Book Review - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

If you are looking at this blog, chances are, you're some kind of pop culture devotee. If you're not looking at this blog, you'll have no idea that this is being written so please, disregard and carry on with your cross stitch and wood whittling. Ready Player One is written by who I can only describe as being the Gandalf to my Frodo, the Merlin to my Arthur or the Doc Brown to my McFly. What I'm trying to say is that through his debut novel, it is immediately evident that he is some kind of magical pop-culture warlock who presumably has an eidetic memory.

The perfect mix of World of Warcraft, The Wizard and Tron - Ready Player One is the ultimate read for geeks the world over.

"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."

From the get-go,  I knew what I was getting. A single glance at the cover showed a tiny 8-bit man, reminiscent of Pitfall Harry from the best-selling Atari 2600 game, Pitfall! From this moment, I knew that this book and I could be very good friends.

It is extremely difficult to review a book like this with an open mind and an equally open heart. It is glaringly obvious that the author, Fanboys writer Ernest Cline, is one of us - a lifelong geek. The difficult part is trying to keep my shields raised so as to avoid gushing from pure nerd overload. Many people may read a Lee Child or Matthew Reilly book and dream of being Jack Reacher or Scarecrow. I, on the other hand, found myself day dreaming about being Wade Watts, an über geek (I didn't have to dream very hard). This was without a doubt the highlight of my reading experience, the way in which I was engrossed in the world that had been created by Cline, a world that is a shittier version of the one than I am in now. A world that seems to have forgotten how to dream and where pop culture appears to have become a thing of the past. Many dystopian sci-fi adventures focus on the downfall of society through economic collapse or nuclear intervention but what really strikes fear into the hearts of us geeks, no pop culture.

I found myself being drawn into the world of Watts, in between chapters while playing Diablo 3 I began to day dream, wondering if someone had hidden anything inside the game, an Easter Egg that the team at Blizzard are just waiting to be found. Further to this I found that I was on my own little treasure hunting quest, searching for references to all of the things that have kept me company throughout my life long journey to nerdvana. Two years ago I attempted to chronicle my very own origin story, a look at what it is that has me so in love with everything from movies to comics and anime to music. Ready Player One brought back all of those feelings and all of those memories. Cline created Halliday in the form of a Jungian "sage" archetype, somewhat of a cross between Steve Jobs and Willy Wonka. He represents Walt to Disney fans, Stan Lee to comic geeks and Gary Gygax to dungeon dwellers and guides young Watts through his quest just like the late, great Obi-Wan or the equally late, less great Qui-Gon.

Ready Player One is a very easy book to read. It is perfectly paced and builds in suspense and action to the very last moment. It will be interesting to see how this story becomes a big Hollywood motion picture, especially with the amount of licensing disputes Warner Bros will have on their hands, considering the amount of references will need to be included. The sheer amount of references is truly astonishing and equally impressive. Cline manages to saturate the book with pop culture references without it feeling like you're being lectured to by a guy at your local "Games Workshop". All of the referencing is in context and purely for story progression. 

From the point of view of a die hard geek and self confessed pop-culture anorak, this is without a doubt the most satisfying book I have read in a very long time. A must read for any self respecting nerd, geek, anorak, dork, techie or dweeb. For the rest of you, read it before it takes over the cinemas, and it will!

3 comments :

The plot did capture my imagination as well as my attention. I thought about giving four stars, but there were just too many glaring problems to do so. I have recommended the book to my geeky friends, but probably won't bring it up to the ones that are more interested in literature.

26 August 2013 at 11:07 comment-delete

That's a fair call. Sure, it's not classic literature but I found it to be fun. Since writing about this book I've recommended it to friends and had mixed responses return. It may not be for everyone but Ready Player One certainly captured my imagination.

Thanks so much for reading!

26 August 2013 at 20:31 comment-delete

If you love the idea of virtual worlds and new technology and if you remember the culture of the 80's of which James Halliday was a big fan and incorporated all kinds of movies, games, music and trivia into his challenge, I think you'll probably enjoy this book as much as I did. It's one of my favorite books this year.

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