Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The year is 2044, the location is Earth. Except not really. The Earth is pretty much in ruins and people don’t really live in it anymore. They exist in it, sure, but their actual lives happen in the OASIS, a virtual world in which you can do anything and be anyone. It's a place where children go to school, a place where the majority of grown-ups work. And after the schooling and the working part of the day are done, the OAISIS becomes a place where people hang out, party, shop and basically do anything they want. Even raiding dungeons, interstellar travel and fighting giant robots with your lvl 80 wizard is perfectly possible. That thin line between reality and fantasy is very much blurred, as is becomes clear when we are introduced to our protagonist. Wade Watts is a teenager who, like everybody else, spends most of his time in the OASIS. But, unlike the majority of people, he dedicates most of his time to unlocking a secret hidden inside the OASIS by its creator James Halliday. The person who unlocks the secret first would become Halliday’s heir and basically get like a bazillion gold. And since Halliday was obsessed with the 80s, the puzzles and secrets are filled with references to shows, films and games from that decade. And when I say filled, I mean filled. Flooded. Loaded. Packed. Overflowing. This book is one massive info-dump. The reader is constantly being bombarded by various random facts about the 80s, most of which had nothing to do with the story itself. Certain are interesting though, and personally I enjoyed reading them at first. But it soon grew tiresome. Reference is a great tool and it can make a story seem more interesting. However I don’t like it when authors rely on it too much. I wanted to read a book, not a collection of fun trivia about the 80’s culture.

It is a page turner though; there is actually real action going on under the layer of references, both in the OASIS and in the real world. I especially enjoyed the moment when Wade realises that he knows where the first egg (puzzle piece) is and he goes to find it. It’s a very interesting concept, he had to figure out a number of clues and go through a number of levels, very much what you get in your standard MMO. The boss fights were disappointing though. Reading about Wade playing old video games with an AI just didn’t do it for me. Though the very last, shall we say, pvp battle was pretty great.

Figuring out the first clue and getting the egg puts Wade into a dangerous position. Both his virtual and real lives are in danger now, because there are some bad guys who want his egg. That came out wrong. Anyway. Funnily enough, Wade took the dangers on his virtual self more seriously than that on his real-life-self, which further shows that the OASIS is more important to him than real life. In real life he’s just a poor kid living in a trailer park. In the OASIS, he’s a celebrity and he even has friends (I particularly liked Aech, his best friend, whose story is in my opinion much more interesting than Wade’s) and even a girlfriend. I liked how Cline wrote about this online relationship. He made it seem believable and very real and actually treated it as a relationship, not just an electric dream.

Music break
We'll always be together
However far it seems
(Love never ends)
We'll always be together
Together in Electric Dreams

End of music break

This book has potential and it definitely brings up a few very interesting ideas. But that’s the problem; it just brings them up and doesn’t explore them. For example, we’re told that the outside world is in ruins, we’re told that everyone lives in the OASIS, but well, wait a minute. Somebody has to grow food, make clothes and construct all that technical equipment needed to run the OASIS, right? And that needs to be done in the real world; you can’t eat virtual food after all. The fact that this was never really explained bothered me. I don’t like plot-holes in my books.

In theory this book is everything someone like me could wish for: people living in what is basically one massive online game. At first the idea seems intriguing and inviting, but after a while it became clear that this virtual world actually became the real world. And the problems from which people escape in the virtual world eventually find their way there. Overall, Ready Player One was a fun and interesting read, but it’s not something I would consider re-reading in the future. However, if Cline writes another geek-centred book I’ll be sure to give it a try.


  1. Interesting concept. It sounds like it has all the makings of something and completely geek-tastic. It sounds like your assessment of it really does place it as middle of the road. There are only so many 80's references you can make before you lose a girl.

    :) Thanks for the review!

    1. It's a very interesting concept and it has sooooo much potential. That's why the whole thing bothers me. It could've been so much better. Grrr :D


  2. I have this audio book but I can't seem to find time to read it in peace.

    Lovely review. Too bad you didn't like it more.