Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Page Count: 372
Publisher: Broadway Books
Original Publication Date: 2011
Genre(s): Science fiction, Young adult, Dystopian
The year is 2044 and our planet Earth is in sorry shape. After years of human neglect and environmental degradation, reality is not a fun place. Luckily for humankind, a supergenius named James Halliday created the OASIS, an online simulation that allows you to have a new, alternate, virtual life. While the real world crumbles around them, people can spend all their time in virtual reality. When Halliday dies, he leaves behind a clue, setting into motion the great Hunt for his Easter Egg hidden somewhere inside the OASIS. The first person to solve all the clues, find all the keys, and unlock all the gates will become the sole owner of Halliday’s fortune. For Wade Watts, a poor high school senior living in the Stacks in Oklahoma, this is the dream. Solving this puzzle becomes his only goal. And after five years of research, Wade becomes the first person to solve the first riddle and find the first key. Everything after that is history.
I’m starting to believe that sci-fi is my new genre of choice. YA or not, I absolutely love it and cannot get enough of it. After loving both Illuminae and now Ready Player One, I think I need to go on a book shopping spree…
Ready Player One is a nerdy utopia filled with endless 80s pop culture references – music, books, movies and, most importantly, games. Everything from old Atari games to pen-and-paper adventure games are detailed throughout these pages in explicit detail and relate to the story in interesting ways. Talk about a nerdgasm.
The book is told in first-person through Wade Watts, an 18-year-old kid who lives in the future’s equivalent to a trailer park. He’s tech savvy and knows everything about the 80s, Halliday, and every game known to man. The story starts off a bit slow and seems to repeat itself, often reiterating facts and tidbits already mentioned, but it does pick up into a sci-fi gamer adventure that really just made me want to put down the book and pick up a video game controller. Unfortunately, having recently moved and left behind a lot of my stuff in storage, I had no games, so I instead flew through this book.
The story is constantly broken up with asides about 80s pop culture, including detailed plots about movies and TV shows, basic summaries of games, and information about various bands and their music videos. If you’re not a fan of 80s American culture, or video games in general, I truly have no idea why you would read this book. Seriously. If you have 0 interest in this stuff, please don’t read this book and then give it a negative review. What’s the point?
The action and adventure is really what carries this story. Wade is on a virtual adventure to find Halliday’s Easter Egg and goes through quite the journey to do so. There’s lots of battles and tons of puzzles that I, of course, would never have figured out had I been in Wade’s shoes. Seriously, this kid did his research. Once he found the first key, I was hooked and eager for the ending. Such an interesting concept that truly delivers.
Wade Watts (alliteration, like comic book heroes, so cool) is a great narrator. He’s smart, funny, and often frustrates you with his dumb decisions, but that’s all part of the adventure. It’s impossible not to root for him throughout the story. Sometimes I didn’t understand his motives, but he always proved to be a really cool dude. I wish I could play games with him.
His eccentric team of friends were fun and interesting, too. They all had unique voices and a few surprises up their sleeves. I figured out the twist about Aetch (pronounced “H”) before it was revealed, but still a fun story to follow. Art3mis (pronounced “Artemis”) got on my nerves at times, but I enjoyed her character as well. And the two brothers, Daito and Shoto, were interesting minor characters that added a lot to the story, even if it seemed they didn’t. I have to hand it to Cline – he added a lot of diversity to this story and it really worked.
Being Cline’s first book, Ready Player One is certainly an incredible feat. Yes, a large chunk of the book was simply summaries of 80s culture, but the way he worked that into his story was great. And his dialogue was honest and realistic. I always love when adults can perfectly recreate teenage dialogue. It’s real and relatable, unlike some author’s attempts that just sound fake and forced, and fail dramatically.
I thought the ending was a perfect conclusion to the story. I actually thought Armada, Cline’s second novel, was a sequel to RPO, but I looked it up and it’s actually a standalone. Shows how much I know… I did read that a sequel to RPO is in the works, but who knows how true that is. I also know Steven Spielberg is directing a film adaptation. Spielberg is one of my favorite directors, so that’s a huge plus. I watched the trailer before reading the book and I was pretty disappointed, but that’s because I didn’t understand it. I re-watched it just now and I’m pretty pumped. It looks pretty awesome! Thoughts on the trailer, anyone?
I am excited to read Armada, though,—even though it’s not a sequel—and hopefully more sci-fi stories in the future. I’m obsessed. Hopefully Armada (and Gemina – can’t forget about the Illuminae Chronicles!!) will wind up on my bookshelf soon.
“If I was feeling depressed or frustrated about my lot in life, all I had to do was tap the Player One button, and my worries would instantly slip away as my mind focused itself on the relentless pixelated onslaught on the screen in front of me.”
“She got all of my jokes. She made me laugh. She made me think. She changed the way I saw the world.”
“That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. Do you understand?”