Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

This was a fun and quick read.  It wasn’t a particularly deep or complex book, but the story was interesting, the characters were well-written, and the author did a great job with intense action scenes.  Sometimes I caught myself tensely gripping my Kindle during critical moments of the story, and I stayed up well past my bedtime on a couple of nights because I had to know what would happen next.

I guess pretty much everybody is already familiar with the general idea behind this story if it’s something they’re remotely interested in, but here’s a spoiler-free synopsis of the basic premise just in case anybody is curious.  The story is set in the future, around 2040.  Conditions in the real world are pretty bad, but there’s a world-wide virtual reality called OASIS that most people spend all of their spare time in.  The creator of OASIS, Halliday, has hidden an “Easter egg” somewhere within this humongous virtual reality and created a series of puzzles and tests that must be solved in order to find it.  Upon his death, an announcement goes out to the world to let them know about the egg.  Whoever finds the egg will inherit Halliday’s company and become a billionaire.  The story opens up a few years after Halliday’s death, with nobody having made any significant progress toward finding the egg.  Our main character, Wade, is a senior in high school who has devoted every possible moment of his life toward finding this egg.  Halliday grew up in the 80’s and was obsessed with that era’s old video games and movies and TV shows, so the puzzles and tests are based heavily on things from that era.

The main character sometimes came off as a little naïve, but he was only about 18 so I guess he had the right to be a little naïve.  Otherwise, I really liked him and found him easy to root for.  I also liked some of the characters he encountered throughout the story.  Art3mis annoyed me sometimes, but I really liked Aech.  I did think that the main character, Wade (known as Parzival in OASIS), was just a little too all-knowing.  I didn’t actually bother to do the math, but it seemed unrealistic to me that he had found the time to watch so many old TV shows and movies, not just once but multiple times.  He watched them dozens of times in some cases, and even over 100 times in others.  Also, not only did he play and learn scads of old video games, but he also mastered them.  It seemed unrealistic even if, as he said, he was spending 12 hours a day on it every day.

The story was pretty straight forward and told from the first-person perspective of Wade.  There were surprises here and there, but the story wasn’t particularly twisty.  There were puzzles of course but, unless you’re familiar with the relevant games, movies, and TV shows from the 80’s, you can’t really hope to figure them out on your own.  However, you don’t have to have intimate knowledge of 80’s geekdom culture to enjoy the story.  I was born in 1975, so I did grow up during the 80’s, but I wasn’t familiar with most of the things that were mentioned.  I didn’t watch much TV at all and I doubt I’ve been in a video arcade more than 5 times in my entire life.  We didn’t have any video game consoles at home either, nor did any of my closest friends have them.  I did grow up with computers, and we had some games for them, but my parents didn’t buy a lot of games.  However, even though there were a lot of references to things I was unfamiliar with, I never felt lost.  The author explained whatever was important to the story.

Despite the fact that I don’t have much knowledge of 80’s video games, I do enjoy computer games and I even still play them now and then – maybe for an hour or two a week at the very most.  In the 90’s I discovered all of the shareware and freeware games available online, so I actually played more games in my late teens and early 20’s than I had played as a kid in the 80’s when games were harder for me to access.  So my point here is that I’m quite familiar with general gaming concepts and I enjoy games, even if my video game experience is limited.  Maybe this helped make the book more appealing and fun for me. 

I especially enjoyed the earlier parts of the book when the main character started off with absolutely nothing and started to accumulate both real-world and OASIS loot.  I was excited for him when he found the treasure in that first dungeon and started to gain levels.  After that, I thought his continued advancement was a little too fast.

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Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot although it’s a little hard for me to quantify why.