sci-fi

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Publisher: Random House

Date Published: August 16th 2011

Format: Paperback {own}

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I had been reluctant to read this book for so long. My husband and brother have been recommending this to me nonstop for the past year, and even though it sounded perfect for me, I was reluctant to take the plunge. Sometimes when people recommend things to you so much, you are afraid that you won’t like it or that you’ll somehow be disappointed. I’m beyond glad to say that this was not the case with Ready Player One. This book lives up to all it’s much deserved hype and it not only met my expectations, it exceeded them!

Wade Watts is a about to graduate from high school and his life isn’t going too great. It’s 2044 and the world is an ugly place. The only place that he, and most of the world, feel alive is inside the virtual world of OASIS. Everything for him happens inside his headset, including school and meeting friends. He hasn’t known much of a life outside of OASIS and has spent the majority of his childhood obsessed with finding clues to the secret the creator, James Halliday, left inside the game. In his will, Halliday promised that whoever solves the puzzles will inherit the company, which means control over OASIS and becoming a multi-billionaire. Halliday was an 80’s nut and completely obsessed with video games and geeky pop culture. The hunt for clues has stalled and everyone thinks that nothing will ever be found, but one day under-leveled Wade finds a clue. This turns everything on its head and the race ramps up. During the competition Wade finds out that there are big forces going after this prize and more than OASIS is at stake.

I’m a big 80’s nut and complete geek, anyone who knows me in real life can definitely attest to this. 😛 I’m the child of two 80’s obsessed parents, so my childhood consisted of a steady diet of John Hughes, action/scifi films, and 80’s songs. And while these references are entertaining and it’s amusing when you know exactly what obscure movie moment they’re referring to, it’s not what’s best about this book. Ready Player One manages to balance heart and brain better than most other scifi/dystopian titles. It’s very clever, but it doesn’t revel in its own intelligence. There are many different references that I didn’t understand at all (like specifics about old arcade games), but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of those moments. Wade beating a game of Pac-Man is actually amusing to read about, which if you’ve ever watched anyone play it that’s pretty impressive. Even if we’ve never cared about beating Pac-Man that much, we can all relate to trying prove yourself better than the rest, whether it’s in a game or in real life.

The stakes always felt very high in this book. Many times with these types of stories you never really feel anxious for these players. Like, if they don’t make it, they’ll still be fine in the end. Cline does an excellent job of ramping up the consequences for the characters’ actions as the story goes on. It’s not a story about saving the world from Sauron or anyone who’s going to blow the planet to smithereens, but while you’re reading you do feel like if the protagonists don’t come out on top, many bad things would happen to them and to society.

Cover Critique: I really like this cover for the book and the original one. They both share the title in a huge font, spanning basically the entire cover. It makes for a striking and memorable image. The original is a little more graphic, since it is just yellow words on a red background. But that combination of colors has never been my favorite and makes the book look a little more dated, which considering the 80’s fest, is probably intentional. The cover I used on the post is the one I have, and I really like the illustration. It’s really well done and easily shows you just how bad the world outside this game is.

Quick Version: Ready Player One is an extremely entertaining book that you can easily read in a couple of days. It’s quick-paced and funny, and also makes you care so much for its cast of unique characters. While it does help to be a fan of 80’s pop culture and/or video games to get into it, the book does a good job of explaining these topics enough that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the novel.

Score: 5/5 stars 😎

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