Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Published by: Crown Publishers
Big Themes: Virtual Reality, Video Games, 80’s Pop Culture, Social Class, Corporate Power, Identity
Goodreads Summary: In the year 2044, 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.
What I Liked: The world and concept of Ready Player One is fun to read about. The idea of a virtual world wide contest and the puzzles being linked to 80s pop culture is the engaging core of the book. The idealistic nature of Oasis has relevance to the current battle of net neutrality.
Wil Wheaton is a great narrator of the audiobook. He narrates a lot of near-future, cyber-heavy books. I enjoyed his narration of Cory Doctorow’s Homeland as well.
Criticism: The book was incredibly heavy on info dumps. The author doesn’t just drop 80’s references–he explains each one. I wanted the plot to progress, and even listening to the book on 1.5 speed didn’t help the pace with these constant dumps of information.
I also wasn’t pleased with the roles the female characters played in the story. Both Aech and Art3mis existed for serving the hero’s story which really irked me.
I dreamed up an alternate ending–where Art3mis’ reluctance to be with Wade was due to the fact that her and Aech were already in a relationship. This would have forced Wade to acknowledge and consider other’s goals/wants and not just his own. Wade had to make zero sacrifices in the story to achieve a happy ending.
Instead, I felt like the ending was very much a geek fantasy:
- Meet hot girl
- Go from fat to muscular
- Become famous
- Defeat bad guy single-handedly
- Win ultimate game
- Get super rich
- Get the hot girl
Wade is a bit of a Mary Sue. He’s too good at everything. I had a hard time believing he had played every video game (dozens of times), watched every TV episode (dozens of times), and watched every movie (dozens of times) at the ripe old age of 17/18? Really? He lacked flaws or anything he had to sacrifice to achieve his goals. And therefore, I had trouble rooting for him.
Overall: A fun adventure story with 80s pop culture references, but with slow pacing due to info dumps and characters who lack depth and growth.
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