Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually finished this back on December 9th, but sometimes it takes me this long to crawl out of my crevess to post a review. Such is life. -MPC

I have to caveat this review before it even gets started. Like the near mythical James Halliday in “Ready Player One,” I was born in the mid-70’s. That means my perspective on the 80’s is skewed through the lenses of someone who saw them as a child to teenager. Cline’s use of Halliday’s obsessive fascination with the 80’s and all things geek, then, fits into my world picture just fine. But if the rousing call of “Thundarr!” doesn’t even tickle a memory cell, or if the thought of Ultraman and Mechagodzilla make you just scratch your head in bewilderment, then Cline’s book is going to be a tough and/or boring read. The book seems to have been written for and caters to the sci-fi and computer geeks who came of age in the 80’s, and despite its future setting was intended to pull on those nostalgic heart strings.
On to the review!

The year is 2044, and life is about as we expected. Fuel shortages, housing shortages, poverty, its all there in spades. The only saving grace in this near dystopian future is the OASIS, an MMORPG so vast and pervasive that it has its own equipment for accessing it, and nearly everyone in the world actually does. The inventor of the OASIS, James Halliday, is wealthy beyond measure. And then he dies, willing both his fortune and ownership of the OASIS to whoever can solve the quest he has designed to find the Easter egg. “Ready Player One” is the story of Wade Watson, told in the first person as he takes part in this global quest, to find the three keys that open the three gates that lead to Halliday’s prize Easter egg. Its a fairly fast paced story, where a lot of the action takes place in the OASIS itself, the augmented virtual reality that is so key in this world.

As far as complaints go – well, you can see that Cline is a fanboy of Whedon with his references to the Whedonverse and Firefly, but where’s Farscape? Where’s Earth Above and Beyond? Was there really too much culture to be able to reference in under 400 pages?

More seriously, the biggest problem I see folks having with this book is that it is so niche. I’m not unfamiliar with the marketability of the culture in question, believe me, but outside of our circle I can see this book being a very boring read for folks. The book could have taken place in 2014 as much as 2044 – most of the technology that is critical is at least at the speculative layer today. Which means when you peel back the “sci-fi” of it taking place in the future, all that you are really left with is a book that’s reminiscent of an 80’s movie that takes place in a virtual reality where knowledge of the 80’s is key.

And yet, I loved the book. I couldn’t put it down, reading it within a week of getting it, which says something this time of year. If my caveats have done nothing to disuade you, then go grab a copy now, and enjoy!

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