Ready Player One
Description via Goodreads
When I dropped a quarter into the left coin slot, the game emitted a familiar electronic bea-wup! sound. I tapped the Player One button, and the first maze appeared on the screen. I wrapped my right hand around the joystick and began to play, guiding my pizza-shaped protagonist through one maze after another. Wakka-wakka-waka-wakka (222)
Charming. Funny. Entertaining. Fun. An ode to 80s pop culture.
This is about an adventure in the life of Wade Watts, an eighteen-year old gamer and 80s pop culturist(?), on a mission to find Halliday's egg. Halliday's egg will bring him fortune, fame and the means to move out of his aunt's trailer. However, Wade is not alone in this quest--he must compete with billions of other "gunters" to find this egg, which can only be found through something of a virtual scavenger hunt...using 80s references as clues.
The idea behind the story is very interesting, refreshing even. A game within a story, a game within a game, blurring the line between virtual and reality. An escape from reality is a prevalent theme here, as well as, connecting people who are otherwise disconnected in their actual lives. Wade Watts is young, immature and surprisingly, vulnerable. He airs out his insecurities, (physical and emotional) and reveals weakness. It's not something I see a lot. Very uncharacteristic of male protagonists I've come across. He's very smart, dedicated and a little awkward--overall a likeable guy.
You know you've totally screwed up your life when your whole world turns to shit and the only person you have to talk to is your system agent software (237)
Cline utilizes first person narrative fairly well. He's super descriptive in his explanation of the chaotic, rogue, resource-deprived cities of the future and the the inner-workings of OASIS, a game-like interface used to educate, conduct business, work and participate in extracurricular activities. Basically, people sit on their asses all day, instead of engaging people in reality...why does that sound familiar?...But Wade aka Parzival (his OASIS I.D, sort of like a Gamertag) informs the reader again and again that reality sucks.
If I had to pick on something in this book, it would probably be the dialogue--it's really cheesy and elementary at times...I would like to think it would've worked since Wade is a socially awkward, insecure nerd, whose brilliant thoughts don't always translate into well-articulated conversations. And the book is a little heavy on tell-not-show description, which leads me to another thing. The 80s references. I understand they were essential to the hunt, but it gets tiresome--quickly. At first it's like "Oh yeah, I remember that song" or "Oh yeah, that movie was pretty funny haha", but after 300 pages of it...you just don't care anymore.
I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn't know how to connect with people there. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. Do you understand? (364)
I really liked the main antagonist, the IOI, a huge global corporation trying to control the flow of information for everyone. They'll stop at nothing (including murder) to find Halliday's egg and control OASIS. I also liked that Wade doesn't lead triumphantly the entire way. He needs help, he falters, he encounters obstacles. In the end he learns a valuable lesson about the perks of living and participation in the real world...although he does only learn it through a virtual scavenger hunt...hmm.
It's a fun read about adventure and self-discovery in the context of 80s video games. But you don't need to be a gamer or familiar with the 80s to enjoy it.
Ready Player One