Friday, January 27, 2012

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown (Aug 16, 2011)
Brief (from It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to
win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

My Awful Review:

Ready Player One is the story of Wade Watts, a poor-but-brilliant white trash high school student who has one obsession in life: OASIS. This online world has become reality for many people like Wade, allowing them to go to school in its virtual confines, make their purchases, and live out their lives, away from the reality of the harsh world they live in. And for Wade, his every moment is occupied with finding The Easter Egg, the clues that will allow Wade to have access to the fortune of the now-dead creator of the game.

This book is full of pop-culture references from the 80s, and plenty of gamer nostalgia. And yet, it's still a very well-written book, for the most part. All of the 80s references and videogame playing, and movie watching could have very well been the death of this book, but instead it's cleverly weaved into the storyline, allowing it to feel natural and ultimately enjoyable.

The book was the kind that I couldn't put down, and read through it in a little less than a day. For me, the only weakness comes at the end of the book. Without spoiling it for all of you, let's just say that the final point of conflict between Wade and the antagonist just wasn't what I was expecting. It was too quiet for me, just not personal enough. There was this great conflict, and then the last 25 pages of the book were all downhill. It was supposed to be the critical, sphincter-clenching, ultimate confrontation between protagonist and antagonist, between good and evil, or at least not so good and slightly better. Instead, it's over all-too-soon. A couple of old videogames get played and we call it good.

For me, this was the only major blemish on this boy gets the girl, pop culture 80s extravaganza, but it was a pretty big one. When an ending feels like the author was being chicken, I'll always be the first to stand up and cry, "Fowl!" I don't think the author was actually scared to do it, but for me, he just didn't give me the face-to-face...well, avatar to avatar, confrontation I'd been waiting for the whole book, and it was a pretty big letdown.

Don't get me wrong, this book was a great read. Fun, imaginative, and something that I think a lot of people in their 20s and 30s could really get into. It certainly made me want to find the closest laundromat and bang out a new high score on Ms. Pacman, my own personal love of that time period. However, the ending threw up flags for me, and maybe it will for you as well.

  • The pop-culture references. It was a really fun way to pack a book full of nostalgia and make it seem relevant to the crisis at hand.
  • The characters were enjoyable and interesting. Some chances were taken by characters that left me pleasantly surprised.
  • It's always fun to read about videogames
  • The non-confrontational ending. Seriously, an entire book where the bad guy never gets punched in the face? Phaw!
  • The love story seemed a little weak to me. It was realistic, but the ending was a little quiet for my liking.
Overall, Ready Player One gets a 7.75/10. There were some very good things here, but there were also a couple of things that disappointed. It's not the kind of book that should ever get a sequel (unless the big-wig publishers smell a cash cow), so for a single read it's probably worth your time. Just pretend that the good guy punches the bad guy at the end and you'll be fine.


  1. I felt the same way about Ready Player One. Great concept, super cool pop culture tidbits, interesting main character. . . but as the story progressed I felt less and less invested. and the end was a let down for me too. :(

  2. Disagree, the author definitely thought of the ending you were thinking. One where he trades banter with the antagonist and we all feel better cause the hero gets his, but just like in a video game the endings are usually very impersonal. I was maybe hoping for more conversation from the Halliday character at the end, but you had a giant space robot battle. On top of that all, it would have been the antithesis of the whole point of the previous trials to have some sort of ludicrous over the top ending. Interesting that you give a book that you couldn't put down a rating below an 8. It's not suppose to be a tour de force of American literature. It's a fun enjoyable story, a lot of us imagined having as children growing up reading books like neuromancer.