[Book Review] Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Pages: 372
Publisher: Arrow Books 2012
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5 Easter Eggs

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts 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 of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 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.

I am not a video-gamer. I am not an 80s superfan.

But…

I am hugely in love with Ready Player One.

I began reading this purely out of the hype which has gradually been building during the run up to its movie release in March this year. As I said, I’m not really a massive gamer purely for the fact that I am so bad at them and end up getting angry, grumpy and not much fun to be around! I grew up in the 90s so knowledge of 80s culture is through what has been passed to me rather than experienced first hand from living through that decade.  I’m also not very up to speed with the whole virtual reality/artificial intelligence thing either, so I did not really go into this book thinking that I would like it but knew that I definitely wanted to read it before seeing the film. Having only read the Goodreads synopsis, I delved straight in…after the first page, I honestly could not put this book down! So much so that I went to bed one night and stayed up til gone 1AM just to reach the end. I’ve been raving about it and recommending it ever since to anyone who’ll listen, even to the friends who have already read it before me!

“Whenever I saw the sun, I reminded myself that I was looking at a star. One of over a hundred billion in our galaxy. A galaxy that was just one of billions of other galaxies in the observable universe. This helped me keep things in perspective.”

What I loved about this book:

·      The Quest – I absolutely love treasure hunts and the mission to find things which are hidden. Ready Player One has this in abundance! Cline has absolutely nailed it with his plot. Every detail is superbly laid out and intrinsically thought about. It really is a master class in how to lay a trail of clues and hide them within the narrative. You don’t need to know much about video games or 80s pop culture as you are given an expert tour by the main character Wade. There is a fair amount of detail imparted to the reader and normally I’m not a huge fan of info-dumping but what Cline does is spread this out into short chunks which are revealed only when necessary, when they have something to contribute to the plot. Cline really has written an ode to the 80s. Movies, music, games and novels are all very well represented. Check out this article on the Shmoop website to see the vast, mind-blowing array of little treasures that are featured or referenced to throughout!

·      The story keeps on giving – now whilst some elements of the plot were easy enough for me to predict or guess, there were other parts which took me by surprise and kept me flipping the pages just to keep on going. The suspension and pace kept on building all of the way through and as the stakes got higher, my anticipation went along with it too and I was thoroughly gripped.

·      The characters – Wade is such a likeable character. He has qualities and traits which are relatable to a wide range of readers. As someone who has lost both of his parents and doesn’t really feel like he fits in with the rest of his family or the real world at all, he seeks solace in the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, basically a virtual reality world where people can create avatars and live their life). He is a walking encyclopedia of all things to do with retro arcade games and James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS and the Easter Egg contest which poses as the main focus of the novel. He believes in a world which is not overrun with corruption or corporationalism from the evil IOI Company and he uses the refuge of the virtual world in order to express a representation of his true self, which can also be said for many of the other central characters. Art3mis and Aech (pronounced ‘aitch’ not ‘ike’ as I finally discovered on p.320!) also do a stellar job at matching up to Wade and providing some great rivalry, dialogue and humour throughout the story.

·      The villain – Whilst the main villain of Ready Player One is Sorrento, for me the actual villain of the story is the meaning behind Sorrento’s character. Working for the IOI which wants to win the contest in order to control the whole OASIS, Sorrento represents the modern day idea of globalisation and big corporate companies dictating the way in which the entire world is run. Wade and the other gunters, who are on a mission to prevent this from happening, parody this by bringing the good side to balance the evil. They see the importance of friendship and working together as the main way they will be able to counteract the threat of the IOI and these themes are central within the plot, giving the whole novel quite a meaningful message.

What I didn’t love about this book:

·      That it had to end!

·      I can honestly think of no other reasons than that! The ending was slightly twee, and I’m not sure that one part of it was entirely needed as it felt a little cliché, but I think that’s just my own cynicism!

·      Apparently, a sequel is in the works; I do not know where the next novel could possibly go. Without using a whole load of spoilers, I’m not really sure that a sequel is necessary after such an amazing story like Ready Player One was.


All in all, Ready Player One blew me away. The quirkiness and attention to detail was sublime; Cline really knew his themes and plot inside out and the sense that this was his passion project just leapt off every page. I know without a doubt that this will be one of my favourite reads of 2018 already. USA Today accurately described it as ‘Willy Wonka meets The Matrix’ and this is such an accurate assessment. If you have a love for retro gaming or reliving your 80s youth, if you love plots intricately laid with subtle references to pop culture, if you love a story with a real-world message then hopefully you’d find something to love in Ready Player One.

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