Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

I haven’t posted in a long while! I’ve been traveling and moving and so it’s not that I haven’t been reading, but I have been struggling to write anything about what I have been reading!

I’m going to review the most recent book I read, simply because it’s so fresh in my mind, but I did read a few in-between that I might try and post in the future.

So. Ready Player One. Would you believe me if I told you I hadn’t expected Ready Player One to be quite so delightfully nerdy? Yes, I did see the section on the front where it said: “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix”. Yes I have seen Willy Wonka, and double- yes I love the Matrix (as long as we’re pretending the third movie never happened), but I guess I didn’t really prepare myself for the sheer level of sub-culture and nerdy references that Ready Player One would include. It was fantastic, if a little overwhelming. Being born at the end of the 80s, I sadly missed out on many of the video games, music and movies that this book references…or at least, at the time they were released. I expect that had I been born a decade earlier, I would have had a wash of nostalgia so frequently that I would have been squeaky-80s-clean by the time I was done.

Ready Player One follows the dystopian, bleak future that we have all become oh-so-familiar with. While the trope has been overdone in so many mediums, RPO (I’m shortening it because each time I type it my brain gears up for a round of Pacman or Space Invaders….and because that seems like something the main character would do) really does add a fresh perspective, and that’s a real achievement when you consider that that fresh perspective is made up of more 80s pop-culture references that you can shake a ra-ra skirt at. We meet Wade Watts, who introduces us to his grim living situation, but also to the OASIS- a virtual reality gaming system in which each player can be fully immersed in a virtual world. He, along with countless thousands begin a quest commissioned by the late, great *Anorak* to find the hidden Easter Egg of this immense and vast world.

Cline really does create a very vivid line between the life Wade is living in the OASIS, and the one he is forced to live in the “real” world. I felt my mood shift as he readied himself to dive into the OASIS, and I could feel a hollowness return when I imagined Wade in the real world, poor and alone and forgotten. I eagerly raced across the pages until he could return to this virtual wonderland and continue his quest. Because the outcome of the quest is given away quite early in the book, I wasn’t expecting the ending to be a surprise, but I found myself gripped until the last page, and I think this really is a testament to the author. He introduces and describes these worlds and references assuming no prior knowledge, but without patronising the reader. Perhaps this was just personal for me but because I only had an idea of many of the pop culture references, it really helped to have a little reminder, but it was also really interesting to see those introduced by Wade, a person who would have grown up years and years after any of these things were around.

The only literary turn-off for me was when the book chose to delve into “online-gamer” territory. The bravado, the swearing, just everything one might stereotypically associate with online-gaming. It wasn’t enough to stop me reading, and I think once you’re into the story it’s easy enough to ignore it, if like me you’re not into such things.

I think that this was a brilliant book, whether you’re into the sub-culture, or not. I’d even go so far as to say I’d read it again, and probably enjoy it more the second time round now that I’m more familiar with all the references.

*Also, looking forward to seeing if they do a terrible job of the movie next year!*

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