Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I heard a lot about this book but never got around to reading it. However there are many people who love the book, including Steven Spielberg who is making a movie based on the book. After reading it; I must say I get it. I understand why so many love this book because I felt in love with it too!

Ready Player One is a 2011 science fiction and dystopian novel by Ernest Cline. Taking place in the not-so-distant future of 2044, the world is in the midst of an energy crisis with no solution in sight. Luckily for the people of the world, there is OASIS.

A worldwide virtual reality system that operates like an online utopia, OASIS is a place where anyone can plug into to play, work, study, and meet up. For protagonist Wade Watts, it is heaven. A heaven that got rocked when OASIS creator James Halliday died and left a will that would leave his entire fortune to the person who finds his Easter egg.

The richest man in history, an erratic and dying Halliday created a game in OASIS that requires people to find 3 hidden keys in OASIS that would open 3 hidden gates also found in OASIS. A great scavenger hunt in the vast OASIS where everyone can play and anyone can win; Halliday’s game caught the imagination of millions including Wade. 5 years after Halliday’s game came into being, Wade (or his online avatar) became world famous for being the first person to find the first key and open the first gate. With billions on the line however, Wade soon find that he has to dodge danger both online and in real life to win the game.

Now reading the synopsis of the book, one would think this was just another novel with a virtual reality angle to it. That is both right and wrong. It is true that this is a novel with a heavy dose of VR but Cline changed things up beautifully by filling the novel with pop culture trivia. In the book, James Halliday is a reclusive nut who never quite outgrown the 80s. So every devilishly complex clue on his treasure hunt is rooted in the 80s and to complete the game you need to have an intimate knowledge of 1980s pop culture.

That’s what the gunters like Wade do. They filled themselves with 80s pop trivia and we readers got taken along with the ride. What comes out is a ridiculously fun novel celebrating the 80s. There are times where Cline even offers a detailed explanation of 80s pop culture. Want to know how to get the highest score in Pacman? The details of how to do it are here and I am certain there are many people who read this book and either discover or rediscover a joy of the 80s.

Another thing about this novel is how fun it was. Yes, at its heart, this is a book for anyone who has felt like an outsider, a geek, or has grown up in the 80s; but it is also far more than that. This is a novel with heart, with characters that have flaws and made mistakes but never stopping despite the huge odds in front of them.

Despite how fun this novel is, I have to admit there are some glaring flaws in this novel. For one, the brisk pace can be too fast. Outside Wade, you know really know the other characters outside their assigned stereotype. Even Wade suffers from this, being a generic loner for most of the novel. There’re also a lot of coincidences in this novel. I won’t spoil it but the ending of the novel requires several coincidences to come together for it to work and suspension of disbelief is a requirement to accept it.

However I find Ready Player One to be a delightful novel that is a must-read. I disagree with people who say the novel has nothing going for it but nostalgia. It has a lot more than that. Read it and find out for yourself. 

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