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80s Nerd Heaven | Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is a perfect storm of geek and nerd culture – 80s references + video gamer culture.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Goodreads | Amazon | Ernest Cline’s Website

ready player one ernest cline

Title & Author: Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline

Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary, Romance

Release Date: August 26, 2011

Series: Standalone

Publisher: Random House

How I Got the Book: Bought – Book Club Book

Description:

“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.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?”

Nerd Heaven

Ready Player One is what everyone has already said about it – video game and 80s pop culture heaven. The whole premise of this futuristic book was a world-wide treasure hunt inside a virtual reality (OASIS). And, all the clues are based on the 80s childhood upbringing and video game obsession of the OASIS inventor.

It reminded me a bit of The Guardians of the Galaxy, minus the talking raccoon. It had a really interesting mix of retro music, movies and games while set in a dystopian version of the planet (food is scarce, people are poor, the Earth is out of resources, etc.).

For me, this book was good but it could have been so much better. Ready Player One starts off with a TON of exposition. Some action, a whole lotta background and technical details.

I think the virtual world Cline created is inventive and totally plausible, but I don’t need to (or want to) know exactly how it works, in the middle of Wade Watts adventures in OASIS. It felt like excerpts in the beginning are so long, when they easily could have been brought up naturally throughout the entire story.

Also, a problem for me was that the basic premise is pretty straightforward. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but with all that backstory, I wanted something more in the plot to spice things up and keep it moving.

And, then there’s the fact I’m a 90s baby. Although I am familiar with the Brat Pack movies and a handful of 80s bands, a ton of the decade-specific shout-outs were totally lost on me. I think that getting these references would help a reader’s appreciation of Ready Player One, but I don’t think it would “save” this book if you already were having troubles.

Some things I did like:

  • Gunter culture and all the l33t-speak terminology
  • Art3mis – she was a great addition to the whole story
  • Wade & Aech’s friendship
  • The Flickster challenges – can this be real, please?!
  • The overall message that its important to connect in real life and no let chances pass you by

OVERALL:

Ready Player One is a great adventure story with a likable underdog as the hero. I enjoyed the pretend-but-could-be-real-soon virtual world the author created and all the relationships portrayed in the book. But, the heavy-handed exposition and backstory distracted me from what the book did best – underscoring the need for real connections in a world where everything’s fake and intangible. I would definitely recommend Ready Player One for 80s culture aficionados, but for general science fiction fans I’d suggest These Broken Stars, Cinder or Free to Fall.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.