This is one of those books that has been on my metal list to look into since it came out. For some reason though, I had lumped it into the same sort of release period as Ender’s Game and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and boy was I surprised when I realized it was written and released in 2011. I knew I would get to the book some day, but the movie release in the next few months, preview embedded at the end of the post, my desire to read the book increased dramatically.
I didn’t read it quite as fast as I read some of the recent Jane Austen fan-fiction, but I did get through this one pretty quickly. I found the writing simple enough to breeze through and my vague familiarity with a lot of the 1980s pop culture helped (even if I did have to google quite a few). The strengths, for me at least, were the realistic vision of where we could easily end up as a society within the next few decades if something similar to OASIS actually becomes reality. The OASIS or, “The Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation was a big place.” (48), is in essence an internet/game type situation that could include full or partial body immersion. Cline isn’t the first, nor will he be the last to write something like this. It’s a dystopian vs. utopian, good vs. evil, privacy vs. corporate consumerism story for the ages.
It’s amazing, how close we are to something like this. I think of the MMORPG games that are already out there from World of Warcraft to the Star Wars and Middle Earth games (Wikipedia links), we’re honestly not that far. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I’m already playing augmented reality games (oh hey Pokemon Go!). And I think about all the crazy things that I own from my cell phone to my laptop to my various other devices that allow me to play games on the go. I wonder just how close we are to something like this. I’ve spent time (and money) finding devices like the Antak Portable Switch Backup Battery that doubles the battery life of my Nintendo Switch (Amazon link, full review here) that I just tested and have a phone case that more than triples the battery life (Amazon link :-D) to play Pokemon Go without having to recharge. And writing this I just now remembered testing the Oculus Rift and the Sony VR and my mind jumped even further forward to the potentiality of this.
I made the mistake of reading a few reviews on Goodreads — NEVER read them, I mean except mine of course because they’re a copy and paste of this blog 😀 — and it was a mixed bag. Even though the book has a pretty high rating 4+ stars, there are people who are passionately anti-Cline. It’s funny because most of them aren’t really anti Ready Player One and are more anti-“people who enjoy Ready Player One. The same thing happens with every book, think Harry Potter or Twilight (I’m definitely in the anti-Stephenie Meyer group and sort of still in the anti-Twilight group even though I read it and enjoyed parts of it), but for this one I only vaguely get the criticism.
Was this book full of fluff? Yes. Did this book have an almost untenable amount of niche pop culture references to the 1980s? Yes. Was this book ground breaking or paradigm shifting? Not really. Did I enjoy reading this book and the character’s interactions? Yes.
One particular review irked me because it kept going on about the fat slob that Wade Watts apparently is, when they clearly didn’t read the book close enough to note that he went out of his way to lose weight and become physically active and lose the weight and gain muscles in the real world. like I get it you don’t like the imaginary consumerism this book pretty much glorifies, but don’t pick one thing to harp on about on unless you’re 100% sure that is what it was. And then to thrash Cline because he basically wanted to write an ode to the 1980s and did so unabashedly it’s just weird. Just say “It’s not for me.” and move on to your next read. Cline has never once (at least not that I’m aware of) saw this is supposed to be some epic literary masterpiece. It’s escapism (inside escapism) at it’s best.
I did enjoy Cline’s acknowledgments at the end in which he addresses those who came before and the nods to their contributions to his own story:
“Finally, I want to thank all of the writers, filmmakers, actors, artists, musicians, programmers, game designers, and geeks whose work I’ve paid tribute to in this story. These people have all entertained and enlightened me, and I hope that—like Halliday’s hunt—this book will inspire others to seek out their creations.” (374)
The other two things I enjoyed, that clearly some people didn’t were Wade’s quirkiness and the reveal of the people behind the avatars that happened in the book. I’ll talk about Wade, but not the reveals as they just made me happy. The two things that stood out for me about Wade were these:
“I watched a lot of YouTube videos of cute geeky girls playing ’80s cover tunes on ukuleles. Technically, this wasn’t part of my research, but I had a serious cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukuleles fetish that I can neither explain nor defend.” (63)
“At the end of the day, I was still a virgin, all alone in a dark room, humping a lubed-up robot. So I got rid of the ACHD and went back to spanking the monkey the old-fashioned way.” (193)
Awkward for the win!
Seriously, who hasn’t gone down a YouTube hole because you’ve either found someone cute or attractive or someone doing something that just clicks for you and then a few hours later you’re like WTF am I doing with my life. And I’m sorry, but there is no man (and probably woman/person as well regardless of your values) alive that would pass up buying some sort of sex robot if they could do it anonymously and money weren’t an issue. I mean curiosity is a natural thing and so is sex, so who of you wouldn’t? And for some reason the way Cline wrote that sentence connected with me and I snorted when I read it the first time and then had to go back and read it a few more times because it just made me laugh.
Recommendation: I enjoyed this. Will I remember all of the details in a few years? Probably not, but I’ll still remember the basic premise and the general storyline and let’s face it that’s more than a lot of the fluff that’s thrown at readers these days. I can’t wait to see the film to see how they bring it to life. And now I just have to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Ender’s Game to boost my nerd stats a bit more.
Opening Line: “Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.”
Closing Line: “It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Ready Player One
“…it didn’t take me long to discover that the OASIS was also the world’s biggest public library, where even a penniless kid like me had access to every book ever written, every song ever recorded, and every movie, television show, videogame, and piece of artwork ever created. The collected knowledge, art, and amusements of all human civilization were there, waiting for me. But gaining access to all of that information turned out to be something of a mixed blessing.” (15)
“So I remained stuck at school. I felt like a kid standing in the world’s greatest video arcade without any quarters, unable to do anything but walk around and watch the other kids play.” (51)
“One night, she took me to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show in a huge stadium-sized movie theater on the planet Transsexual, where they held the most highly attended and longest-running weekly screening of the movie in the OASIS. Thousands of avatars came to every show, to sit in the stands and revel in the audience participation.” (178)
“I’d come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist. Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.” (198)
“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)
“Aech told me that she hadn’t seen or spoken to her mother since leaving home on her eighteenth birthday. That was the day Aech had finally come out to her mother about her sexuality. At first, her mother refused to believe she was gay. But then Helen revealed that she’d been dating a girl she met online for nearly a year.” (320)