Wednesday, May 7, 2014

FANTASY & SCI-FI | Review: Ready Player One

It's been so long since I've posted..yadda yadda..been busy....empty promises....

And now that that's out of the way, I have a new review on an older book, Ready Player One. I went into this book (as a non-gamer) knowing that a large part of it's appeal would be the references. That aside, I'm very drawn to dystopian books, and this was no exception. I knew the references could very well go over my head- but hey, so much in my day-to-day life does. Heh. Okay. Let's get into the review.


Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction > Dystopia
Pages: 372
Release date: August 6th, 2011
Links: Amazon | Goodreads

My rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION (courtesy of Goodreads)

"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?


All the 80's pop culture references in Ready Player One play a major make-it or break-it factor for many reviewers. For me, it was neither. I got many of the references. But there were also many that I didn't get, and with those, I didn't really care. References aside, there is still an overarching story that I was drawn to. The references were just fun bonuses. So, if you're a big fan of 80's pop culture, this book is a goldmine. And if you're not a big 80's pop culture fan, I still believe there is a larger story to keep you entertained.


The story.
Ready Player One is about an underprivileged, teenaged, loner who spends all free time online. I can easily relate to that. The plot calls forth an opportunity for anyone (rich or poor, popular or unpopular, etc) to change their fate forever by partaking in a intense game for an Easter egg (not the pastel painted ones filled with sweets). Add in some virtual reality and you have the essence of the story. I thought it was very fun, entertaining, and hard to put down.

This book evoked nostalgia in me, and not for the reasons you may think. I'm not a huge (or minor even) 80's pop culture aficionado. Of all the movies mentioned in this book (and there are several), I have only seen Sixteen Candles, and I didn't even like it. It was all the online friendships that got me. I spent much of my teenaged years chatting with friends, and it was such sweet nostalgia to experience it again through another character.


Racial stereotyping.
Ready Player One falls into a pothole that is irritatingly common among American literature. It's main cast features two Japanese teenagers (living in Japan) who also partake in the treasure hunt. If you do a book word search, I can almost guarantee you that the word "honor" is only uttered a few times, each time by one of the Japanese characters. "So what?" one may ask. "Asians need honor like humans need oxygen right?" And to you, Cline, I say no. In general, the Japanese characters were so blatantly 2-D, stereotypical Asians and it really irritated me every time they came on the page. I would have rather Cline left them out entirely (or, you know, portrayed Asians as real people- not boring, stereotypical side characters wielding Samurai swords to gain their honor).

The dialogue.
The dialogue was a bit cringe-worthy at times. I used to IM (instant message) much more frequently than I do now. And if someone were to read me back my IM transcripts, I would probably feel the same way I did reading much of the dialogue in this book- embarrassed. For that reason, I do think Cline succeeded in a way. He reminded me of what it's like to chat with friends online. But in the end, it made the dialogue difficult to read. Much of what they said was over-the-top and semi-obnoxious. And considering that some of these conversations were done through a mic (and not typed out in a text chat), the awkwardness in dialogue was unnecessary.

The romance.
I didn't hate it, but I definitely did not enjoy it. I think it played an important role in the book, so I won't write it off an entirely, but those moments were not my favorite. Again, cringe.


Ready Player One definitely has its pitfalls. but overall I think the book succeeded in being what it was supposed to be - entertaining. It was very entertaining for me and brought me back to a time when my life was more similar to Wade's. Even if I didn't get all the references, I got the gist of them and enjoyed it nearly the same. Because of the racial stereotyping, and all the obnoxious dialogue, I can't give this book a complete rave. So I will ultimately have to rate it 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for reading~

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