Literature Review – Ready Player One
Ernest Cline’s debut novel was met with roaring praise, but now it’s my turn to check out what life is like in The Stacks for young Wade Watts. Would living inside of a virtual simulation be just the escape in life that he wanted, or will he find out that the world is truly more horrific than he would ever dare to imagine? Join Timlah as we look through the bleak telling of a future where the only means of escape from reality that is the OASIS.
I’m mostly a fantasy reader, but I’ve heard nothing but praise for Ready Player One. Sci-Fi books are a sort of second notion for me, however I do like to pick them up from time to time. I’ve read many a Discworld book, which blends Sci-Fi and Fantasy beautifully. I’ve read A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is, of course, stupendously good. But most of my roots are with fantasy; From Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, to Choose-your-own adventure books, Goblins Know Best and the book of Stonekeep. Even though fantasy is my main genre, no one can deny a good, fun sci-fi story.
Ready Player One is a good fun sci-fi story, although I will say that it’s not without its flaws (somewhat controversial). Let me begin by saying what I found pleasing, then what I found displeasing and finally my overall thought on the book. But before all of that, here’s a little bit on the story!
In Ready Player One, we follow Wade Watts, a young boy who is about to finish secondary school. He lives in a very impoverished house with his aunt and uncle, two people who don’t care for him particularly much. Wade spends most of his time on the OASIS, which is where he plays, learns about the real world and his virtual world, as well as attending school. He’s a low-level “Gunter”, someone who searches out for the mythical Halliday’s Egg, which is the subject of the entire book.
James Halliday created the OASIS, the virtual environment the people of Ready Player One interact in. The real world has become so poor, so desolate, that people were resorting to criminal activities just to get by. The OASIS acted as a safe haven for some, a place where people could enjoy themselves, do a spot of shopping and socialising and more. It was way more pleasant in the virtual world than it was in the broken, barren wastelands of the real world. When Halliday died, he left the world with the biggest game imaginable. He had programmed an Easter Egg deep within the world of the OASIS. It would require keys to unlock the gates which would unlock the Easter Egg. Wade, being a young enthusiast for all that is old school, found himself studying Halliday to go and find the Easter Egg and to earn its winnings: All of Halliday’s billions of wealth.
People were searching for the first key and for five years after Halliday’s death, no one had even find the first key, the Copper Key… Until Wade stumbles across the Tomb of Horrors in the same world location as his virtual school. Having delved deep into the depths of the tomb and defeating his first challenge, Wade is immediately launched into stardom, as his name was the first to appear on the High Score list. Along with four other Gunters, Wade becomes the most famous of the High Five, the highest scoring avatars of the Halliday’s Egg challenge. But, there are people out there very willing indeed to get their hands on that wealth. They are willing to do anything to get it.
The story is actually a really enthralling telling of a boy who lives in a really bleak world, having grown up to nothing but horrible things and having seen nothing but an abusive life. He’s a likeable character, who really wants to just get by in the world and you always feel like you’re behind him. You want him to succeed, you want him to get the keys, you want him to unlock Halliday’s Egg. You also want him to stop the bad guys from getting Halliday’s Egg before him and the book sets that in motion relatively early on. This is all it needs for the book to keep you reading. In nothing but a few bus journeys, I had gone from reading none of the book, to the entire thing – And I never even realised how quickly it made my journeys go by. It’s truly a book that you cannot put down.
The supporting cast are all enjoyable, as they’re pretty varied. From Aech who Wade’s best friend, who he hangs around with on the OASIS, to Art3mis, a famous blogger who has always written about the OASIS and her thoughts. This isn’t representative of nearly enough of the range of characters, but people are willing to work together, to betray, to do anything just to find this egg which has caused a media frenzy.
The best part about Ready Player One is that geeks will love the entire book, start to finish. If you’re a video gamer, or if you’re a tabletop RPG player, you’ll get at least some of the references strewn within. A lot of the references I was surprised to see in there; the Tomb of Horrors being one of them. As well as being all real world references, there’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour around geek culture within the book. That, was a pleasant surprised that I’m not sure this Player One was fully ready for! I was thoroughly entertained throughout, enjoying the little references and seeing where there was a reference.
Not everything is shiny in this story, as the whole way through, I never felt as if Wade was going to struggle. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s as if Halliday knew of Wades existence beforehand, knew he would go and be really good at this and go on to do what he needs to do. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s always fun to see characters who can go on to, y’know, succeed. After all, in any good fantasy book, characters should get to the end. They should succeed in what they’re doing… But I never felt that Wade was going to struggle. He would just pull an epiphany from out of nowhere and boom: he’s solved a problem. I guess it’s true enough to real life in some cases, but some of the ways he strung ideas together wasn’t believable. He literally gets one idea, then suddenly he’s solved it.
That’s about it.
If you can forgive a somewhat Mary Sue approach to making the main character get to the end, then the whole of this book is amazing. I mean, I’ve read enough books where the main character just gets to the end without struggling at all and at least this book delves deep into the realms of human emotion and mental health. With this in mind, it’s actually an incredibly solid read and perhaps is one of the best geek novels I’ve ever read. For a debut novel, author Ernest Cline can feel proud of himself. He did a great job at creating a simulated world and the whole way, I was reminded of Second Life… Hmm… Second Life. Perhaps that’s a future article unto itself..?
Have you guys had the chance to read Ready Player One, or is this a book that you mean to pick up for yourself? What do you think of my analysis of the book? As always, leave us a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter and