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!