Book Review — Ready Player One

Title:  Ready Player One
Author:  Ernest Cline
Genre: Lit. RPG/Sci-Fi/Dystopia
Pages:  Paperback, 579
Publisher:  B/D/W/Y
ISBN:  978-1-5247-6328-2
Opening Lines:  "Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest."

Rating


"In the year 2044, reality is an ugly placce. 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 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.

"But 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."

~ Jacket copy


When we were still dating, my husband told me about this "great book" that pulled on our childhood and mutual love of all things geeky.  His roommate just so happened to be reading it and raved about its epicness.  Needless to say, we raced to pick up a copy before the movie came out.  Yes, I am that person who tries to read the book before watching the movie.


In the year 2044, everyone lives their meager life plugged into the OASIS.  Business is conducted in online store fronts, children attended simulated schools, you work virtual jobs, etc.  Provided you have enough money, you never have to leave your trusted haptic rig.  However, all of that might change when the creator of the OASIS levels a challenge on his death—find the hidden Easter Egg to inherent his entire estate and controlling shares in Gregarious Simulation Systems.  Basically, to the winner goes the OASIS.  After years of searching, no one has been able to solve the puzzles.  When an unlikely teenager from the stacks in Ohio manages to master the first puzzle, he pits himself against a huge mega-corporation to find the Egg.  With only his knowledge of '70s, '80s, and '90s trivia to guide him, Wade must master all three gates in order to save the OASIS from corporate control.



As a preface to this review, I was born in the early '80s and grew up with a deep-rooted love and nostalgia for the decade.  I have fond memories of watching The Breakfast Club, Lady Hawk, Willow, Goonies, and other iconic '80s movies with my brother.  These movies colored my childhood and earliest memories.  In fact, I remember believing that I would marry Michael J. Fox and be swept away in The DeLorean.  I cut my gaming teeth on my grandfather's Commodore 64 and learned the fine art of platforming with the original Mario Bros.  My parents raised us to love Star Trek, be avid readers, and embrace the things that others thought weird.  To be blunt, I am a geek. (This is our current set-up minus the CRT and old-school consoles.)



After listening my husband's roommate praise Ready Player One, I was excited to delve into its uncharted depths.  Sadly, it broke my heart.

Where do I even start with this book?  It is nothing more than one big cluster-fuck of trivia and "Ooo, look at me, I'm the most epic geek of all time because I know so much stuff!"  Before I even address how Ernest Cline tried to single-handedly ruin my childhood, I will put on my English teacher/editor hat.

Let me begin with the story.  Aside from movies like Tron, The Matrix, Gamer, etc., this book has a very interesting premise.  Using '80s trivia and geeky-awesomeness as the vehicle for the plot made me geekgasm.  It is also interesting to note that this book seemingly gave rise to Lit. RPG as an actual genre.  Honestly, some amazing books have come out of it.  Unfortunately, that is where it ends . . . This book lacks originality at its core and borders on plagiarizing myriad '80s movies.  While it can be argued that there are no more original stories, Cline takes that to another level by hijacking everyone else's ideas, bastardizing them, and dumbing them down to spoon feed them to the masses.  This is evident in his characters.  Cline has never met a stock character that he didn't like.  Not only are his characters extremely one-dimensional and severely underdeveloped, Wade is no more than a badly written copy of Luke Skywalker.  As well as being an orphan raised by his aunt, he was the only one who could go against IOI (*couch* the Empire *cough*) to save the OASIS.  And, let me not forget, Wade—like Ernest himself—is the G.O.A.T.


At no point can he fail.  Even if he does not have the skills or necessary knowledge, Wade always has to succeed.

In addition to the stock characters, the whole story of Halliday and Morrow was a two-bit copy of the formation of modern day computers.  In fact, Halliday and Morrow mirror Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  It was easy to figure out how the relationship would play out if you watched Pirates of Silicon Valley or know anything about that dynamic.

Moving on, Ernest either needs to invest in a good editor or fire the one he has.  The glaring inconsistencies in this book were outrageous.  For example, on page 161, Wade approaches the replica of Halliday's childhood home and notes, "Two late-'70s Ford sedans were parked in the driveway, one of them up on cider blocks."  However, as Wade makes his great escape from the house after cleared the first gate, he grabs "The keys to the Halliday family car were on the pegboard next to the refrigerator.  I grabbed them and rushed outside. The car (the one that wasn't up on the blocks) was a 1982 Ford Thunderbird." (p. 178). Um, a 1982 Ford Thunderbird is a not a late-'70s sedan.  To add insult to injury, the continual run-on sentences, fragments, and incorrect grammatical structure for a list series nearly made my eyes cross.  I am almost too terrified to ask what the original, unedited manuscript looked like.

Ready Player One is chock-full of frivolous details.  If the book was distilled down to the story, it would probably cap out around 100-200 pages.  Instead, Cline spends the majority of the book inundating the audience with pointless movie references, incorrect geeky trivia, and pages of detailed explanations of why Wade is the G.O.A.T.  Cline relies too heavily on several bad plot devices such as the dreaded deus ex machina, hidden knowledge, and the Mary Sue.  All of these elements are characteristics of immature writers. Unfortunately, these elements work together to create a book that is nothing more than a name-dropping info dump and testament to Cline's belief in his own "geek prowess".

The lengths to which Cline goes to incorporate all geekdom from the past several decades is laughable.  In his attempt to show his godlike knowledge of all things geeky, Cline—surprisingly—got many things wrong.  First of all, a Bag of Holding is a pocket dimension that is larger on the inside than the outside.  It does not get heavier as you put more objects into it.  Therefore, I am unsure why Wade could no longer fill the bag with gold or loot as he worked through the dungeon.  Second, he cannot study the map of the dungeon to know where every single monster is located.  In many of those old D&D books, wandering monsters were common and could not be predicted.  Aside from the bosses and larger battles, it was a roll of the dice and up to the DM to decide what players would encounter.  I don't even want to address what he did to the DeLorean or the Serenity . . . It made me weep and my husband homicidal.  (Ernest Cline, if you are reading this, you do not deserve to have your picture taken in front of the DeLorean nor do you deserve to be lauded at ComicCon.  Can the shit, you're not a geek or a nerd!)

Cline's desire to create the magnum opus of geekdom did nothing more than alienate true geeks and nerds by bastardizing what they love the most.

Even though I do not condone book burning, here is our final opinion of the book:

   
         

Much love, Sinn

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"If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.