Book Review: Ready Player One


I’m on vacation and hadn’t planned on blogging again until I got home, but I need to share Ready Player One. I first read about it on boing boing around the time it was released. After a short wait on my reading list, I downloaded it.

I started reading it yesterday evening after we got back from vacation activities and kept going until 3 A.M. It broke my heart to put it down, but I needed some sleep. So when we got back to the hotel this evening, I picked it up and didn’t put it down again until I finished it.

The setting is comfortably reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, another one of my favorites. It’s the near future. Technology has advanced some beyond today’s standards, but it’s not Star Trek. Life mostly sucks for everyone who isn’t super-rich or privileged or both. The world is largely controlled by huge, nearly omnipotent corporations that have begun supplanting government.

In the book’s world, the most important technology is an immersive virtual online world called the OASIS, and just about every one on the planet spends as much time as possible inside the simulation. They live there, they shop there, they make friends and find love there. In short, the OASIS is a much better place to be than the crushing poverty and  misery of their real lives.

When the creator of the OASIS — an eccentric, absurdly wealthy man named James Halliday — dies, he leaves his fortune to whomever can solve the in-OASIS riddles he left behind. That inheritance includes a controlling interest in the company that owns the OASIS and will make the heir one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world.

And the world responds. Thousands and thousands of OASIS users begin the hunt for clues, but are unsuccessful. Several years after the hunt begins, the book picks up the story of Wade Watts, a high school student obsessed with solving Halliday’s puzzles, and sees the hunt through to its end.

Ready Player One is very well written. And it has a insistent, driving rhythm that never lets go. I was never bored (I’m looking at you,A Song of Ice and Fire) and can’t think of any parts of the plot or any important characters I didn’t honestly care about. It has everything I could want in a novel. It’s fast-paced. The puzzles are neat. And I was sad to see it end.

Best of all, the author has an encyclopedic knowledge of the pop-culture, trivia, and video games of the 80s, which he puts to great use: James Halliday was obsessed with the 80s, the decade in which he was a teenager, and bases his puzzles on it. It’s flat-out incredible how much 80s junk is packed into this novel, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia.

Daniel H. Wilson hit the nail right on the head with his blurb on the Amazon site:

“I really, really loved READY PLAYER ONE…Cline expertly mines a copious vein of 1980s pop culture, catapulting the reader on a light-speed adventure in an advanced but backward-looking future.”— Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse [which you should also absolutely read; it's amazing].

Ready Player One is fantastic. The only problem with it is that it ends.

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