Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
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 the world's digital confines - puzzles that are based on the 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.
The extent of my video gaming prowess is winning de Blob 2 last year and making painfully slow progress through Portal - so I guess you could say I'm not exactly a master gamer. Luckily, you don't have to be an expert Xbox player to enjoy Ready Player One, but you do have to be something of a geek.
The OASIS is basically nerd heaven, where fictional words are recreated and you can play as an elf, Vulcan, wizard, etc. The online world is incredibly detailed and comes with a backstory more complete than half the fictional universes out there. Occasionally that background information gets a little lengthy, but it was pretty neat to see that Cline put so much time and effort into developing Wade's world, both real and virtual. Both of them were fairly realistic for all the high-tech computer wizardry and mass video game addiction.
Halliday's Easter egg hunt, the focus of the book, was just as well-thought out as its backstory. It was exciting, but really only when Wade was about to get a key, crack the clue, or run in with the Sixers (the bad guys). In between clues, Cline's writing became really technical and boring, outlining minutiae of Wade's life and computer history. I learned more about the 1980s from Ready Player One than I did from five years living with a stepdad who never really left the decade. There are page-long tangents about this old video game or that early computer, some of which was interesting, but most of which felt like reading through a bunch of Jeopardy! answers.
Although some of the 80's trivia was a bit of a distraction from the plot, some of it actually was important. Cline also mentioned more recent nerd-culture phenomenons, like Doctor Who, which was pretty awesome. The whole book was one big tip of the hat to nerds everywhere. I also absolutely loved Cline's portrayal of online relationships, particularly the one between Aech and Wade. He completely refutes the "they're not real friends, it's just the internet!" argument by having 90% of the world's social interactions take place in a virtual reality. I really liked Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto, and how their relationships with Wade developed through the contest - that was pretty realistic.
I'm not such a big fan of the romance between Wade and Art3mis. He's been, and I quote, "stalking" her for years, and suddenly he gets the chance to meet her! It's pretty cliche. When Wade started getting all lovey-dovey, his character got a lot more annoying. The romance wasn't all bad, though, and the last scene of the book was actually really sweet; I loved it.
Speaking of endings, Ready Player One ended exactly like you'd expect it to. I was hoping for one last good plot twist, but Cline stayed the course of predictability. It wasn't a bad ending, it just wasn't a surprise. The predictable ending and overabundance of nerd trivia lose two stars for Ready Player One, but it's still an enjoyable story. Definitely worth the read for any nerds out there.
Ex Libris, Veritas
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