Book Review: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

12185345_10207869432403252_889299587976576263_oI hope you’ve got enough money saved up, because once the apocalypse hits, you’re going to need to buy the best virtual reality gaming system out there. Toss your student loan debt out the window (not that that government institution is still functioning…I hope), because you need to be ready to compete in the world’s biggest virtual Easter Egg hunt for the grand prize: the entire estate/holdings of the richest man in the entire world.

Thus begins Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a story that’s essentially a love letter to the 80s with some pretty impressive futuristic fireworks mixed in.

 

The main background to the story is that some sort of apocalyptic event happened (it’s never outright said what it was) and the world has been reduced to a smoldering fragment of what it once was. Oil is rationed, the economy is collapsing, and the government is slightly more corrupt than what the US is dealing with now. Enter James Halliday, who creates the world’s greatest virtual reality game called the OASIS, and sets it up for free. He allows all the schools to give away basic “rigs” for free, because all schooling now takes place online. There are higher quality rigs available for purchase, of course, along with other armor and equipment within the game. When he passes away, he leaves a clue that will allow others to find his fortune and take his place as the richest person in the world and his only heir.

The only problem?

In the years since Halliday’s death, nobody has even solved the first riddle, making many believe that Halliday’s quest is nonsense. An entire corporation has been established to finish the quest, but even all of their workers have been unable to find anything.

One person, however, never stops looking: Wade Watts.

I fell in love with this story. While it does have the trope of “poor man turns into something powerful,” it does it in a more interesting way than a lot of other books I’ve read have done. First of all, it takes place in an online virtual world, meaning that you are only as powerful as your money can buy. Wade Watts, who only has a VR system because it was issued to him by his school, starts off the game with nothing except his school uniform and a few bits of scavenged equipment. As he begins to unravel the clues to the Egg Hunt, though, he becomes more powerful by using the treasure he finds.

There are a few strong women in this novel, and one of them comes from a surprising place. At first, you think Ar3mis (real name Samantha) is just another Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, and you’d almost be right. But as the novel progresses, she turns into something a little more. She goes from being the object of Wade’s obsession into something sort of like his friend.

readyplayerone-05222016The movie adaptation of Ready Player One will be released in theaters in 2018. I’m both excited and nervous, because if this film is done well, it will be amazing. However, like most other books, if this film is done just part of the way, it’s not going to be very successful. What makes the story is all of the little details Cline throws in. It’s a love letter to the 80s (the favorite decade of the game developer), and without that, it’s just another futuristic dystopian novel. I’ve seen the trailer, and I’m slightly terrified. It looks like Hollywood’s about to take a really great book with a compelling story and turn it into an interstellar shoot-’em-up, which isn’t what RPO is about, at all.

I honestly have to give this book a strong recommended rating of 4/5. It’s absolutely wonderful, and I think everyone should give it a chance. While the female characters aren’t necessarily the strongest, they’re still better written than a lot of the female characters in other dystopian novels.

***

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.
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.

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (August 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307887436

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