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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thoughts On Pages #04: Ready Player One


I am SO thrilled to finally be doing this review for you guys.

If you've been reading my blog for a little bit, you've probably figured out that I have a nerd side. I loved playing video games as a kid, and I love the sci-fi/fantasy genre in general. So when I heard about Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One via the internet, I was ready for a ride. And what a ride it was.

Storyline

Once upon a time - in the year 2044, to be exact - the world is dark and dreary, save for a massive video game mainframe called the OASIS, where anyone can create an avatar and work, shop, and - of course - play. For some, life inside the OASIS is preferable to the real world outside.

Enter Wade Watts, the hero of our story. He attends school in the OASIS, and he is one of many on the quest to find James Halliday's Easter Egg. James Halliday - founder of the OASIS - died a few years earlier, and has promised his multibilllions worth of fortune to any young Easter egg hunter (or "gunter" as they're called in this world) who can find the three keys to open three gates in order to claim this ultimate prize.

It's this quest that sets the stage of Ready Player One, and it's Wade's pursuit of the egg - and his obsession with 80's pop culture - that brings the story to life.

Characters

The entirety of Ready Player One is told from the point of view of Wade Watts, an 18-year-old from Oklahoma whose life revolves around the times he spends in the OASIS as Parzival (his Avatar in the game). In the OASIS, he has a best friend named Aech (pronounced like the letter "H"), and he has a crush on a blogger he follows who goes by Art3mis (the 3 is an e, of course).

Long story short, the characters in this story are very closely intertwined, and become even more so as the story goes on. As Wade continues to play the game, he meets more new people - friends and enemies alike. The way he handles interactions with these people and the situations that result from these meetings can vary from genius to insane, but I was rooting for him the whole way. He does prove to be one of the good guys, and I was glad that he never wavered in his stance. I was definitely satisfied with the way his character development panned out by the end of the novel.

Wade's friends - Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Shoto - are well-written, as are various other supporting characters. The enemies - mainly, the diabolically-minded IOI corporation - were also well-written and were definitely sinister in comparison to the colorful "good guys" of the novel.

Setting

The world of Ready Player One is quite strange. There is far more focus on a world that exists on a computer mainframe than on the real world that exists for people to actually touch and experience.

The only real-world locations that are mentioned in extensive detail - save one final location at the end of the novel that I won't reveal because spoilers - are a trailer park in Oklahoma (where trailers are actually stacked on top of each other as a crude, low-income apartment complex), and a very polluted Columbus (where even the snow falling as a gray tinge to it and the menacing IOI corporation building looms ahead). The only bright spot is the epic resurgence of 80's pop culture, and it shows throughout the entire novel (more on that later).

The OASIS, however, is a whole different ballgame. It's colorful, it's vibrant, and it's jam-packed with every kind of environment you could possibly want. There are recreations of famous video game worlds, recreations of famous film settings, and the like. Players can be normal citizens or adventurers, or even be someone else entirely new if they so choose. It's only when this world is threatened by the interference of the IOI's questing for the Easter Egg that it becomes unsafe. The IOI's interference is really what prevents the hunt for the Easter Egg being nearly exactly like a hunt for the Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The contrast between the dystopia of the world outside the OASIS and the utopia that exists inside the OASIS is brilliantly written. While I was reading the book, I wondered if a person's existence in the real world was affected by their complete and total obsession with their life in-game. For the most part, my question was answered as I read - it affects that person tremendously.

My Thoughts

As I said before, Ready Player One is a thrill ride. There were some parts that were a little slow, but when the plot did pick up, it soared. As soon as Wade logged into the OASIS, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about this virtual world and how Wade was going to find Halliday's Easter Egg against all odds. The book appealed to the kid in me who loved playing Super Mario Bros., but it's written for the 22-year-old me.

I also loved all of the fun pop culture references. I grew up in the 90's, so I didn't quite catch all of the 80's pop culture aspects of the book, but it was fun to see stuff I was already familiar with mix with movies and TV shows I hadn't previously heard of (and because of a certain plot point in the book that I thought was really really cool, I watched the movie "WarGames" and loved it).

Therefore, I give this book 5 DeLorean cars out of 5. It was an absolute blast to read. And...I'm totally hoping they make a movie out of this (seriously...imagine the soundtrack).

Ready Player One was great! Have y'all read this book?

Also, have any recommendations for me? If you want to see what I'm reading now and what other books I like, check out my Goodreads.
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