Monday, January 15, 2018

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Summary: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place.  The only time teenage Wade Watt really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS.  Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines -- puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture icons of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.  But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize.  The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win -- and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.  (Summary from back of book - Image from

My Review:  I went into this book with sky high hopes.  One of my friends, a fellow bibliophile, recommended it alongside A Man Called Ove (which I gushed over here) as her top books of 2017.  She's an avid reader, and former bookseller, and so her glowing recommendation usually means I'm likely to strike literary gold.  Having unreasonably high expectations can often lead to disappointment, and, unfortunately, that is what happened to me.

Ready Player One is imaginative, complex, and likely to dazzle a lot of people at the box office when the movie comes out in March 2018.   The entire concept of the book intrigued me and I appreciated that it delved into a variety of contemporary themes and sub-themes (e.g. our society's increasing dependence on technology, the idealized nature of the online world, the evils of greed, addiction, and corrupt corporations, and so on). One of my favorite quotes spoke to the depressing reality of Wade's Wall-E-like existence:

...over the past few months, I'd come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn't exist.  Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.  Standing there under the bleak fluorescents of my tiny one-room apartment, there was no escaping the truth.  In real life, I was nothing but an anti-social hermit.  A recluse.  A pale-skinned, pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact.  I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul wasting his life on a glorified video game.

I liked the buttons the author was trying to push with his work, but I just didn't feel invested in the story. Part of the problem was that even though I enjoyed the basic plot, a lot of the subject matter was outside my wheelhouse. I am a geek at heart, but not really a gamer geek.  I caught the references to iconic movies like Monty Python or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the nods to TV shows like Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Firefly, but when it comes to gaming, well, I have never so much as played Minecraft.  We didn't have video games growing up, and I couldn't even pass the original Mario at my neighbor's house.  I'm that bad.  First-person shooters make me motion sick and the closest I've ever been to RPG's is the day I sent my boyfriend off to sword fight in the quad (not a proud moment, I assure you).  I only caught about 10% of the steady stream of pop culture references hurled my way, leaving the other 90% to sail right over my head.  Oh, I still knew what was going on in the book, but I believe that the story would have been enhanced if I had caught a bit more.

The best way I can explain the whole experience was that it was like watching my college boyfriend (yes, the same one) play a really amazing video game -- cool up to a point, but not something I want to do for hours on end.  It took me an inordinately long time to feel that wrenching gut-hook that yanked me into the story, which came roughly 360 pages into a 579 page book.  It wasn't until Wade ran into some truly harsh realities outside the virtual world that I started to feel that hoped for pull, but once I did, I finished it in a flat second and can see why it's being made into a movie.  While I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, I'd be far more likely to recommend it to someone with an extensive gaming/RPG background, as I think they'd probably enjoy it more than myself.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Plenty of swearing, some anti-Christian themes, some frank discussion of sexual matters.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails