Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the future, a dead millionaire promises his fortune to the first gamer to solve three puzzles. Who could resist such a treasure hunt?

Wade Watts lives in a dystopian future where lack of food and electricity has forced people into cities (makes sense, right?). The only good thing in life is the OASIS, an immersive virtual reality system where humanity spends the majority of their time learning, dating, shopping and playing games. When the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he buries a series of Easter eggs inside the OASIS. Anyone who finds, and solves, each of these mini games will get all of Halliday’s money. The problem is, the eggs are well hidden, and anyone who wants to solve the puzzles has to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the obscure 1980’s pop culture that Halliday grew up with.

Written in first person, past tense, from the point of view of Wade Watts, Ready Player One is a sprawling love letter to gaming and the 1980’s. Where the novel excels is in its depiction of the OASIS, the massive multiplayer on line virtual reality universe where humanity now spends most of its time. The game play is well described, the intricacies of the different planets and systems realistic, and the darker side of the OASIS unfortunately all too believable.

Where the novel falls apart is in the ‘real world’ where Wade actually lives. The world building doesn’t make sense. Neither do Wade’s diatribes against religion, the monetary system or the plot’s resolution. None of the characters are likable or as realistic as the game play within the book.

I love gaming and I know my fair share of 1980’s pop culture. I didn’t enjoy the movie that was based on the book, but thought I would go back to the source to see if it were better. Yes, it is much, much better than the movie. However, I didn’t love this book. It didn’t make sense to me in a world where electricity is scarce that everyone lives in a power hungry virtual world. I couldn’t understand how there was no food in the country, yet the city was full of fast food restaurants. The fact that life was so hard, yet everyone played games constantly also rang false to me. I couldn’t like Wade, the most developed of all of the books characters. He came across as a sociopath to me – perhaps intentional – and I disliked the parts of the book that detailed his life outside of the OASIS.

I award Ready Player One

Click here to buy Ready Player One on Amazon.

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