Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm really glad the Action/Adventure Aficionados group chose this as a monthly reading selection. It encouraged me to grab the audiobook from my library. And this was a book I am definitely glad I read.
I grew up in the 80s, so most of the pop culture references hit me right where I lived. I'm not much of a gamer, although we did have an Atari 2600 growing up, so I totally got some of the more obvious ancient gaming references, even though the more obscure gaming references passed me by. But that was okay, because many of the references were explained over the course of this novel.
This book will tap into the reader's hidden or untapped geeky depths. Maybe you already know you're a geek of old. Or maybe you never realized how much of a geek you are. Either way, you will find some resonance in this novel.
To be honest, I was thrown by the this novel's rather bleak beginning. I expected something more light-hearted. In a strange way, this book is both tragic and light-hearted fun. The tragedy is in the fact that people hide from the world in the worlds of fiction and gaming when the world is falling apart around them. And who can blame them, really? Some of us know how the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, feels, having felt socially awkward and rejected by the mainstream, finding your identity in your particular fandom or sub-culture. Also, it was amazingly shocking how ruthless IOI was in getting their way. I can be a bit suspicious and mistrustful of big business, no question about that. But I didn't expect IOI to be willing to commit murder to win the contest. That was surprising to me.
I really liked Wade as the lead character. He is quite cynical in a way that I found sad, but I don't live in the world he does. Maybe all belief would be snatched out of me too if I lived what he lives through (I hope not). Even with his flaws, he's a rootable hero, and I was actually quite worried about him throughout this novel I also liked H and Ar3mis and Shoto. I wasn't expecting a bad guy, but boy does this book have a majorly hard core bad guy and they are quite relevant to the world we live in today.
Wil Wheaton is a fantastic narrator. He imbues the characters with plenty of life, makes them believable and sympathetic when they are supposed to be, and seriously mega-jerks when they are not.
This is one of those books that I feel is enhanced significantly by the audiobook experience. I felt even more like I was part of the book. It's a long book, but it doesn't feel long, because the story flows so well.
Even though some aspects could be on the technical end of computer knowledge, it doesn't feel technical or dry to me. I'm not a computer programmer by trade or aspiration, so anything that goes too much in that direction tends to go over my head. Thankfully, Cline doesn't bog down the narrative with too many technical explanations.
I found the gamescape fascinating, and I rooted for Wade and his friends to work their way through the OASIS and claim the Egg.
I think that Cline appeals to readers in that he has so many different avenues of pop culture that even if you aren't a gamer or into online culture, you can still appreciate the TV, books, music and movie tidbits from this book. I am not shamed that I have not seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, since I did watch the show. If folks are giving out geek creds, I have plenty in other areas. Even if you aren't technically a geek, you might still enjoy this book. It's a fun adventure book with plenty of laughs, more sadness than I expected, and realistic characters who will have you cheering them on.
I give this one the highest of fives.
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