“Ready Player One”- Book Review

It seems like everyone’s trying to go back to the 80s, doesn’t it? Not only do I hear people bragging about how fun and awesome that time was as if it was the most wonderful decade of all human history. And as someone who lived a blissfully ignorant childhood in the early 2000s, an era plagued by the lingering grief of 9/11 and the Iraq War- I’m not going to lie, I’m sort of jealous. Then again, it’s important to remember that every time period gets romanticized at some point, carving out any essence of realism in favor of a simpler picture. Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” is very much a result of that carved confection.

The year is 2044. The world has been reduced to a junkyard due to global warming and a massive energy crisis. Teenager Wade Watts lives with his neglectful aunt in the Stacks, a tower of RV’s located in a poverty-stricken district of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Like the vast majority of people in the world, Wade escapes his life through the OASIS, a virtual reality simulator that’s become a second home. When the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, dies, the digital world, as well as Wade, is left in shock. What’s even more shocking is that his will, Halliday had announced he’d hidden an Easter Egg deep within the OASIS. Whoever finds it will inherit his fortune as complete control over his virtual empire. The fight is on as Wade and his avatar friends swim through a maze of 80s nostalgia to find the egg before a greedy corporation gets their hands on it.

“Ready Player One” is one hell of a debut. Every page of this book is swelling with nostalgia. At every turn there are references to classics movies like Back to the Future, Hackers, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and countless other iconic games, television shows and so forth from the 1980s. But because the world of the OASIS is crafted from a romanticized perspective of that decade, the references never feel forced or clichéd. In fact, Ernest Cline uses them as puzzle pieces, obstacles that each character has to overcome in order to achieve their goal.

And the characters themselves are all likable, identifiable, and easy to root for. Cline goes a great job at building not just a nice comradery between them, but a sense of community among all the players of the OASIS. The villains fit the cliché of the big heartless corporation that wants take OASIS out of the hands of those who peacefully immerse themselves in it. But with a story like this, it’s not a huge problem. It fits within the type of narrative Cline’s shooting for. Its purpose is to be simple entertainment. On many levels it succeeds in being just that, but it’s also a minor con. Because of its simplicity, you can tell early on where exactly it’ll wind up. But again, the creative aspects of Cline’s world shines through so nicely that you find yourself not caring.

Overall, “Ready Player One” is a very fun first novel. Science fiction isn’t my cup of tea when it comes to literature, so I found the extensive tech descriptions a little boring. But for every slog there was an immense amount of fun to be had. In the end I was left wondering how I would play the game. So if you’re looking for an easy read, definitely check this one out. It’s fun and adventurous, with a story that a creative kid- or at least someone who’s a kid at heart- would tell.

Cosmic Grade: B+

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