I had been hearing rave reviews about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, so I finally got the chance to read it this past week. It’s an interesting sci-fi mashup of 1980s pop culture, Ender’s Game, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and total nerdiness. The novel is set in 2045, and the world is basically a huge video game called the OASIS (which is like the Internet, Second Life, and World of Warcraft all rolled into one). When the creator of the OASIS died, he hid an Easter egg somewhere in the worlds of the OASIS, and the lucky person who finds the egg by completing a series of video game–like quests would win a fabulous prize. Our protagonist, Wade Watts (AKA Parzival), is only 17, but he’s been immersed in the OASIS all his life and made it his life’s mission to study the work and mind of the OASIS’s creator, his greatest role model. Wade would appear to be well positioned to win the egg if not for a gang of evil corporate drones that are out to kill him, win the egg for themselves, and use their newfound power to absorb the OASIS into their own company and use it for their own ends.
There was a lot to love about this book, especially if you grew up in the 80s and knew all the video game and pop culture references. I was clueless about most of them because I was born in the late 80s and can’t remember anything from that decade, but the book still grabbed my attention because of the meticulous detail the author put into it and the obvious love he had for his subject. (And the author did mention Neon Genesis Evangelion, the best anime series ever, and Quake, a 1996 video game and probably the Greatest First-Person Shooter of All Time.) I don’t typically read science fiction because I find the worlds difficult to get into and the scenarios hard to envision, but the world this author created was not much of a far cry from the world we live in today, so it was easy to become immersed in it. Because of that, the book’s pacing was very quick—it sucked you in and kept you interested all the way until the end.
A few dislikes: I didn’t care too much for the romantic subplot because I felt as though it didn’t add much. Wade falls in love with one of his competitors on the quest for the egg, a “girl” (well, her avatar is a girl) called Art3mis, having never met her in real life. The author had a wonderful opportunity to expound on the dangers of getting romantically involved with a person you know only on the Internet (or, in this case, the OASIS), but the romance totally worked out in the end and thus was boring and predictable. (I would’ve liked for Art3mis to secretly be part of the evil corporate entity out to destroy Wade.) But people are probably not going to read this book for the romance, so I guess that’s OK. The characters’ dialogue and banter sometimes seemed a little stilted or cheesy, but I suppose that was because it was the author’s first novel. There were several redundant phrases such as “yellow in color” or “and also” that bothered me because a good editor should have caught them.
If you’re looking for a few hours to kill with a fun, adventurous book and you love the Internet, the 80s, and/or video games, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of Ready Player One. (At some point in the near future, this is going to become a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, which might be good if it isn’t destroyed by too much CGI.)