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Cannonball Read IV: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

By LurkeyTurkey | Book Reviews | June 15, 2012 | Comments ()


readyplayeronecover.jpg

Ready Player One has been one of the most popular books this year for our reviewers. As I can attest, it is an outstanding debut novel that has wowed many. It was hard to select the best review, so here is the very first review posted on the group blog, back in January. Other reviewers who have posted reviews of this book to date are: CommanderStrikeher, Ideaofthegirl, Malin, Pyrajane, Rahael, Baxlala, claushetzer, and Alli.

An honorable mention also goes to Narfna, who not only read and reviewed the print edition but also the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton.

Now, on to LurkeyTurkey's review. Enjoy! --mswas
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What a fun, frenzied, super nerdy romper room of a book. I picked this one up in the Chicago airport after Patrick Rothfuss (author of The Kingkiller Chronicle), recommended it on his blog AND on the dust jacket. And he was dead-on- this book was frakking awesome.

Welcome to 2044. The world has gone to shyte, resources are scarce, violence is rampant, and most people escape this reality by jacking into OASIS, a Second Life kind of virtual reality containing thousands of worlds, including sci-verses (there's a Wheedonverse, y'all!) where you can be anything or anyone you want to be. Steve Jobs James Halliday, the creator and genius behind OASIS, has died, but not before leaving a Willy Wonka-ish easter egg and riddle, which will award the finder his entire $250 billion fortune and ownership of OASIS. Years have passed, yet no one can seem to crack the code of this puzzle, and thus the great search for the golden ticket has gone a bit cold.

Enter Wade Watt, an orphan obsessed with OASIS and the ability to escape his grim reality. As a true Halliday devotee, Wade has immersed himself in Halliday's favorite books, games, music, and comics- all based in the 1980-2005 time period- and the keys to unlocking the puzzle. He and his friends, none of whom he has met in person, get together to talk about the competition, quote random 80s movies, and sit around playing Asteroids whenever they aren't in virtual high school. They are OASIS prodigies, so deeply ingrained in the Halliday lore and culture that the competition is not just an abstract game to them; it is a way of life, a social and support network, and the means of their emotional connection to "the world." Wade stumbles upon the first portion of the solution, his name flies to the High Scorers board, and all hell breaks loose, both in OASIS and the real world. The game, as they say, is afoot!

Enter stage right, the "Sixers," a corporate army of OASIS players who are Machiavellian and driven by one principle: the ownership and commercialization of OASIS. These be the bad guys, and make no mistake, they are evil. Their corporate coffers allow them nearly endless resources and information at their fingertips, and they are gunning for Wade and his friends. It soon becomes a frantic race to the final easter egg, possession of the fortune, and control of OASIS.

As a nerd from way back, I love the references (no, more than that, the open love letters) to 80-90s culture- it is truly nostalgia porn- featuring D&D, Rush, Voltron, Star Wars, Firefly, Blade Runner, and the list goes on. It is particularly fun because these characters fully embrace the purest forms of the culture, without the other pesky real-world problems of that era (particularly the Cold War and bad hair). If you're not into all the gaming/music/film homage, this book is still a good frolic, but to truly fall into it, harness your inner nerd and get your geek on.

This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of LurkeyTurkey's reviews on the group blog.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • frank247

    This sounds like a cracking read!

  • Fried Bananas

    Loved this book, but I wish I had read it instead of listening to it.
    Wil Wheaton's narration was so incredibly obnoxious. Usually I like him, but it was almost unbearable to listen to.

  • BobbFrapples

    The fact that he went to his book tour destinations by driving in a Delorian demonstrates how wonderfully nerdy this author is. I loved this book.

  • Forbiddendonut

    I loved the book, Sure, it's not great literature, but the it's so clear that the author really, genuinely loves all this geek stuff that his passion just shines through the pages and that's what makes the book so special. Anything but that from Cline and I don't think this book would have worked.

  • Yossarian

    It was an enjoyable book. If you want a light summer read and the synopsis sounds appealing I say go for it. But I simply don't get all the gushing and over-the-top praise.

    Did you ever have those adolescent conversations where you imagine what you could have if there were no limitations to magic and technology, and you had a million billion dollars? A mansion with two copies of every video game and system ever made, a movie theater in your house, a roller coaster in your backyard, a bevvy of swimsuit models at your disposal? That's pretty much what Cline does with OASIS. And all the main characters are able to master every video game and watch every movie and tv series 10 times and have perfect recall of arcane trivia with no organic limitations on their cognitive abilities. It's like reading The Matrix fan fiction. It's like someone got really carried away with a "What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?" starter question in seventh grade creative writing and added a scavenger hunt, an evil corporation, and a bunch of name dropping geek trivia.

    So this is basically Young Adult fiction aimed at people over 30, which is just an odd target to aim for. There is nothing particularly deep, challenging, or controversial here. The book doesn't seem interested in making any larger points about nostalgia, fantasy and technology other than greed is bad, Atari is good, nerds rule. It doesn't compare to the techno-dystopia and biting satire in Neil Stephenson's SNOW CRASH, or the beautiful portrait of geekdom Junot Díaz portrayed with OSCAR WAO, or the use of cheesy science fiction as a vehicle for a larger message about humanity you get from Vonnegut. It's just a simple story where the unlikely kid saves the world and gets the girl.

    And that's ok I guess. I'm just surprised to see so much hype around it. I'm surprised it's a best seller. It feels more like a really really good self published novel from the Kindle store you get for $0.99. Like he doesn't have an editor and he could knock out a dozen more of these and call it the OASIS Series.

    (Sorry, mswas. I meant all that in a nice way.)

  • I agree that it is just a frivolous book, but sometimes that is what I want to read. I went into this book not knowing anything about it and just found it really worked for me. But to each his own for sure.

  • I wasn't looking for anything deep or challenging with this book. I saw it as a celebration of all the things I geek about, and it was a delightful read when you just settled in for the ride. To each his own, of course! :)

  • Lubeg

    Yossarian, I have to agree. I loved the book but I am completely, totally and unabashedly biased. Objectively, I did think it more appropriate for young adults, the ending was too tidy and nothing in the novel challenged how I think of my world. That said, I am attached to his works because I discovered him right at the perfect time in my life ten years ago. I needed to be able to be myself around everyone and I am geek. Ernie's spoken word, some other albums and the friends I made attending SDCC helped me do that.

    Thank you for your rational and objective thoughts, I always enjoy your posts :)

  • mswas

    You're entitled to your opinion, I suppose. ;-) I think it really hits home for those who grew up in the 80's, but it might be just me.

  • Forbiddendonut

    I felt the same thing, mswas. I didn't really expect anything deep, challening or controversial from it.
    I read OSCAR WAO. I really loved that book and it was, indeed, a beautiful portrait of geekdom. Sadly, the book pretty much fell apart at the end for me. It really went off the rails there. I saw what he was doing with it, but just didn't enjoy that part of the ride at all.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    They've got a Q&A with him on the first Amazon review. I now love this man and have purchased his book because I did not grow up during the eighties and own both a Coleco and Intellivision. Nor did I play D&D and watch cartoons obsessively. I was cool. No, really, my mom said so.

  • This book was SO GOOD, but how did I miss that Wil Wheaton did the audiobook version? Even though I've already read it, I might have to track that down!

  • QueeferSutherland

    Read this a few months back after it was included in a NYT Best of 2011 e-book torrent that I borrowed from the Library of the Internet. Thought the idea was better than the execution but it was still a fairly enjoyable experience. A word of warning, though -- you have to be really, really into 80s videogames and nostalgia to pick up on a lot of the references and truly get lost in the world Cline creates.

  • faintingviolet

    I disagree, I did not need an in depth knowledge of videogames to love and appreciate the world Cline built. Its not capital L literature, but its darn good reading.

  • lubeg

    I had a blast reading this in a single afternoon the weekend before I met Ernie at a signing at Austin Books and Comics, last December. I've been enjoying his work since my first trip to SDCC in 2002 when a friend played his spoken word album "Ultraman is Airwolf" on the drive from LA to San Diego.

    He announced at Wonder Con that the movie rights have been licensed and he managed to arrange to be the screenwriter. I don't know that further progress has been made since then. But one can hope :)

    I highly recommend "Ultraman is Airwolf" to anyone who enjoyed the book and wants more, I believe the tracks are still free to download on his website. If you'd like some insight or more info on him, he was interviewed on Jackie Kashian's "Dork Forest" podcast, episode 93, during the signing at Austin Books and Comics.

  • anebo

    Oh my god, THAT Ernie Cline wrote this?! I am so reading this now. Hell yes.

  • Lunge

    The very same :)

  • Green Lantern

    That sounds like something better than a good read, that sounds like a good GIFT.

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