I had heard a lot of good things about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and from what I understood it was a non-stop ride of 80’s nostalgia that geeks really seemed to love. From what I knew about the book it focused around a dystopian future, virtual reality and a treasure hunt that takes place within the virtual world. The premise behind the book had me very interested and strong recommendations from others I trust, had me adding it to my list of must read books and I finally got around to doing just that. The fact that Spielberg is now pushing hard to get this movie to screen was another factor in wanting to read this.
Set in the near future, the world as we know it has gone down the toilet. We have massive overcrowding, mass starvation, governments are in ruin and to escape from reality, people have turned to the virtual reality of the OASIS. This is a freely available virtual reality system created by the recently deceased James Halliday who as his last will and testament has created a contest inside the OASIS for those smart enough, skilled enough and versed enough in all things 80’s and James Halliday can work at unravelling in order to win the fortune of James Halliday and control of Gregarious Simulation Systems, the company that controls the OASIS.
Focusing on Wade Watts an extremely poor student who has devoted his time and energy to solving the puzzle and winning the prize. He is known as a gunter (a professional treasure hunter) and he spends most of his free time researching everything that he possibly can about James Halliday and the 1980’s. Wade is smart, determined and unfortunately about as poor as they come inside the OASIS and this leaves him at a disadvantage to fellow gunter’s who can afford to traverse the OASIS and he sits at school, waiting and thinking about the puzzle he has to solve.
Eventually Wade stumbles upon new information that leads him to becoming the first person in the world to solve the initial puzzle and put him in first place on the scoreboard. Others gunters unravel the first mystery and eventually the evil corporation that wishes to take control of the vast Halliday fortune and the OASIS itself figures out the mystery and things begin to catch up to Wade.
I don’t want to get to much further into the outline of Ready Player One as I feel it would spoil too much of the mystery that unravels throughout the book.
The big question then. Is the book any good? In short, yes…and no. Ready Player One is an easy to read book that goes down smooth, if you like anime, video games, pop culture references, and other assorted 80’s nostalgia. I found myself always wanting to know what’s next, trying to decipher the clues to the puzzles and even trying to determine just how it would end or what would happen next. It was a fun read for me and the passion about geek and pop culture that Cline puts into Ready Player One is evident and abundant. The book doesn’t just pander to geeks and pop culture enthusiasts, it fellates them until climax.
The amount of references, information and inside jokes stuffed between the pages of Ready Player One are thrown at the reader at a pace that even Vin Diesel couldn’t beat down the quarter mile. It’s relentless, it’s fun and it’s quirky, unless you don’t enjoy the things that Cline is talking about. In the hands of my wife, she would hate this book as the references to iconic video games, Dungeons and Dragons and anime would go over her head and be lost. It’s not that she’s not a highly intelligent and beautiful woman, it’s just that those things aren’t her cup of tea.
In my hands, I can overlook some of the flat characters, the overused tropes and the pacing which can drop to a lull at points but that’s because I love this stuff. On the other hand, I feel that someone who doesn’t love or isn’t interested in the subject matter is going to see through the book and discover what it truly is, a fun, trashy beach read in the vain of a drug store romance novel. It’s great for what it is, a lot of fun but at the end of the day it’s not going to be loved by all but the geeks who do love Ready Player One are really going to love it.
If you’re a fan of pop culture, video games and all things geeky, I would give Ready Player One a solid 4 out of 5. If you’re not a fan of those things then this may be more of a 2.5 out of 5.