• Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
• Hardcover: 372 pages
• Publisher: Crown, 2011
• ISBN: 030788743X
• Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
• Recommended For: Lovers of gaming, science fiction, pop culture, Dungeons and Dragons, ’80s music (but you don’t have to be fans of all to enjoy this book); particularly recommended for readers of the Generation X/Y variety.
Quick Review: Earns a 96 %, or 4.8 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. Ready Player One Rubric
I am in love with this book! It was a blast to read and I read slowly so I could savor every single word of it! If you’re looking for a good time with a book, I highly recommend this one!
How I Got Here: It was recommended by my pal Amy at Insatiable Booksluts and it turns out many of my other reading buddies had read and loved it as well. Goes to show that I should always listen and pay attention to my friends’ book recommendations. They got this one right! I read it during my participation in Dewey’s Readathon.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
My Analysis and Critique:
If any of you follow my tweets and were paying attention last Saturday when I was reading this book, you know how much I loved it. I was ga-ga in love. After the first 30 pages, when Wade, the protagonist and narrator, notes that he “would scan the lunchroom like a T-1000”, I finally tweeted “this book was written for ME!”. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought so.
SJ of Snobbery responded “No, me. x-( ”
and Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicle series, blurbed “Completely fricking awesome. This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body. I felt like it was written just for me,” (book jacket of Ready Player One).
Ready Player One felt like a good friend. The kind of friend with whom you walk around, snickering and making inside jokes. The kind of friend who wouldn’t mind your constant Seinfeld references and would want to play “name the band and song” game when you listen to the radio. A really fun friend who totally gets you.
So, enough with the emotional connection. Let me break down why this book was excellent.
Cline was a genius in writing this book. If he was trying to create a book that would incite instant love with the geeks of the world, he succeeded. He used an always fun and engaging premise for a book: a contest, a quest, to find the Easter Egg (much like a golden ticket) in an MMORPG called OASIS. He has created a world, a future that is definitely dystopian, and yet the geeks rule the world. A world that is obsessed with an online game. Everyone wants to find the Easter Egg when the contest is announced online–the winner will receive all of the wealth of OASIS’s deceased creator, the Willy Wonka of the story, James Halliday. Our narrator, Wade, is the Charlie Bucket of Ready Player One, the unlikely contestant in the game as he is so poor that he can’t afford to level up his avatar past level 10. He can’t travel to the various worlds in the game, so how is he going to be able to search for this egg?
So, he spends his time obsessing over all of the things that Halliday was obsessed with–movies, TV, music, books, and games of the ’80s. Wade even takes Latin in school because Halliday took Latin (which definitely pays off for him). In short, to win Halliday’s contest, he must become Halliday.
Then begins Wade’s adventures in his quest for the egg. He makes friends along the way with other “gunters” (hunters of the egg) and quickly finds himself embattled with the “big bad” of the contest: IOI, a huge corporation that wants to find the egg so that they may take over OASIS and begin charging for its use. OASIS is the only good thing in this future, and no one wants to see it become a corporate machine. So, not only do Wade and his gunter pals want to win for themselves, they want to win to make sure that OASIS doesn’t fall into IOI’s hands.
I found none of the plot to be flat. In fact, I was savoring every single line in the book, and was stoked every time Wade found another clue and had to crack the code. Once he did, the trials he had to ace were so much fun and engaging! Ready Player One worked like every great adventure game I have ever played: solve the puzzle so you can see what conflicts arise next.
Many people complain about the constant dropping of ’80s pop culture references. For example, at one time, Wade notes that he has bought a DeLorean (the infamous Marty McFly-mobile) for flying around the OASIS galaxy. Reviewers complain that this reference and others serve no purpose in the plot. In some parts, they are right. Instead, they serve a purpose with characterization. As noted above, the only reason that Wade does so well in Halliday’s contest is because he becomes Halliday, a person who was known to fire his employees if they didn’t know the subsequent line to any particular random movie line he would quote at work. Everything in Halliday’s life was “geek” and ’80s, and so it must be for Wade to survive in this game. That’s all Wade knows, and it serves him well.
In the end, I will concede that I am very biased towards this book, because I am part of a generation that loves nostalgia and all things self-referential. I love inside jokes. I remember nearly everything from the 1980s. I was an early gamer as a daughter of a computer geek. I took a class in BASIC programming when I was in elementary school. I love ’80s pop and rock music. Real Genius is one of my all-time favorite movies. And, I know what a kobold is and spent much time leveling up by slaying kobolds (and skinning them!). So, this book was obviously right up my alley.
But, I’d like to think that anyone could enjoy it. In fact, I’m going to stop my raving now, remove all of my post-its from the book, and pass it along to my friend Pat (who agrees with Wade and also thinks Howard Jones was a poet). I’ll also probably buy a copy for my Dad, who will probably love the Rush references (my least favorite part!).
Read this book!