Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

About the Book

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?

372 pages (paperback)
Published on August 16, 2011
Published by Broadway Books
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

I had absolutely no intention of ever reading Ready Player One.

Ever.

Despite all the good things I’ve heard about it, I just had no intention of reading it. Not because I thought I’d hate it, but because I have absolutely no interest in gaming. Actually, “no interest” is probably an overstatement. If interest could be measured in the negatives, mine would probably be so far in that hole we wouldn’t be able to mentally compute it.

However, my husband read this book, and he’s not a reader. He’s a gamer, and he loved it. He couldn’t stop talking about it. So I figured I should give it a try. If the guy who doesn’t like to read loved it, then I felt obligated to see what the fuss was about.

Ready Player One is all about gaming, and virtual worlds, and all of that, but it’s also a lot more than that. In fact, the world building was one of the best parts of the book. Oasis, the virtual reality that Wade (our protagonist) spends most of his time in, is absolutely fantastically built. While there isn’t a lot of depth and detail given to it, it’s not really necessary. Wade’s perspective really immerses readers in the culture of this virtual world, giving readers just enough to make it real, but not enough to bog down the plot. Furthermore, the gaming aspects, the levels and all that are watered down enough that someone who knows absolutely zero about gaming, and cares even less than that, gets it.

Aside from Oasis, the real world is highlighted a lot less, though when it is talked about, and when Wade is aware of it, there is a lot of details that Cline gives readers in a short amount of time that make this messy, futuristic, almost dystopia world of ours feel real. There are social issues that are touched on briefly, but are all the more compelling for it, and class and cultural issues that also work well in that form. Cline knows how to give his readers just enough, without ever giving them too much, and he gives his readers a lot to chew on and digest in the process. This form of world building gives the book a lot of depth, but also keeps things parsed down enough to allow the plot to flow quickly, and easily.

Essentially, this book is all about a quest. There is a big, huge trophy, and basically the entire world (that matters to Wade) is focused on it. Wade is a young character, a high schooler, but he doesn’t act like one. A huge reason for that is because he’s been forced to grow up fast. His rather adult voice, but his youthful exuberance is rather addicting. However, because this is a videogame centered book, and most of it takes place in a virtual reality, the quest takes on a very different context and tone than I’ve ever really experienced before. At its heart, Ready Player One is both thoughtful, and a ton of fun. The quest is fantastically well done, and it kept me guessing throughout, which was appreciated. The details and tidbits added through world building kept me thinking about complex issues, like population control. It’s a unique marriage, but it’s a marriage that absolutely works.

The ending, and a lot of the events leading to it, felt rather formulaic and predictable, but honestly, it didn’t bother me at all. Ready Player One is fun and thoughtful, but it’s not really that surprising. That’s okay. This book has a lot to chew on and a lot to enjoy, the surprise isn’t necessary for the process. All of the threads of the plot tie together nicely, and the ending is absolutely perfect for the journey that took characters (and readers) there. It’s fun to see how the relationships between characters grow and develop throughout the book, and Wade grows in leaps and bounds.

If I was going to nag on a few things, it would be a bit of the predictability, while not essential to the enjoyment of the book, I would have liked a bit more “WTF?!” on my end. At times the plot felt a bit paint-by-numbers (despite the fantastic execution). Also, the tragedy that surrounds part of the plot around the halfway mark (vague due to spoilers), I felt that Wade perhaps got over it way too fast, even if he wasn’t close to those people. There was a brief paragraph or three about his feelings and then, basically nothing.

Those are small potatoes in the scheme of things. Ready Player One is a book I was pretty set to hate, and ended up really enjoying it. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. As I said above, this book is an interesting marriage. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also pretty thought provoking. It works, and I’m really, really glad that I gave it a try. Cline’s passion is obvious with this book he’s written. The pages are infused with it. It’s absolutely addicting.

4/5 stars

5 Responses

  • Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin)

    I think RP1 is definitely aimed at a certain age of reader, who get the references, and its pure bacon jam for them. “:)

    Reply
    • All that game stuff kind of went over my head, but there was enough “other” there to keep me happy.

      Reply
  • Funny…I’m going to read this (for the first time) next month. I actually tried in January, but the infodumping got to me and I lost interest. But I’m going to give it another shot.

    Reply
  • I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this one. It’s a book that I find myself rereading every once in a while just for the sheer fun of it, and I like seeing more people reading it and like it too. Some of the references went over my head (most of the movie-related ones, really), but I could get into the whole vibe of it because most of my life from teenagedom onward has been steeped in geek culture.

    Reply
  • Cheryl Holsonbake (@cherylreads)

    I really liked Ready Player One, especially with Wil Wheaton narrating it for audio. There are a few Star Trek references which were fun to hear with Wil performing. I had not seen the new cover though, and love the stacked RVs! It’s was a fun read.

    Reply

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