I heard nothing but satisfaction regarding Ready Player One until, rather unexpectedly, one of my favorite people to talk books with told me he couldn’t even finish it.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest. I was sitting in my hideout watching cartoons when the news bulletin broke in on my video feed, announcing that James Halliday had died during the night.
I fell into the immersive digital world of Ready Player One almost before I had even opened the front cover. One of my favorite childhood novels, Epic by Conor Kostick, was also about a dystopian society where the larger-than-life virtual world was preferable to the squalor of the real world and where social mobility was only possible through hard work in mastering the video game. I haven’t read another novel with a similar premise since then, so I was more than ready for Ready Player One.
Here, reality means impoverishment, bullying, and a world running low on hope. The virtual OASIS though, offers the actualization of any imaginable dream. The protagonist Wade is every nerdy kid’s hero; he takes an early start in the novel’s main competition by amassing an almost-encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s creator.
My interest didn’t last long though. Over the course of the past month, I started putting my audiobook on a sleep timer in order to help me fall asleep faster (some nights it takes me hours to fall asleep, but I’ve realized that a soothing voice and boring subject matter helps with that). I’m such a fan of this premise, but Cline’s writing style just wasn’t to my taste. The entire novel is told in first-person. And that’s the problem. Every detail of Wade’s surroundings, thought process, and actions is told, not shown, to the reader. I could barely bring myself to even visualize the scenes playing out. There’s no mysteries to ponder over, no satisfying loose ends to tie up because everything just happens and is talked about as it happens.
The entire time that Wade was chasing after or with Artemis, I was completely dissatisfied. Their relationship seemed scripted, unrealistic, and, honestly, unnecessary. I couldn’t care less about them; I was here to find out about the competition’s conclusion, not teenage virtual angst. I felt the way I do after seeing a superhero movie that overly focuses on some romantic component.
Meanwhile, I was also pretty disturbed by the author’s depiction of Asian, especially Japanese, culture. They’re aloof, untrusting, and quick to take offense. Plus, if this is really 2045, why are Shoto and Daito always spewing stereotypical lines about honor?
TLDR: Aech is the only saving grace of this novel.
In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.