Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

Ah, what a refreshing change. I’d been missing science fiction, and Ready Player One was just what I needed to jump back into one of my favorite genres.

It’s 2044, and America’s future is bleak. The environment has gone to shit, the country has plunged into abject poverty, and almost everywhere except the major cities is a lawless wasteland. For Wade Watts, and for most of the country, the only escape from the drudgery of daily life is the OASIS.

What originally began as a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) is now a way of life for most American citizens. In the OASIS, you can be whoever and whatever you want to be; it’s a fully immersive experience with tens of thousands of worlds to travel to and millions of things to do. It’s free to access, and Wade even attends school there.

But when the OASIS’s elusive creator Jim Halliday dies, he sets in motion the single biggest video game challenge of all time: he has hidden an “Easter egg” somewhere in the OASIS, and in order to find it, players must find three keys that will lead them through three gates. The first person to find the egg will be given control of the OASIS, and Wade has dedicated his life to finding clues to where the egg might be hidden.

When Wade suddenly stumbles upon the first key, he discovers that there are people willing to kill to take control of the OASIS—and he’ll have to confront the world from which he’s tried so hard for so long to escape: the real one.

Okay, I won’t lie, it took me a little while to really get into Ready Player One. But I picked it up one afternoon when I was about 160 pages in, and finished it that night—that’s over 200 pages in only a few hours. Let’s just say it got intense fast. I never thought I’d be so invested in a book about a video game.

But as I alluded to earlier, the OASIS isn’t even really a video game anymore. It’s a complete virtual world with thousands of planets that are themed after anything and everything you can imagine. You can create your own worlds if you have enough coding knowledge and allow (or disallow) anyone you like to visit it. You can make your avatar look however you want, facial features and clothes included. You can even purchase immersive equipment that makes you feel even more like you are actually experiencing everything happening in the OASIS. Of course, all of this takes money, which many people still don’t have.

It was refreshing to read a YA novel that, for the most part, didn’t read like a YA novel. You know what I mean—angsty protagonist, lots of adverbs, et cetera. Wade is 18, so he has plenty of teenage hormones to deal with, mostly in the form of a huge crush on one of the elite “gunters,” Art3mis, but for the most part he’s a good narrator and a likable character. He’s easy to root for, which is something I always appreciate in a protagonist.

It was also really fun to be drawn through all the 80s nostalgia—Halliday was reportedly obsessed with the generation during which he was a teenager, so all gunters (egg hunters) are well-versed in all of the 80s movies, comics, video games, music, and TV shows that Halliday loved. I was only alive for about eight weeks’ worth of the 1980s, but I’ve watched my share of 80s movies and listened to my share of 80s music, and I enjoyed Wade’s obvious pleasure in experiencing a decade that I too quite enjoy.

One thing that I’m left wondering about is why Ready Player One was on a list of “diverse” books? It’s written by a white American guy, about a (probably?) white American guy. I can see where maybe there’d be some diversity near the end, but that seemed almost like last-minute box-checking. So…I really don’t know if I can count this as one of my Dive Into Diversity books because it didn’t seem very diverse to me. If anyone can let me know what, if anything, I missed here, that would be great.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend this to a variety of readers, although probably not all; I’d specifically recommend it to fans of Ender’s Game as well as anyone who has a strong appreciation of science fiction in general and/or 80s culture.

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10 thoughts on “Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

    • I go back and forth on sci-fi, and have gotten a little disenchanted with the genre after all the dystopian stuff coming out recently. But this one was so great! Glad you loved it too 🙂

  1. I love this book so much! I’m not really into video games, but I’m a child of the 80s and I really appreciated all the references to the pop culture of my youth. The issue I have with a lot of scifi is that the characters tend to feel rather two-dimensional, and I prefer character-driven novels. I was very happy to find a science fiction book with so much personality.

  2. Could it loosely have been catagorized “diverse” because as an avatar you can be any color or gender you want? Did it talk about how, or if, players were treated differently if they looked a certain way or had a certain persona?

    • Not really—because you could be literally anything you wanted. A wizard, a robot, etc. Nothing beyond the basic “oh your avatar has the default skin, obviously you’re too poor to buy a cool one” kinda thing. The people behind the avatars that Wade meets are definitely diverse, but you don’t find that out for a while. So…I don’t know.

      • I can see why you are puzzled then. There have been a lot of books labled “diverse” lately that I have questioned. Some for as little as the MC having an acquaintance who is gay, or the love interest being Asian, but it not impacting the story in a diverse way. It is the new “cool thing” to be bookwise. Last spring when they had that big We Need Diverse Books campaign, on Twitter and Tumbler, I said the best way to get more diverse books was to read and review the ones that were already out there, to show publishers there was a bigger market for them. I gave many of the loudest We Need Diverse Books protesters some reading recommendations of books already out there; and you know, not one of them read one of those diverse books, and went right back to reading their stories about pretty white girls falling in love with the new guy in school. They were only waving the diversity banner to look cool.

        • Yeah, I can see that. But if a book is diverse because there’s a character who happens to be LGBT, or black, or Asian, or what have you, then I already read a lot more diverse books than I thought I did. *shrug*

          Maybe I should just focus on diverse authors. I might have to re-tool my list a little bit, though.

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