Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Random House NY
Publication Date: August 16, 2011
Genre: YA, Sci-fi, Dystopia
Pages: 374
Source: Overdrive 

Literary Awards:
Prometheus Award for Best Novel (2012)
ALA Alex Award (2012)
Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014)
Tahtivaeltaja Award Nominee (2013)
Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2015)

In the year 2044, 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 find 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.

My Thoughts:
Wade has spent most of his life inside the virtual world of OASIS. Growing up in the stacks of Oklahoma City, Wade is immersed in a world of poverty and he'd much rather live inside OASIS than deal with the real world. Luckily, he is able to attend high school virtually through OASIS and is given a school-issued visor and haptic gloves. There's a huge world within the OASIS that Wade hasn't really visited unless tagging along with his virtual best friend, Aech, because he is too poor to afford teleportation fees. When OASIS creator James Halliday dies, he declares his heir to be whoever finds the three keys and, ultimately, his hidden 'easter egg', Wade makes it his goal in life to study everything that Halliday ever held dear--which just happens to be majoritively 80's pop-culture games, movies, and music--and dedicates his every waking moment to figuring out the clue to find the keys.

This is one of the coolest books I've read recently. I'm still trying to gather my thoughts and it's not actually easy to talk about this book without first explaining some of it. The author must have felt the same because we get a lot of info up front. Some people call it info-dumping and look down on it, but it was needed and was exactly what hooked me from the first chapter.

I'd seen a lot of people giving this great ratings and gushing over it but it didn't seem like something I'd want to read at first. It was slightly appealing but I just wasn't very interested. After a couple of years of seeing people mention it as one of their favorites, and when I read that it is going to be adapted into a film that releases in 2018, I decided to give it a try. I'm a sucker for a movie adaptation and will always try to read the book first. Now that I've read it, I completely understand why it has a pretty high rating on Goodreads and why so many people like it.

Even kids these days who know nothing of 80's pop-culture can relate with being big fans of something. We basically live in a world where 'fangirling' is a well known verb and it doesn't matter if you are a girl or not. We are all allowed to get overly excited and 'geek out' about some tv show or game or book and it is (mostly) widely accepted. It's easy to understand why James Halliday creates this world revolving around all the things he loved from his childhood in this book. We can all look back on a time in our lives that we loved to death and hope we were there again. Virtual reality made it a possibility for this character and he created a world out of it.

And it is a pretty awesome world. We can see our own world becoming the bleak and lifeless world that needs escaping and if only we had something like the OASIS, I bet the majority of the world would jump at the chance to explore it. We pretty much do this already, just through a computer or phone screen.
But back to the world in this book.

The OASIS is a virtual universe filled with thousands of planets that are filled with endless gamer possibilities. Enjoy arcade games? There's a planet with every single arcade game ever created. Want to shop? There are virtual malls where you can buy virtual products for your avatar or have the real thing sent to you. But with this virtual reality comes a world of isolation. Our main character, Wade, along with millions of other people have decided that it's better to live in the OASIS. Some of them never see people in real life for years on end. And why would they need to when you can just order a slice of pizza, pay for it online, and have it left on your doorstep.

This is the kind of book that you want to talk about but if you do, you know you might give too much away and so it's easier just to evade talking about it and instead recommend (or force) others to read it. There's so much more to Ready Player One than a virtual reality world and 80's pop-culture references, although the mentions of Monty Python and the Holy Grain and The Goonies because those were some of my childhood favorites.

This book is not only nostalgic; it's like reading a video game. And it's more than that, too. We get a bit of real life, a bit of virtual reality life, and a bit of James Halliday's life and (fictional) history as well. I found myself wanting to get back to this world whenever I wasn't reading and I'm really excited to see what they do with the movie adaptation! 

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