Ugh, I so regret not being more of a gamer/pop culture fanatic, because I would’ve loved this book so much more!!! Ready Player One is GOLD. It’s like all the nerdiness in the world just gathered together and turned into a brilliant nerdy masterpiece. I could actually see humanity’s future ending up like this, and it’s amazing and terrifying and definitely makes a great setting for a dystopian novel. Although there are some things I didn’t like about it, this book was really good.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.
And so humanity escapes to the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a virtual universe that started out as a massively multiplayer online simulation game created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow. In 2039, right before James Halliday died, he left a message to the world stating that he will leave his entire fortune (including OASIS) to the person who wins the game (dubbed “Halliday’s Easter Egg Hunt”) through the various hints and challenges he’d left in the OASIS. Five years have passed, and no one has even found the first clue – until seventeen-year-old Wade Watts, who has devoted his entire life to the Egg Hunt, shows up at the top of the very empty scoreboard. In one moment, he has become a celebrity – but also a target – in the race to become the first finisher.
I have to begin my rant by saying that I’m probably not part of the intended audience of the book – Ready Player One is completely jam-packed with pop culture references, spanning across music, TV shows, movies, anime, video games, and computer games. My only real obsession is MMORPGs, which is why I picked up this book… but I can confidently say that I must’ve gotten max 40% of the references, and all the others went by without me fully comprehending. HOWEVER, you don’t need to know all pop culture to enjoy this book! It helps a whole bunch, but I think even without it, Cline has built an incredible world and storyline that you’d get sucked in regardless if you’ve watched Monty Python or not. (Psst, I haven’t. 😳)
The world is incredible. There are so many details and clear imagery for the systems (ex. going to virtual school) that Cline has built, and it’s such a creative multiverse – the focus is on the virtual one, but even the real one is striking and memorable. The plot is also really captivating, and all the action and suspense kept me at the edge of my seat throughout the book. There was one transition moment that I kind of balked at, but overall, it was a smooth ride.
And all the characters are so fun and interesting! Everyone had a real name and a virtual name, and I was very excited to see how they behaved online and offline. There were a few surprises and interesting plot twists, and I enjoyed the character development overall. I just had a liiiitle problem with the romance because it started out well, but then lead to so much distraction for Wade! So much moping! But it was still amusing to read about. I feel like everyone is immediately an Art3mis fan, RIGHT?? She’s the bomb. Oh, and you know, Wil Wheaton as the forever-vice-president of the OASIS. 🙌 (By the way, Wil Wheaton narrates the audiobook version! SO BOSS.)
If you have any interest in pop culture or gaming, Ready Player One is a must-read. Alternatively, if you just want something with fantastic world-building and lots of action, this book also has that. Also, movie adaptation?! YESYESYES.