By: Ernest Cline
James Donovan Halliday- gamer, coder, billionaire, 1980’s pop culture extraordinaire. He’s also dead. While many people die everyday in the year 2039 from overwhelming pollution, starvation, and disease, Halliday’s death is exceedingly memorable.
Having created the OAISIS (a virtual reality universe with quests, life-sized worlds, and a way for people to create a whole new identity), Halliday was the father of the way people now lived their lives: online. Over the years he had become increasingly eccentric until his death when it was revealed in a mass email that he had a will. His will stated that he hid an Easter Egg inside the OAISIS. Anyone who was smart enough to solve his riddles, collect three keys, and pass through three gates would be the winner. The sole owner of his entire fortune and the rights to Gregarious Simulation Systems: Halliday’s company.
This gave many people hope for a better future. People like Wade Watts, a high school boy with no money, no parents, and no life outside of the OAISIS. Like an all consuming fire, the 2040’s become obsessed with 80’s pop culture and every detail of Halliday’s life. Wade spends his spare time memorizing all of Halliday’s favorite shows, movies, and video games. He is determined to win the contest, but, with no means to travel to other worlds, Wade cannot search for the key like other gunters (egg hunters). He must use his wits and knowledge of James Halliday to see if he can find the first key before anyone else.
I must admit, after I finished this book, it took me two days to finally make myself sit down and write this review. I was coming off an emotional high of elation and excitement at the mere thought of this book. In a word, it was amazing.
Building the world around the reader and character is one of the major struggles of writing books. There is also a trade off. The author can have really interesting characters and a world that doesn’t make sense or is boring, or the author can have a really interesting world and characters that fall flat of their potential. I do not over exaggerate when stating that Ready Player One has done both exceptionally well. Not only are both the characters and the world made with actual depth, but they are made to be believable. Many people say that science fiction has been predicting technological advancements for years. I can 100% believe the idea that one day the world will be so terrible that we all will hide away from it in virtual reality, have completely anonymous identities, and become hermits. We are already advancing to virtual reality games; I do not intend to underestimate the speed in which videogames will develop over the next 20-30 years. Cline has a way of writing the descriptions of locations and a character’s physical features that create vivid mental images. They are planning to make a movie based off of this book. They will have a lot to work with. More then any movie producer if probably willing to handle. Much to my chagrin.
One of the major problems, if you haven’t noticed, that I’ve been having lately with books I’ve read is that the characters don’t seem to have problems that require any time to fix or solve. The solutions are always handed to them on a silver plate and we see them coming from a mile away. This book doesn’t do that. This book has feeling and real struggles the characters have to take real time to work out. Even then not every issue works out perfectly. Everything doesn’t fall into place for these characters, and they can’t act as one-man bands that have the answer to everything like a Magic 8 Ball. Sometimes Wade has to ask for help and other times he is left in complete isolation from the rest of the world. There are also real threats in the book where people can actually die if they aren’t careful. Everyone has to be smart and have a plan for any and all contingencies.
But don’t go thinking the entire book is dark and serious because it isn’t all tragedy and problems. Most of it is just a hell of a lot of fun. The entire book (and I mean pretty much every page) is riddled with hyper nerdy 80’s pop culture references from movies, music, tv shows, video games, and famous icons. This of course makes the book incredibly dense. It is not a light read because the reader needs to pay attention to detail with all of the references to get the full affect of the story. I will go out on a limb and say that I believe Ernest Cline’s writing style in Ready Player One hold the reader’s attention like that of George R. R. Martin. That’s how great I thought it was. Yeah, I said it! George R. R. Martin.
Things in the story also come full circle. If something is mentioned at the very beginning of the book and it seems relatively unimportant, well guess what! It isn’t. Details and facts from the first 50 pages will appear in the last 50 pages because everything is connected. Cline doesn’t leave huge holes and gaps in the story to make the reader wonder about small things. He really works to answer any/every question that Wade asks in the book and that the reader may want to know later. I like that aspect because it makes every detail significant. Hence the “pay attention” part.
Many books also try to teach some moral lesson about life to the reader sometimes through very cheesy means that make the reader roll their eyes and say “yeah, yeah I get it…enter life lesson here.” Ready Player One doesn’t do it that way. The main lesson that is stated in the book at the end is actually what the main character was figuring out by himself subtly throughout the whole book. That might not sound like a lot or maybe it sounds similar to how you think other books tend to do this. But if you read the story I think you will get what I mean. Cline building up to the lesson rather than just stating it makes it have all that much more meaning and power by the end of the book. I cried. I saw myself in the lesson the book was trying to teach. It meant something. But then again, I’m a huge nerd…so there’s that.
The book also explores the realm of online dating and relationships with people Wade has never seen face to face. The book as an honest way of telling how the world is and how sometimes we think we really know people and then it turns out they aren’t whom we were expecting them to be. But does that mean we couldn’t come to love someone by talking to them online as we would in person? *whisper* maybe you should read the book to see what it says…nudge nudge.
When I finished reading this book, it made me stop and think for a while. Hence another reason why I didn’t sit down and immediately write a review for it. It made me emotional. It made me think about my existence on Earth and what humans put value into other than each other. It makes the reader look at the human condition and fear for what will come if we don’t change how we treat the environment or attempt to stop corruption. Ready Player One is a book I could happily hand someone and say, “Food for thought.”
Overall rating: 5