Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Date Published: August 16, 2011
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Winner of the 2011 Indie Lit Award in the category of Speculative Fiction
Book Summary: Set in a terrifyingly plausible near future, Ready Player One tells the story of Wade Watts, who, like most of his contemporaries, escapes a grim, poverty-stricken reality by spending his waking hours jacked into a sprawling online utopia known as the OASIS. Created by the reclusive James Halliday, the OASIS is a place where you can be anything you want to be, and where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And somewhere within this alternate reality, the ultimate lottery ticket lies concealed: Halliday has promised that control of the OASIS—and his massive fortune—will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late-twentieth century. And then Wade unlocks the first puzzle. Suddenly the world is watching, and Wade finds himself embroiled in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, pitted against powerful opponents who are willing to commit very real murder to gain control of the OASIS. If he’s going to survive, Wade will have to leave behind his perfect virtual existence and face up to the real world he’s been terrified of for so long.
My Thoughts: In 2044 the world is a beaten down, worn out place of despair. Most people, like teenage Wade Watts, avoid what would most-likely be a grim existence in the real world by escaping into the OASIS. Wade is virtually alone in the world since both his parents died when he was much younger. Uncomfortable and insecure with who he is, Wade prefers the virtual world where he can be anyone he wants to be. In the OASIS, Wade also has his one true friend, Aech. When he isn’t attending school in the OASIS, Wade searches for answers to the riddles Halliday left, determined to win Halliday’s “Easter Egg” and thereby gain the respect of the world as well as Halliday’s substantial fortune.
Wade’s solitude and the many hours he spends in the OASIS has given him plenty of time to familiarize himself with Halliday and the music, TV, books and other things he loved, most of which came out of the 1980s. Wade, a huge admirer and fan of Halliday’s even before he announced the competition, shares many of Halliday’s interests, loves and obsessions. This gives Wade a bit of an edge against the other gunters (egg hunters!) and some nasty, ruthless competitors when the hunt’s announced. It’s an extremely difficult competition since Halliday was highly intelligent with a wide range of interests. Halliday’s riddles are extremely difficult to decipher and for five years nobody managed to find the first clue.
Gaming, popular in the 80’s, is integral to the competition and the story. The competitors play a different videogames to advance to the next level of the competition. Each game and level also contains unexpected surprises and threats that must be defeated. This fun and creative competition thrilled the geek in me, especially since most of the videogames come from the ‘80s, my teenage years. I was reminded of Pac-Man, Frogger and other games I once played but hadn’t thought of in years.
Wade diligently works to decipher Halliday’s clues and play the next game in the quest. Videogames are Wade’s specialty so we get a blow-by-blow description of every video game he plays as well as whatever else is required of Wade to succeed to the next level. This is a busy, extremely action-packed narrative and I was surprisingly excited, my heart pounding as Wade moved ’up the ladder’ on his way to win the Easter Egg. The elated feeling faded a little as the story progressed because the action on each successive clue and level became somewhat repetitive rendering it a little tedious for this neophyte gamer. Feeling threatened by the nasty, ruthless competitors, Wade, about three-quarters of the way through the book, pulls a stunt that’s a little too over-the-top even for this book. I know this is a fun, science fiction, fantasy kind of book, but this part was a little ridiculous and bordered on the cheesy.
I wondered if I might have a different opinionm about what Wade did if I understood him and was able to relate to him better. Wade is the only character whose real life is slightly defined and described but it’s not enough to provide a three-dimensional view of him. Wade is intelligent and ambitious. He discovered the large, well-stocked public library in OASIS when he was younger and read many of the books. This intrigued me and I wanted to know so much more about Wade. I also thought Ready Player One had a great mix of characters, such as fellow gunters, Daito and Shoto, and Art3mis as well as Ogden Morrow, Halliday's partner whom I wanted to know more about. I kept waiting and hoping the author would share, extensively, Wade’s background and those of the other characters especially considering they want to win to save the real world from the evil people who want to destroy it. But Wade, the friends he’s made and his love interest remain two-dimensional and unknown to the readers.
Overall, I was entertained by Ready Player One and very much enjoyed reading this creative and captivating book. It spoke to the geek in me which I loved. I have a small fascination with gaming and how people become obsessed with it, so I was intrigued by the videogaming part of the book. My favorite part, although, was the numerous references to 80s pop-culture, such as Family Ties, The Greatest American Hero, Dungeons & Dragons, Ghostbusters, Revenge of the Nerds, Pink Floyd, Monty Python and so many more! This book offers action, intrigue and an interesting mix of the past and future for a riveting reading experience I think many readers will enjoy.
Thank you to Crown Publishers for sending me a copy of Ready Player One to read and review.