Book Review: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Published by Broadway Books on June 5, 2012

Series: n/a

Genre(s): fiction, science fiction, young adult

Format & Length: paperback, 372

Source: purchased

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It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

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When reading a book, I often pause to note quotes I like or to make a comment on my thoughts. But this was perfectly paced and I was so thoroughly immersed in this story I didn’t want to pause for anything.

This is essentially a treasure hunt story. We follow our main character, Wade, as he searches for the elusive Easter egg that is the fortune of James Halliday, the videogame designer who created the OASIS. What is the OASIS, you ask? It is a “massively multiplayer online game that gradually evolved into the globally networked virtual reality most of humanity uses on a daily basis.” It’s like our internet, on steroids.

Not only do I love treasure hunt stories, I also love the world building Cline does in Ready Player One – in both the real and the online worlds. The world within a world within a book reminds me vaguely of the dream within a dream concept from the movie Inception, where each has its own set of rules and there are consequences in the real world when something happens inside the dream (or OASIS, as it were.) And as a child of the 80’s, it was awesome to see all the references from the decade. I probably only knew about 10% of the obscure pop culture trivia mentioned but enjoyed them regardless.

As fun as this story is, it also has a more serious side. It’s as if Cline made observations of our current culture and how we use our gadgets and access to the internet to avoid actual life, and extrapolated what this might look like in the future. In his future, the situation on earth is grim but the OASIS is way more interesting and the perfect escape from reality. I spent most of the book wondering if humanity would ever be able to rebound from this frightening notion or if the spiral into escapism would continue.

Overall, Ready Player One was a refreshing, geeky, and fascinating novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it, especially if you love video games, the 80’s, or treasure hunt stories!


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

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