You know those stalker books? The creepy ones that seem to follow you everywhere: whenever you find yourself in a bookstore or library you turn around and there it is staring at you with this shameless stare, daring you to read it. Well, Ready Player One was not shy in its attempts to ensnare my attention. So a while back, after the stalking had become all too obvious, I looked it up on Amazon and checked the reviews; 11,618 reviews and a 4.6 star rating, with 91% of the reviews being four or five stars. So I did what everyone does in these situations – I put it on my wish list and forgot all about it. Then, a week ago when I was at the library with the intention of getting a completely different book (which, as you can imagine, did not make it home with me), there was Ready Player One in the “to be shelved” cart. This was my moment; if I didn’t get it now I was probably going to damn it to the depths of book limbo forever, never to be read, so I snatched it up and continued to read and finish it over the course of two days. All that being said, I don’t know why I didn’t read it sooner.
It’s 2044, and the world is falling apart.
The world is in the grip of an energy crisis that has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs, food scarcity, and poverty as the world has never seen before. People have flooded into the cities in search of work, housing, and easier access to the OASIS.
Along with most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes the real world by entering the virtual world known as the OASIS – a utopian world where you can be anyone and do anything in a universe with tens of thousands of planets. Hidden in this world is the ultimate prize, which Wade, along with the rest of the world, dreams of finding.
Five years have passed since the OASIS’s creator, James Halliday, died and announced the beginning of the egg hunt: the first person to find all three keys and unlock all three gates would receive the entirety of Halliday’s fortune, including his share in OASIS. So began a hunt that would change the course of the world including fashion, interests, and lifestyles as everyone dove into Halliday’s life in search of further clues. But after five years with no success of any kind, the world seems to be losing interest. That is, until a kid from the slums finds the first clue. In an instant Wade becomes the most famous person on the planet. But as the world scrambles with renewed interest to find the first key, Wade must try to stay a step ahead of the competition that begins to close in quickly both in the OASIS and in the world he has tried so hard to avoid.
This is the book that every super nerd has always hoped would some day be written. At times it felt like an homage to the 80’s (James Halliday was obsessed with 80’s culture), but in the best way possible. Plenty of authors have written books or movies about virtual worlds, but nothing like this. This book took the seriousness of science fiction and filled it with so many real world references that it was on the verge of being ridiculous. But you know what they say about genius: it walks the line between innovation and insanity, and Ernest Cline walked that line with style.
As a super nerd myself this was a terrifically fun read, but there’s more than 80’s culture and cool concepts that gave this book almost five stars. For those who have read my blog in the past, you’ll know what I consider to be the most important aspects of any book: characters and character development. Ernest Cline didn’t disappoint in this regard; his development was realistic and well planned. In the beginning, there was a point when the main character became absolutely insufferable. So much so, in fact, that I was wishing to follow a different character, however as the plot moved forward this period of growth became an integral part of who Wade Watts would become. For an author, those types of scenes can be quite difficult to write (or at least they are for me). In a way, my characters become my children; I want them to make good decisions, to make the right moves, and to always come out victorious. As any reader or author will know, this simply isn’t possible if you want them to experience any sort of growth. Sometimes you have to sit back and let them make an idiot of themselves before they can reach their true potential.
Another thing that Cline did that impressed me was his use of dialogue. The most important thing I learned in my college creative writing class was that dialogue can undoubtedly make or break a story. It should be used only when it serves a purpose. Pointless dialogue distracts the audience, slows down the story, and ultimately cripples the entire book. Yet Cline’s use of dialogue is an excellent model of how it can enhance the characters, move the plot forward, and set the proper tone; an accomplishment worthy of note since this is still something that many authors, including myself, struggle to do.
My one and only complaint about Ready Player One is that it was over too quickly. As is always the case with stalker books (though never the case with real stalkers), I’m glad it kept following me around. If you’ve even seen this book in the library or your local bookstore and thought about reading it, snatch it up as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.
p.s. I’ve hired a couple models to help pose for pictures. In this picture we have Oliver (aka. Handsome Boy). I think he has a very promising career ahead of him.