You only know what I want you to know. You only see what I want you to see.
–Art3mis to Wade, Ready Player One
Ready Player One
By: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Broadway Books
Purchased On: Amazon
I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. My husband mentioned it maybe a year ago, but then he said the word “video games” and I promptly lost interest. Then more recently, a good friend and fellow bibliophile told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had to read this book. So, I gave it a shot.
Ready Player One is about Wade Watts (aka Parzival) who is by all accounts a lonely gamer dude whose life pretty much sucks. The year 2044 is basically a hot mess for humanity. Spoiler alert: Global Warming is real. Luckily for Wade, he can spend almost all of his time in the OASIS, where everything doesn’t suck. He spends most of his time hunting for the Easter Egg left behind by eccentric creator of the Oasis, Jim Halliday. Mostly this involves a lot of 80’s nostalgia. As the game intensifies, there are real life consequences, and Wade is no longer fighting just for the multibillion-dollar prize (though that helps), he’s fighting for his life.
First, I really enjoyed Cline’s writing style. This is essential, because bad prose is almost always a deal breaker for me. His style had a good balance between descriptions and quippy lines. I particularly enjoyed his one-liners. It read effortlessly, which is exactly what I look for when reading for pleasure.
The plot was well paced. Cline starts off with a bang—Anorak’s Invitation to the contest—which drives the action of the story. As a hook, it totally works, even for a non-gamer like me. I did feel, however, that the ending was a little abrupt. I would have liked maybe one more chapter, because I found I was still interested in what happened next. However, I also appreciate when an author lets you decide for yourself what comes next for the characters. And there are rumors about a sequel, so….
The most important thing for me when reading is vivid characters, and Cline definitely delivers on that front. I liked Wade. He was smart, funny, and just self-deprecating enough. And you do spend the entire novel in Wade’s head, so it’s essential that those thoughts are entertaining. The other two main characters, Aech and Art3mis, are less well developed but equally likeable.
Aech and Art3mis are also essential to helping develop one of the major themes of the novel—Can you really know someone that you’ve only met online? Both Aech and Art3mis are resistant to meeting Wade in person and shattering the illusions of their OASIS identities. This says a lot about how online personas can actually make us more insecure about who we are in real life. But even though the novel could have focused on this topic and tried to say something profound about our ever-evolving relationship with technology, we instead spend most of our time in the OASIS, fighting the bad guys and looking for Halliday’s Egg. So ultimately it makes you think, but not dwell, and it does so without trying too hard. You get the message through the story. Win-win in my opinion.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Ready Player One. Even if you don’t appreciate all the 80’s reference and gamer stuff, there’s plenty to enjoy. It’s a fun, fast-paced story with the right amount of humor and heart. I’d be open to reading other books by this author, and a sequel if it transpires. (The movie was fun too!)
Have you read Ready Player One? Share your thoughts in the comments!