“Ready Player One”, by Ernest Cline

Well, that was different. And not quite what I expected.

“Ready Player One” was October’s Kind of Like a Book Club book. Did you read it? Did you make it through? I almost didn’t, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

This novel is about a treasure hunt for a dead billionaire’s fortune. The dead billionaire (James Halliday) is the creator of a virtual reality universe called OASIS, where people can plug in to go to school, visit fictitious planets (many of them based on 1980’s pop culture), hang out with friends and indulge in spending endless hours playing every video game known to man. People spend most of their free time in OASIS as an escape from the realities of life in 2044. This is a dystopian world made desolate by the world’s failure to find alternative energy sources. And instead of rolling up their sleeves and tackling the problems, the world’s citizens log into OASIS to watch Family Ties reruns and play Pacman. Hmm.

When Halliday dies, an announcement is made that his fortune will go to whoever can solve a complex treasure hunt he has set up within OASIS. Treasure hunters know they must be well versed in the classic video games and circa 1980’s movies, TV shows and music that Halliday loved. This gives them a reason to spend even more time playing video games and watching videos.

Wade Watts is one of these treasure hunters. He’s a teenaged orphan with a bleak life. The quest for Halliday’s billions has given him a purpose and he has thrown himself into it wholeheartedly. In fact, he is the first to find anything in the hunt, after spending five years searching. This sets off a chain reaction of activity and suddenly the hunt heats up. Wade finds himself battling enemies and trying to figure out who he can trust as the hunt for the prize gets very competitive.

There is a message about friendship and acceptance in this book, but the real star of the show is the virtual universe the author creates. He describes with great zeal and detail what I can only assume is a geeky gamer’s idea of paradise. He displays an almost disturbing level of knowledge about early generation video games and Japanese cartoons. The first roughly 15% of the book was mostly dedicated to world building, and that’s where the author almost lost me. Under different circumstances, I probably would have stopped reading early on.

But when a novel is set in a dystopian world, there has to be a lot of upfront world building in order for the rest of the book to make sense. Layer on a virtual world within the dystopian world, and it’s bound to be a little painful at first.

I did eventually begin to moderately enjoy the story. The puzzles the characters had to solve were clever and I always like a good treasure hunt. I also found myself really cheering for the characters, especially when Wade unleashed the giant monster robot thingy and kicked his opponent’s butt in one of the final scenes.

Unfortunately, most of the ’80’s references were lost on me even though that was my coming of age decade. Even as a teenager, I thought arcade games were a waste of time and money. Guess I’ve always been a little bit of a stick in the mud. I caught a few of the movie and music references, but not many about TV shows. All of which made me wonder – good grief, just how DID I spend the ’80’s??!!

Overall, I thought the book was ok but I didn’t love it. However, I also don’t think I’m the intended audience for this novel. I think “Ready Player One” has a lot of fans among gamers and fantasy or science fiction enthusiasts. I think Sheldon and Leonard (from Big Bang Theory) would absolutely adore “Ready Player One”.

But enough of my opinion. I’m hoping some of my blog friends read this novel and I am anxious to hear your thoughts. Comment away!

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10 thoughts on ““Ready Player One”, by Ernest Cline

  1. I like how you started your review! Definitely caught my attention! Does not sound like a book that I would enjoy at all, but can see the appeal to others. Good for you for sticking with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Also, Michelle, I just looked through your website again and noted that you love mysteries — and not “heavy” mysiteries. Have you read any of the Chet and Bernie series, authored by Spencer Quinn? Those books are absolute favorites of mine — my whole family’s, actually. Bernie is a private eye and Chet is his dog/partner. The fun part is the stories are told by Chet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am still waiting for this book from the library:( I don’t usually buy books now that I am retired and reading 15 books a month! I couldn’t figure out what was taking so long. Checked – there are 3 copies of the book and 10 requests. Not sure where I am in the line, but requested it as soon as you chose it. I thought it must be really popular, then realized that the author is coming to our suburb (courtesy of the local library) to give a 1 hour talk. I think it is sometime this spring. I just saw Eric Larsen (Isaac’s Storm, Devil in the White City, etc.) speak in the series – there were 400+ to hear him and he was entertaining and funny. Jeannette Walls is coming next week (The Glass Castle and Broke Horses) I really like her memoirs, but think I will be unable to make it because having minor surgery that day. Your review does not encourage me to read this book – I was finishing law school in 81 with two young kids, then remarried and had 4 at home and working. It was a lost decade but a “coming of age” of sorts, for sure!!! Plus, I am with you when it comes to video games. My kids played Pong and some other really basic games in the 80s and almost killed each other routinely over disputes and frustration with the controllers. Really not sure I want that time period to “come alive” for me again.

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    • Hi Deb! There is a very long waiting list for the book at both of the libraries I use, as well. It’s very popular and the impending movie release might also be driving up demand. I’m jealous that you got to see Eric Larsen!

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  3. Michelle, I love how well you sum up a book. I also love that you are forcing me to try new genres through your online book club. I must say, though, I didn’t love the book and I will not be a new sci fi/fantasy novel enthusiast!

    I have friends who love remembering the 80s. I just think of that time as my decade of having babies and trying to keep them sheltered from anything in the pop culture. Well, that parenting style went by the wayside later and I was left with a void of anything 80s. That lack of knowledge and my general feelings of video gaming being a big waste of time (personal prejudice, I know!) kept me a bit lost through much of the written details of this novel. I was so confused about how I felt about the book that I went to customer reviews on the novel. I can tell you that sci-fi fans can be brutally critical!

    What attracted me to the story was the treasure hunt aspect. I love a good puzzle and I will confess to being one of the first people to spend a few hours on my computer playing MYST. The pace, action and language of this story’s mystery, though, was much different and meant for someone younger than myself perhaps, but definitely for fans of action gaming and science fiction.

    With all that said, I probably would go see the movie. Steven Spielberg usually doesn’t disappoint!

    Liked by 1 person

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