Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: Ready Player One

I recently finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and while I really enjoyed it, there were a few things that were lingering in my mind while I was reading. When I feel conflicted about a book, that - to me - is a sign that it's probably a good title to review, so that's what I'm doing with Ready Player One today! I may get a little spoiler-y so read ahead at your own risk. (If you're looking at this from my main page, I've put my review under the "read more" tag so you don't accidentally get spoiled.)

Ready Player One is an action adventure sci-fi-esque novel set in the near future of 2044. The outside world and reality has been devastated by poverty and environmental destruction, so most of humanity finds comfort and escape in the OASIS - a virtual reality that users can go to work, to school, and generally live a better second life through the eyes of their custom-made avatars. When the creator of the OASIS passes away, he leaves his multi-billion dollar fortune hidden in the virtual world and sends the entire OASIS universe on a massive Easter egg hunt that involves deciphering cryptic clues and completing epic quests that all revolve around the creator's love of '80s Pop Culture.

Our protaganist, Wade Watts, is a high school student and loves spending his time in the OASIS. Wade is not from a wealthy background so he is limited to the "free" sections of the OASIS. That is, of course, until he becomes the first person in history to solve the first clue of the Easter egg hunt and becomes world famous over night.

***SPOILERS AHEAD! Do not read further if you do not want to be spoiled!***


This book was entertaining as hell. Cline writes his characters in a very engaging way and builds the relationships between them in a way that is believable. I really enjoyed the way that Wade and Aech spoke to one another - I could totally relate to the way they goofed on each other to the way my friends and I interact. He also explains the world of OASIS in a way that you can really build the world in your mind quite easily. I had no problem picturing the world of OASIS and differentiating it from the characters' "real world".

Cline also does a really great job establishing good and evil in his characters. The IOI and Sorrento are so smarmy and they are written in a way that is scarily close to the "bad guys" (i.e. big business controlling  and influencing our government) of our wold today. It was really easy to root against IOI and to cheer for out main characters. I found myself not caring who won the contest as long as it wasn't IOI which was really nice to see. It might have been more interesting to have a bit more a rivalry between the main characters, but I think that with the complexity of the rest of the story it might have gotten to be a bit too much to add that extra layer to the plot. I think Cline made a really great choice in making the main characters allies instead of enemies.

This is one of those books that's so easy to want to continue to pick back up based on the sheer entertainment of the story line. While it does take a while for everything to get explained from chapter to chapter, the plot is very fast paced and every scene is extremely unique making it extremely difficult to get bored. I flew through pages because I just did not know what to expect next when I turned the page.

This is totally unrelated to anything but it made me laugh so I'm counting it as a positive - One of the things that kept popping into my mind during the final battle scene was the World of Warcraft episode of South Park where the boys are battling very intensely and the actual game scenes were extremely epic but the reality is just them sitting in their computer chairs. It made me chuckle. XD


While this book was entertaining, there were a few things that I did have issues with. One of the big things that kept crossing my mind was that everything was very convenient for the main characters going on this quest. Because OASIS is a new world and the author has complete control over everything which of course made it easy for him to write his way out of problems any way he wanted to, but it happened so many times that it stood out to me in a way that a better crafted story would have hidden from the reader a little bit better. 

One example is toward the end of the book when Wade is taken away as an IOI indent and he just so happens to have passwords to hack into the system and gain extremely incriminating information and make his escape. Another example is in the search for gate two Wade just so happens to go to an arcade to find a coin that will give his avatar an extra life. It's things like these that made it seem like Cline added these solutions in the final edits of his book just so Wade and the gang would have a way out of things and it was distractingly apparent.

Another things that annoyed me - and this may be because I read this book over the course of 4 days - but I noticed that Wade said "get the hell out of Dodge" so. many. times. It really seemed like he was saying this phrase once every couple of chapters. I get that this is a cool way to say get out of trouble, but again, it was distracting. Every time it showed up on the page I thought to myself There it is again! I'm sure that if Cline took a bit more time he could have come up with more fun phrases that would fit the character and accomplish the same thing.

The last thing that really bugged me was at the very end when we met Aech "in person"... the way Cline described her was fairly problematic. Aech, who is revealed to be a black woman, is described as having "kinky hair and chocolate-colored skin"... yikes. That description just did not sit well with me. It was a really lazy way to describe this character's appearance and after a story FULL of descriptions of a really rich fictional world you would think that Cline would be able to think just a little bit harder when describing this amazing character. I was really disappointed in the book when I read that line and it is still sitting with me now.

There was one really interesting thing that happened after the description of Aech, however. Cline briefly has Aech explain why her avatar is a white man when she herself is a black woman, and it turns into this really interesting commentary on white male privilege in our society. This is only discussed for about a paragraph, however, and I would have LOVED to see more of that teased out. I'm sure if this book was published more recently that might have been a bigger piece of this book as it is in the forefront of our society these days. It seemed to be a really big missed opportunity.

Overall Thoughts

A couple of things to keep in mind before picking up this book - having a general knowledge of video games, particular simulation video games (i.e. Sims, Second Life, World of Warcraft, etc.) will give you a huge advantage of understanding this world. I consider myself pretty well-versed in this area as these are some of my favorite kinds of games to play, but I can tell that if I was not I would have been pretty confused throughout the book. A lot of this book relies on world building as the majority of it takes place in a fictional world and if you don't really understand what simulation video games are like you might get a little lost and lose interest.

I also think that a general knowledge of '80s Pop Culture will really enhance the reading experience of this book. While I'm not a child of the '80s myself, my parents were and I have many people in my life that did grow up in the '80s and are very well-versed in the pop culture of that time so I have been exposed to many of the things that are referenced throughout this book. I was also a big fan of thethe 80's series on VH-1 that aired a while ago so a lot of what is talked about on that show was also discussed in this book. I don't think that someone who doesn't know the '80s references wouldn't enjoy this book, I just think that the reading experience would be much more enjoyable if you were familiar with it!

Overall, the positives of this book outweighed the negatives (even thought I went much further in depth with the negatives on this review... whoops :P). I can't deny how much fun I had while reading this book and I think that this would be a perfect book to recommend to someone who might not read all that often or might be a bit apprehensive of picking up a book for fun. This would also be a great book to read to get yourself out of a reading slump, so if you're struggling to find something to get into and you want something that's just pure fun, give Ready Player One a try. 

Overall I gave this book...
4/5 Stars!

Have you read Ready Player One? If so, what did you think?
Let me know in the comments!

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