Reviews: Ready Player One
A mixed bag of holding.
Warning: Spoils everything. If "nerd empowerment" isn't a recognized genre yet, it should be, and this is its Great American Novel. That's both good and bad. On one hand, this is a hell of a story. The prose is pretty good, the Cast of Snowflakes keeps things interesting, and the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot is pure genius. I can't imagine how long it must've taken to come up with those thousands of old pop culture references and craft a coherent plot out of them. Cline must've done ten books' worth of research for Halliday's quest alone. On the other, the relentless assault of geekiness gets old. It's like how I imagine being forced to attend every panel during all three days of ComicCon would feel. At first, it's fascinating, but after a while, the constant "hooray for nerds" moments and self-congratulatory shout outs to obscure bits of pop trivia get very tired. Not to mention that after finding the copper key, Parzival heads at warp speed towards the Stu sector. By halfway through the book, he's taken 99 levels in badass, become an international celebrity, probably hoarded up half the artifacts, vehicles, and weapons on OASIS all by himself, and is living it up at all the coolest parties. Not to mention he's lost weight in Real Life, because every fat protagonist has to do that, right? ...And he doesn't stop. By the end of the book, he's infiltrated, exposed, and taken down the Mega Corp. almost singlehandedly - via a Million-to-One Chance gambit that worked perfectly, of course - brought every gunter in the world to his side, become best friends with Og, landed the girl of his dreams, revived all his dead sidekicks, been given total control of the biggest cultural phenomenon in history, become OASIS's God and the richest man on Earth, and played a perfect game of Pac-Man. I do have the give the book props for averting Hard Work Hardly Works - he's spent years earning it - but... Damn. Most people seem to think the book is a troperiffic masterpiece. I can see why, and in parts, it is. But at other times, it's just a heavily cliched wish-fulfillment fantasy. Still worth a read, though.
Largely enjoyable, but some quibbles
For the most part, Ready Player One is a good yarn. Other times you can see the freshman part in freshman author. Despite its faults the world is at least fascinating and explained quite well. You have a typical dystopian world run pretty much by an MMORPG, imagine if World of Warcraft was so huge that every person in the world was playing it 24/7. Now, inside the game is a treasure hunt for two hundred forty billion dollars and all you have to do is find it. No catch, no rules. Just decipher the clues, go through the trials set before you, and win. When our main character finds the first key he becomes world famous and finds himself going head to head with a megacorps. The biggest problem for me is the Sixers, Gunters, and the Oasis itself. All of IOI really. They get painted unfairly through most of the story. What they want is largely understandable and actually would make the Oasis better. They want to make it subscribe over free to play. Combine that with the gunters doing many of the exact same things they are, yet the Sixers are still painted as evil just because they work for a megacorps and most of the Sixers are weak villains. Except for Sorrento. He is an evil prick. The gunters just aren't painted realistically. This is a hunt with 240 billion dollars on the line. The villains turn quickly to killing people in the real world, which is natural, people have killed for less. But the Gunters never do. In fact, they get treated as neutral to the whole deal. Sure, some may toss out threats and all, but they are just there until the end where they all work together; Every. Single. One. It's unrealistic. The Oasis is treated as good, but it's easy to see it as the reason the world is a dystopia. At one point a little old lady uses it to go to church. It's far too encompassing. The book says it's post peak oil, yet electricity is available to all. Creates a plot hole that could have been covered up with the idea of the Oasis being so addictive it made people neglect the planet. This is how I read it and it makes the book better. But officially it's the only good thing left on the planet. Overall, the book is good. It moves at a decent pace and mostly treats the subject matter realistically. But if you don't want to be machine gunned with pop culture references or want a more seasoned book, look elsewhere.
Spend Your Quarters Elsewhere
I had heard of this book from my friend some time ago, and decided to check it out at the library. I wasn't impressed. The concept is somewhat interesting: A chance to get billions of dollars in a post-apocalyptic world by finding an easter egg in a game. How could that go wrong? Well, for starters, it's not caused by something like nuclear radiation, like in Hokuto no Ken or Fallout. It's caused by, and I am not kidding, humanity running out of fossil fuels. Are you serious? This takes place in 2085; You'd think by that time, we would have seen it coming and developed another energy source, but no. Cities start falling apart, there's barely any law anymore, etc. Really, it's never explained why this causes the fall of humanity. It's made even stupider when you consider that the OASIS, a MMO that pretty much everyone plays, somehow manages to exist in this world; By the way, it runs on electricity, so couldn't that be an alternative to gas? It's stuff like this that breaks your Willing Suspension of Disbelief. There's also the main character, who, in the first fucking chapter, goes on a huge speech about how God isn't real, and that religion is bullshit, etc. When I read that blatant Author Tract, I closed the book, banged my head on the wall multiple times, and then resumed reading. I am an agnostic, and that made me facepalm. The pop-culture references aren't clever enough to make up for it, and come off more as blatant and unnecessary. The story somewhat justifies it with the easter egg being hidden in puzzes that involve those kind of references, but that doesn't explain why it comes out of nowhere to reference them blatantly. Overall, this book isn't shit, but mediocre. The OASIS is kinda interesting, but you'll have to get through a lot of stupid shit along the way. Those who love 80's video games may be able to sit through all the bullshit, but the references aren't good enough to make it a great book to them, and seeing that I am not so easily swayed by such methods, it's not saving it from me calling this book a mediocre waste of time.
There's not much in Ready Player One that's really earth-shattering. The story is a pretty simple conflict of individual vs. corporation, and the characters are for the most part archetypal. The bad guys are essentially strawmen with no personality, and Wade doesn't really develop emotionally. He ends up the same person he started as. But it's also a lot of fun to read. The setting and action scenes are incredibly cool. The homages to 1980s pop culture are squee-worthy. Overall, don't expect anything meaningful, but do expect to enjoy yourself.
Utterly, incredibly awesome
"Describe Ready Player One here." I discovered this book on Boing Boing, and eventually got a copy from the library. I was expecting a reasonably good techno-adventure. What I got was, well... This book is the best thing since sliced bread. It's the most momentous thing since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the garden. I finished it in hours and then wanted to read it again. What starts off as slightly slow-paced quickly ratchets up into an adventure that, in effect, becomes a textual roller-coaster that doesn't let up until the finish. If you're a fan of technology, gaming, or the 80s, do yourself a favor and read it. To quote the book itself: "Are you ready?"
I really enjoyed it. It is immediatly immersive and I was invested in the characters. I didn't look up most of the references as I was reading because I really wanted to know what was going to happen next more than what the teleportation sound from Super Friends sounds like. The cultural references add depth if you know them, but the settings are described in enough detail that you could follow them without needing the map. I started only planning to read it over a few weeks, then finished it in 2-3 days.