars, there is a strikingly familiar concept at play within the OASIS, where its creative company, GSS, firmly respects users’ right to privacy and anonymity, while a rival corporation, bent on taking over GSS and turning OASIS into a massive billboard, would ensure that anonymity be a thing of the past. All the better to market to you, my dear.
Anonimity is a prevailing theme, where OASIS users vehemently hold on to theirs, no matter how close they become. I relate to almost everything in this book save for this. I’m sure it is true of some, but I have made and even lost some wonderful friends online and once those friendships have been solidified, of course we’ve taken off the pseudonym veil.
I wrote the above after a mere 100 pages into the book, with the intent to give it at least four stars. Shortly after writing it, the plot (hunting for the OASIS creator’s easter egg which will grant the ultimate fortune – his billions and ownership of the OASIS) suddenly picks up.
Or so I thought.
After the momentary action, the book takes a complete turn into ‘a few months in a life of an MMOer’ where everything is a looooong draaaawn out quest, complete with a full chapter on an awkward teen online romance that is ended climactically with a fight scene that could have been written by an awkward online teen.
There is also a pause to remove the stereotype of a fat pasty unwashed kid sitting in his [mom’s] basement all day long. Realizing how unhealthy his lifestyle is, Wade, the main character, forces himself into an exercise and healthy eating routine that does everything but get rid of the pastiness (but he does at least get some vitamin D). There is also brief mention of him actually working 10 hours a day, though that inconvenience never seems to come up again. A few moments spent providing the morals of the story which are not getting too lost online, no matter how much reality sucks, and don’t judge people by appearances.
The plot then plods along like a never ending RPG quest, with enough deux ex machinas to make a Gameshark proud. I hear there’s a movie deal already in the works. Not surprising considering the popularity of the book and of Cline’s previous screenplay, Fanboys.
Still, a fun read, but don’t believe the hype. It’s a lovely walk down memory lane and convenient to have it all condensed into a handy book, but, strip out the simplistic plot and it just becomes a grandiose wiki entry about the ’80s.