Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Arrow Books
Published Date: 5 April 2012
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

It's the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We're out of oil. We've wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS - and his massive fortune - will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions - and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed. (summary from Goodreads)

Ready Player One is a heck of a nostalgia trip, paying tribute to everything we've loved about gaming and science fiction.

Cline has created pop culture heaven. I would love this book simply for the many references, but wouldn't you know it, it's awesome for other reasons too. Like the fact it's so many genres in one - science fiction, dystopian, action, mystery, romance. Ready Player One has a little bit of everything and it keeps things captivating. There were times I felt a little overwhelmed reading it. The many references and Halliday's hunt required a lot of backstory and explanation. Sometimes I felt bogged down in that. But at the same time, it's details truly are interesting, so it's easy to overcome. There was an intensity to Ready Player One, to the action and the hunt, that keeps the narrative from being outright boring or tedious. There were definitely some "sitting on the edge of your seat" moments! Here and there I found myself surprised with the direction Cline took his story. It didn't always go as I may have expected and that is brilliant. What's also brilliant is the OASIS. A virtual reality that is mind blowing. So yes, I wish this were real. Granted, here it's used to escape and ignore a dying world and so it has it's downsides. There's no denying I'd get lost in it. Cline's world building is great. It's so easy to imagine Wade's world, to understand how our world could become his. Through the OASIS, pop culture and Halliday's scavenger hunt, Cline confronts a number of issues. The future we're headed towards, what it means to really live, what truly makes us who we are. Ready Player One is definitely a lot of fun, giant Easter egg hunt through pop culture that is it, but it's deeper moments are impacting. 

Cline's characters had an impact too. I really liked Wade. I found him very easy to relate to despite his different world and situation. I enjoyed how clever and creative he was, especially when it came to completing the hunt or besting Sorrento. Oh, how I disliked that guy. Wade provided the story some emotion. Heck, I liked him so much I was even okay with his wallowing over a girl! That's saying something, actually. But the girl was Art3mis and she was cool, so. I found Art3mis relatable too. She comes across so strong and ready to kick ass, yet her insecurities could get the best of her. It's something we can all understand. I liked Art3mis's motivations for completing the hunt. It's genuinely kind and heroic and that it effects Wade provides some of that depth of story. Personally, I loved Aech (pronounced "H") the best. His friendship with Wade is awesome. He was funny and loyal, and the reveal of his true identity had me noisily appreciative. The issues Cline hits on with that one thing is perfect. All the yeses in the world to Aech! It was touching that Wade's relationships, not only with Art3mis and Aech, but Shoto and Daito, defined him and his actions. The friendship between these characters gave me all the feels at one time or another, trust me. I also have to briefly mention Ogden - he's the Dumbledore/Gandalf/wise old man of the story and he always had me smiling. He had some fantastic moments. 

I'm glad to have read Ready Player One. It's a wild romp that pushes us to ask some interesting questions, so that we end this novel not just reminiscing and appreciating the fun, but taking a look around and wondering. 

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