On The Bookshelf
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is a pretty ugly place. People spend all their time in a virtual world known as the OASIS. Wade Watt, a poor, overweight, teenage nerd is obsessed with the OASIS – and the creator’s competition to find an Easter egg hidden within the game, which granted the winner the creator’s massive fortune. But winning means studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with 80s pop culture. When Wade unwittingly discovers the first clue, he is immediately thrust into danger as players willing to kill for the prize search for him. But in order to win the prize and save his own life, Wade must confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable. – Ernest Cline
First off: this book is just plain fun to read. There is virtually (pun intended) non-stop action, fun characters, and a completely awesome virtual reality which could entice anyone into leaving the real world behind. Even if the majority of the 80s references go over your head – and there are a lot of them – the book is still enjoyable. Just because you don’t understand why the mega-robot is cool doesn’t mean the robot isn’t cool, amiright? Other than that, the few detractors were small things. One, at some points Cline would go on unnecessary ramblings; the OASIS is interesting, but do we need to hear about the workings of each piece of equipment that goes into making Wade’s OASIS experience as lifelike as possible? Another detractor was how unattached Wade felt to his family. They are mentioned a bit in the first third of the book, but from then on Wade’s connection to them is only a side comment.
Next up, characters. Unfortunately, most of the characters were not totally fleshed out; the villains were cookie-cutter, and the side characters didn’t get their backstories filled in until very late in the game (no pun intended this time). Wade, on the other hand, is thoroughly explored as a character. Cline also gets some plus points for diversity – gender, POC, sexual orientation, and weight. The romance is underplayed, which ended up being a great element. Unlike in some novels, the romance didn’t overpower the message of the story or the plot. Instead, readers enjoy an interesting, action-packed story with a little romance thrown in. Honestly, the friendships between characters were almost more meaningful. And who doesn’t love a good friendship?
One of the best elements of this book is the world building. Essentially, Cline gives readers two worlds to work with: the real world and the OASIS. Thankfully, both are well-explored and well-developed into two interesting parallels. In the OASIS, people can get anything they want, from rocket boots to a classic DeLorean, if they have the money. In the real world, however, people are miserable, lonely, and probably overweight since they spend all their time online. The OASIS was high-tech enough to be interesting, yet plausible enough in today’s era of technology not to be unbelievable. The condition of the real world was also something that may not be so far off from how the world is evolving today. That’s usually a problem with dystopian novels; the zombie apocalypse is so out there that readers can’t wrap their head around it and end up not being able to enjoy the novel. Cline, on the other hand, is able to develop a future reality that could potentially happen – and that is what makes the book so hard-hitting in that regard. If we don’t reduce our carbon emissions, maybe we will all end up living inside a virtual reality.
If you were not aware, Ready Player One was recently made into a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg. The film has received generally positive reviews, thanks to awesome graphics, a fast pace, and good acting. Unfortunately, however, these reviewers probably did not read the book, because the movie is nothing like Cline’s original. While the basic structure is still the same – Wade and his friends race for the Egg and its attached fortune – the method is completely different. There are different plot points, different challenges, and even different relationships. So if you want to watch the movie, go ahead. Just be prepared for a different experience.