Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

12600138Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

“No one in the world gets what they want and that is beautiful.”

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It’s the year 2044 and the world now lives in a virtual simulation known as the OASIS – people work there, attend virtual schools and socialise within the sim.  When the creator, James Halliday, announces that there is an easter egg hidden in the game and the player who finds it will win his entire fortune, the OASIS erupts with activity as every player around the world scrambles to find it.  But when four years pass, with no sign of the egg, only the dedicated egg hunters (known as gunters) and a large corporation seeking control of the OASIS are left still searching.  That is, until gunter Wade Watts discovers the first part of the puzzle.

Usually I review a book almost immediately after reading, but with Ready Player One it was different.  It took me several days to really digest what I’d read, until I was ready to put pen to paper.  I think in part this is due to Ready Player One being very much a story within a story.  It did take a great deal of focus to imagine the ever-changing landscapes of the OASIS.  I sure had to do my homework with this one – a few times I had to Google the 80s film and video game references so that I could better picture the scene unfolding in my mind.  My nerd trivia knowledge was definitely challenged!  It was an exceedingly ambitious novel, and I think Cline has done a tremendous job.

I was really kept on my toes for the entirety of the book; it never seemed to be clear cut who would win Halliday’s egg.  With the scoreboards constantly evolving, it certainly wasn’t a given that Wade would find the egg first.  But that wasn’t a problem.  The Sixers were so unlikable – Sorrento was in fact the perfect video game or television villain, really – that I quickly came to root for all of the gunters.  I didn’t care who won as long as it wasn’t IOI.

As a narrator, Wade was great fun, and I often found myself laughing at his sharp wit.  On the other hand though, he did seem far too immature for his age at times – perhaps a lifetime in a virtual sim does that to a person.  This also extended to emotional maturity too.  I don’t know if it was the style of writing, or a character flaw of Wade, but I felt like I never really saw much emotional vulnerability from him.  When he was scared or hurting, I felt it was brushed over so quickly that I never got to see him deal with those feelings and grow as a character.  Again, maybe the nature of the OASIS is responsible for this behaviour.  Anyway, I completely forgive him this character flaw, as his intelligence and sense of humour made the book what it is, and gave him a distinctive personality among the other gunters.

The funny thing is that in a sense, by having the plot circulate around pop culture references, Cline is doing exactly what Halliday did in the book – creating a world where the reader has no choice but to wade through these interests to locate the egg.  I really enjoyed that journey too – many references I understood, and I’ve never read a piece of fiction so grounded in the real world before.  It just reinforced how uncanny the whole thing was.  In my younger years I used to use IMVU, a virual instant messaging website, and especially with increasingly high quality video gaming graphics and advancements in technology, it isn’t too difficult to picture the world Cline has invented.  I think if this book doesn’t make you want to turn off your computer/phone and go outside then you’ve missed a really fundamental part of the story.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (5/5)

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Happy reading!

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