Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Official FC Rating:
|Original fan art found here.|
The world Ernest Cline has written for us is not a safe one. Natural resources are depleted, the number of people living in poverty is sky high, and sweeping desperation has led to the creation of "the Stacks," communities on the outskirts of the cities to which people have fled. These communities were erected by cranes, stacking trailers and even vans upwards of 22 levels high, with a bit of scaffolding around them. They're a testament to the harsh conditions* of the world.
But the story largely takes place in a parallel world, the virtual reality called OASIS. OASIS was created by two benevolent, nerdy, rich dudes. It's more than a video game, and by the time our story takes place, many people go to school and work in this parallel world. It's also free. (Well, it's free to get an account. It's not entirely free to do other things, like travel within the world.) When one of those founders, Halliday, dies he leaves his entire fortune, and control of OASIS, to..... someone. Upon his death an announcement is made. He's made a secret quest of sorts, and whoever solves it first inherits Halliday's money and property (we're talking billions billions). Years after the quest began, our protagonist solves the first clue, beginning the story.
It's one kid's story, but we get a larger glimpse of his real world. There's racism, sexism, and rampant corporate greed and corruption. Since it mostly takes place in the virtual reality of OASIS, it's dystopian without always harboring the feeling of despair found in most dystopian stories. Unlike The Hunger Games, where there's a communal effort to revolt, this is really the story of one kid who just wants to solve his own problems. So I wouldn't really call it a story of rebellion, even though it's got a little rebellious flair. It's more of a fun thriller, just set in a dystopia. Still very enjoyable.
I liked this book a lot. I wish I was still reading it! But I'd actually prefer to give this book 3.5 stars, just... we don't have an image for that. But just know it's more a 3.5 than a 4 (in my mind, anyway). I imagine that bigger nerds than me would give it four or five stars. I've got a few reasons for the rating.
I love dystopia and I love thrillers, so that's cool. I also love fantasy, and I thought Cline played with an interesting concept when he created a fantasy using real-world things we all know like movies and video games. But sometimes he went into too much detail, describing the references ad nauseam. I know next to nothing about video games and movies and music from the 80's, and even I didn't need to have quite the amount of information he included. At times reading those parts became a drag.
The story was what carried this book. The writing was good, but nothing spectacular. There weren't any errors I noticed or anything like that, which is always a pleasure. I hate when books are filled with bad writing. (I'm looking at you, fuckin' Twilight.) The writing, while fine, didn't give me goosebumps. If I had read this pre-Tsar, it might have had a better rating. But I'm still basking in the light of that masterpiece, holding books up to a bit of a higher standard than usual when it comes to the writing. (I know that might be snobby, and I also know writing doesn't have to be perfect for a book to be good. Hell, I don't expect I'll ever be able to meet my own standards.)
While I liked the story line of this kid who goes on an adventure, I think Cline could have explored a few themes more deeply. I imagine the movie will be terrific, since it can just tell the story without having to focus also on broader story arcs.
I bought this book on a whim, and when I got home and read about it online I was worried. I thought that maybe the emphasis on 80's culture or on video games meant that I wouldn't be able to really enjoy it. Totally not the case. I loved the book, and there was enough info for me to follow along without needing to have any knowledge on the subjects at hand myself.
While I thought the ending was a bit predictable, it was also a satisfying ending. The whole story was good and well-paced, with the exception of the sometimes too-long descriptions. The book was definitely a page turner. I'd say it was good, not great, but the experience of reading it was great. I didn't want to put it down. I wouldn't put it on the same level as Tolkien, but it was fun. It's definitely one I'd recommend.
*btw these conditions are ones we can expect to find ourselves facing one day if we don't do something about poverty and climate change. k.