The Bookshelf: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Picking a new book can be a daunting task. With no short supply of novels or nonfiction in your “recommended for you” list, it can be hard to discern which is the best choice. That’s why we’re starting The Bookshelf, a place where we give our 10 cent opinions on the books we read. We hope that these will be an entertaining guide that helps you spend your Kindle dollars wisely. First up is Ryan Stout’s review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
What’s it about?
Ready Player One is a “quest novel”, which is an adventure novel where the protagonist must overcome a series of obstacles to achieve his/her goal. RPO is set in the near future, in a dark and depressing world suffering a major energy crisis. Most of the population escapes their bleak everyday existence by plugging into OASIS, a virtual reality created by a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates type named James Halliday. It’s best to think of OASIS as a Playstation, but with a headset and gloves, and other special equipment that helps the user enter the Virtual Reality seamlessly. OASIS is made up of 1000’s of planets and worlds catering to everyone, no matter what type of reality you want. Wade Watt, the books protagonist, lives with his aunt and uncle in their trailer since his parents died. Wade spends pretty much all of his time plugged into OASIS.
The story takes off when there is breaking news that Halliday has died and left his fortune ($Billions) to whoever can complete the quest he has laid out, which is to find a Virtual Egg hidden in the OASIS. Here’s how it works: there are 3 keys that unlock 3 gates, and the Egg is inside the last gate. Everyone gets the first clue, a riddle that when solved will give the location of the first key. After getting the key and unlocking the gate, the player will receive the next clue, and so on. When this contest is announced, Wade finally feels that he has found his calling, what he was always meant to do: find the Egg. Unfortunately, everyone else is after it too, including huge corporations with deadly intentions for anyone who stands in the way.
Is it any good?
Yes. The novel does several things well. First, it really plays up the 80’s nostalgia, so if that was a special time for you, you should feel an emotional call back to your youth (Think early video games and classic 80’s movies). What’s also neat is how the novel shifts from the real world to the virtual world. Most of the novel takes place in OASIS, but the stakes are still high. This could have been tough narrative structure to pull off but here it is handled gracefully and without notice. The pace is really great. The second act rollicks along at a break-neck speed as Wade and the bad guys get ever closer to finding the prize, and the conclusion was very satisfying. Basically, think of the pace of a Grisham courtroom drama mixed with an Indiana Jones style adventure, all set in a video game. Highly recommended for light sci-fi and adventure lovers.
I wasn’t surprised that to hear that Ready Player One is currently being made into a huge blockbuster movie with Spielberg directing. It really is a blockbuster of a novel. Though it got a little too “Young Adult” for my taste in certain parts (Wade is probably 15 years old at the start of the novel), overall it is a strong story that speaks to big themes (Corporate Greed, Friendship, Family, etc) in a fun way. If your looking for a fast paced, original adventure story, I highly recommend it!