Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

4/5 stars

There is the real world in which the planet and its people are slowly dying. There is the virtual world in which there are millions of worlds and the people can be anything they want.

Wade Watts, an orphaned high school kid living in poverty, would much rather spend his days in the latter—a virtual reality simulation called OASIS, created by James Halliday. When Wade solves the first challenge set forth by Halliday after his death, he revives the stagnant hunt for Halliday’s fortune. Now, the race is on. Rife with pop culture references from the late 1900s, Ready Player One is a gripping tale of one boy’s quest for power and wealth, as well as the friends and foes he meets along the way.

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I’m a little over the dystopian genre after reading so many mediocre ones with similar premises, characters, and resolutions. I wasn’t enthralled with the real-world setting: there were resource shortages, the planet was dying, people were poor and miserable—what else is new? However, I loved the video game setting. The main reason why I wasn’t annoyed with the dystopian setting was because this didn’t feel like a dystopian; most of Wade’s time is spent jacked into the OASIS, which is more a combination of fantasy and science fiction, since it mainly draws from movies, shows, games, etc. of those two genres.

There are a lot of references to video games and pop culture from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. For most of the book, I was like:

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Once in a blue moon, I would be like:

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Not understanding didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of the story though. Wade does a lot of explaining so I could follow the story without being confused. If you know nothing about the late 1900s or video games—it’s okay. This book can still be very enjoyable for you.

The OASIS world was truly outstanding. I absolutely loved spending time there. To be honest, it is a perfect setting for book geeks, gamers, and movie nerds. Cline can borrow virtually anything he wants from pop culture of the past and he’s not limited by the amount of worlds he can use.

I wasn’t completely sold on his writing though. The sentences were simple and repetitive, often starting with ‘I’.

“I did this. I did that. I picked up that. I entered this room.” –An actual quote from the book

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This was especially slow to read in the beginning because Wade spends the first few chapters giving huge info-dumps of the world and describing his life in the real world, prior to his finding the Copper Key. I did enjoy learning about the world—the video game one, not the real one—but I kind of wish there were a more elegant way of revealing the information?

Additionally, the simple writing contributed to the one-dimensional feel of the characters and their relationships. They were either good or pure evil. There was no moral gray ground in the characters and they felt a little like cardboard cut-outs.

Wade. Ah Wade. He reminded me of the witty Deadpool character because their first names are the same.

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Wade also cracks jokes and can be quite self-deprecating. He made me laugh lots of times. In reference to Art3mis, a prominent OASIS blogger, fellow gunter, and eventual friend of Wade’s (“egg hunter” -a term for people participating in Halliday’s Hunt).

“A lot of gunters even questioned whether she was really female, but I wasn’t one of them. Probably because I couldn’t bear the idea that the girl with whom I was virtually smitten might actually be some middle-aged dude named Chuck, with back hair and male-pattern baldness.”

What I didn’t like about his character was his insane prowess at almost everything, from solving the clues to remembering entire movies (even the inflection of characters’ speech) to being a boss at almost every single video games. I get that he needed to be smart in order to figure out the first clue of Halliday’s Hunt, but it got a little tiring to read of how he was so confident because he had mastered this game or how the challenge was so easy because he had watched this movie until he could recite every line from memory.

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I mean, there were moments when he was stuck on certain clues but overall, everything felt too easy (until probably the last third of the book—that was pretty intense).

Sometimes though, he wouldn’t explain something until later (ex. what happens to your avatar when it’s killed in OASIS) and then I’d just be left wondering what the hell happens and waiting for him to explain.

The antagonist of the book was IOI, an all-powerful corporation that was in virtually every facet of people’s daily lives.

“I was horrified at the thought of IOI taking control of the OASIS. The company’s PR machine had made its intentions crystal clear. IOI believed that Halliday never properly monetized his creation, and they wanted to remedy that. They would start charging a monthly fee for access to the simulation. They would plaster advertisements on every visible surface. User anonymity and free speech would become things of the past. The moment IOI took it over, the OASIS would cease to be the open-source virtual utopia I’d grown up in. It would become a corporate-run dystopia, an overpriced theme park for wealthy elitists.”

However, their inability and the constant reminders of that by our main characters don’t make any sense.

 

MINOR SPOILERS

*****

 

 

 

 

When Wade infiltrates IOI and hacks them for information, he discovers they have a treasure trove of Halliday-related information. Additionally, one of the IOI employees, in an attempt to recruit Wade, tells him about their hacked simulation gear, which allows players to trade off on one avatar as well as be fed information from a team of professionals standing by.

PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW IOI DOESN’T WIN. They have a vast resource of information and a bunch of people dedicated to knowing Halliday. They have a shitload of money so they can buy most of the powerful artifacts in the OASIS. They have multiple people controlling one avatar. This doesn’t make sense.

Logically, IOI should be the one to win but it probably has something to do with them not being “worthy” and perverting the competition.

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*****

 

That is probably one of my biggest frustrations with the book.

That and the ending.

So I really enjoyed reading about the challenges. The location of the keys and the gates are cleverly hidden in riddles and I liked watching the characters go through the different challenges. It’s fun to explore this unlimited world that the author has dreamed up.

The ending just felt so meh compared to the insane build-up of the last third of the book.  I was on the verge of hyperventilation at many times and I swear my heart stopped at one moment.

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There were epic video game battles and duels and omg so much more and it was too much for me to handle.

But then.

I don’t know what it is about the ending but it just felt really unfulfilling for me. It was a little like, “Oh wow, that’s it?”.

Aside from the slow beginning and let-down of an ending, I had a thrilling time reading this book.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to know your thoughts on this book so feel free to comment or contact me!

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