Book #18

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’m attempting to read some newer releases, and I’m pretty impressed with the selection offered by the Greater Phoenix Digital Library. Of course, I see now that Ready Player One was published almost a year ago. That’s still better than usual for me.

Ready Player One is dystopian-ish YA science fiction. Generally, my problem with dystopian fiction is that I don’t buy it. I am, perhaps, a naive optimist. I honestly don’t believe that the average of human behavior is evil, which is what most dystopian fiction seems to rely on. Despite a devious, all-seeing corporation, the world of Ready Player One is fairly believable. It’s crowded and over-industrialized. The majority of people work in and are entertained by a virtual world. The OASIS is sort of the mondo combination of Second Life and every MMO/CRPG that has ever existed. If I squint really hard, I can see that future.

The story revolves around a game within the game, the hunt for an Easter Egg placed within the OASIS by one of its now-deceased creators. Find the egg, win his fortune. The egg hunters, or gunters, believe that by steeping themselves in the geek culture of the programmers–the 1980s– they can unlock the Easter Egg.

This is marketed as a YA novel. The protagonist is young, the themes are not overly complex. Yet, I question whether readers too much younger than I am can catch a fraction of the references.  Ernest Cline is two years old than me. I am of the same generation and of a somewhat geeky bent. I “got” many of the references; by far, not all of them. This novel is maybe too reliant on Cline’s favorite things.

There are problems with this book (the previously mentioned evil corporation, a little bit of deus ex machina, and a laggy middle section), but I enjoyed it. What really saves the story for me is its underlying optimism. It stands alone (not part of a series) and a certain portion of the final battle brings to mind the better-natured  community aspects of MMOs.

Format: Kindle Cloud Reader
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library

6 thoughts on “Book #18

  1. nyetjones

    I enjoyed this one quite a bit – usually some of the flaws that you point out drive me nuts, but I was willing to forgive a lot because of the engaging spirit of the book.

    (Spoiler-ness below – you’ve been warned, fellow commenters!).

    Two things – one, I’m curious as to the flaws you’re identifying. The pac-Man game (and the ability to just easily play a perfect game on it, just like that) struck me as silly, an the ensuing bonus life was equally super-convenient. But the general, “Hey, I’ll just infiltrate the corporation” part was painfully convenient, too. Agreed on the lagging sections (the best friends are fighting sections dragged a bit), and I’d even say some of the stunning surprises – “hey, his best friend is not only not male, but is black! and a girl! WHOA!” – made the YA aspect insulting to young adults everywhere. I’m not clear on what you thought was weak about the evil corporation, unless you just mean you don’t think people are that evil and/or it’s kind of a played trope. I had hostile corporate takeovers in the back of my head and the various modes of cheating in MMORPGs – gold farming, etc. – didn’t seem like too huge of a leap for profit-minded corporations to say screw the spirit of this, let’s just win. But maybe my rose-tinted glasses are just a black shade of rose. 🙂

    Two, I think the nostalgia aspect was interesting, because you are 100% correct, it is entirely borrowed nostalgia. People born in ’95 won’t get, um, 95% of it. But I thought it served well as a launching pad for such investigations. So it’s not whether the reader gets War Games references, it’s whether they add War Games to their Netflix queue. I think it consequently at least gives people an avenue to due some historical digging and see where these commonplace video game tropes and references come from – it reminded me a bit of musicians covering left field songs from the ’70s; teens today won’t get it, but maybe they’ll seek it out.

    Then again, maybe they’ll just think it’s an original. Sigh.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the review!

    Reply
    1. Katherine Nabity Post author

      Spoilers!

      Yeah, it’s more that the evil X aspect of dystopian fiction bugs me than IOI was a bad villain. While a little over the top, IOI wasn’t too terribly done. Again, if I squint, I can see it. (Though I seem to be one of the few EQ2 players that doesn’t think that Sony is trying to cheat me at every turn. Again, with the optimism.)

      Along with the Pac-Man game is Og monitoring and conveniently bailing out the kids in the real world. I need stop reading books with game master characters. The character revelations didn’t bug me too much, probably because I’m sort of gender agnostic when I read–while I obviously knew that the main character was male, it doesn’t make much difference to me. Therefore, I’m rather ‘meh’ when his best friend is a gay black girl. Kind of had the feel of boxes being ticked though.

      Regarding nostalgia, at one point while reading I did think, “At least I have the internet to help me with the references…” On the other hand, I knew exactly which Starlog issue he was referring to…

      Reply
      1. nyetjones

        I had forgotten about Og; you’re right about that terribly convenient overseer aspect. I just finished Reamde by Neal Stephenson which had a large MMORPG component, and the main character just conveniently had a god-avatar in the game with which he could essentially just reverse the course of everything with a mouse click. Super-silly.

        “Meh” is exactly the right term for that reveal. I had no incentive to care one way or the other, so when it happened, my response was basically “oh” inside the book and a sort of “well, that was a really trite surprise” in the sort of meta-book.

        And seriously, who can spend that much time mastering every video game ever AND memorizing War games. Dubious.

  2. Isa (@lollibea)

    This book is on my TBR list, I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews for this book so I was attracted to it and I love a great typography cover. After reading your review, I’m a lot more interested in it, I didn’t really know much about the book prior to this review and it sounds crazy but in a good, entertaining way.

    My problem with dystopian novels is that sometimes I need to stop thinking about the way the world was created like I would have questions about the world building and it’s structure which often go unanswered by the author so I’m left feeling slightly dissatisfied. It’s usually little details I’d want to know but it creates loose ends for me in the novel so it’s difficult for me to believe in that world. I don’t like that I just have to accept the world that was created. I’m not sure if I’m making much sense there but that’s my slight rant on dystopian fiction.

    Reply
    1. Katherine Nabity Post author

      Cline does a pretty good job of worldbuilding and sometimes spends a little too much time on explanations. I agree with you though and found that to be better than not explaining anything.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: 2012 Challenge Wrap-Up | The Writerly Reader

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