narfna’s #CBR4 Review #11: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Is that not enough of a review? Fine. Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, as the humanity pressed into an over-crowded Earth takes refuge in an immersive virtual reality program called OASIS, invented by reclusive genius billionaire James Halliday. But when Halliday dies, he leaves behind him a massive Easter Egg hunt through the many worlds of OASIS and through the many facets of late 20th century pop culture that he loved most — the person to be the first to find the ultimate clue will inherit Halliday’s entire techno-empire. Enter our young hero, chubby and poor Wade Watts, whose dead father gave him an alliterative name like Peter Parker or Clark Kent so that one day he too might be a superhero. Wade is a gunter, or full-time egg hunter, and he’s made it his life’s mission to find Halliday’s hidden treasure.
You guys, I loved this book so much I wanted to start it again immediately after I finished it.*
*Actually, what I did do was request the audiobook from the library, because it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, who is himself a minor character in the novel. (I mean, WHAT.) So there’s a good chance — and by “good” I mean 100% — that I will be listening to that audiobook shortly.
This book contains in its 384 pages everything I love about stories. Great characters, ridiculous worldbuilding (details out the wazoo), clean, entertaining prose, and passionate imagination put to good use. If a writer is talented enough, there is no limit to what he or she can conjure up in the mind of a reader, and Ready Player One takes full advantage. While Wade is on his quest, we’re right there with him . . . reading this book was more like having the experience than reading about it and that’s one of the many reasons I couldn’t put it down. But what’s really genius about this book is that Cline has managed to find a way to combine the pure imagination and wish fulfillment of fantasy and sci-fi with the stark reality and disappointment of the real world. Wade and his friends (and enemies) use the OASIS in much the same way that we as readers are using Cline’s book. The two worlds comment on each other in this beautiful dance of nerdy joy: games and stories are ways for us to shape and re-experience the world around us, to experience the things it is impossible for us to experience in our limited lifetimes, but games and stories can’t hold your hand.
I’ve heard a lot of people express the opinion that if you weren’t born in the right time-frame, you wouldn’t understand any of the references, and thus wouldn’t enjoy the book as much. I call bullshit on that one. I am just a little bit too young for most of the references in this book, but I still enjoyed the shit out of it. It works even if you don’t know the references, because Cline lays everything out in such a way that the plot is never affected negatively if you don’t “get” a reference. Instead of being alienated by the references I didn’t know**, I found myself becoming more and more curious about them. So the way I look at it, if you know the references, Ready Player One is a nostalgic joyride, but if you don’t, it’s a magical journey of pop culture discovery. Both feelings are intoxicating.
**I do feel the need to point out that I was familiar with nearly everything Cline wrote about, so my nerd-cred is firmly intact.
As with all books I really love, I feel that I’m having a hard time expressing exactly why, so again I say to you: just read the damn book. Because it’s flipping awesome.