Monday, January 09, 2012

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

( #ReadyPlayerOne )

If you are a fan of 80’s nostalgia, MMRPGs, and straight up nerd culture I have a book for you. My editor at Best SF Books turned me on to “Ready Player One” after I wrote a review of “Reamde”. Both books utilize online role playing games as the back drop for their stories. While Reamde has a more serious tone, “Ready Player One” is a more light-hearted and fun read, it reminded me of a hightech upgrade of Willy Wonka.

The plot is set 50 years in the future where the environment is trashed and there are massive energy shortages. Most people have fallen below the poverty line and live in trailer parks that have been stacked vertically due to lack of space. Wade, the main character, is a teenager struggling to survive living in the trailer park. Author Earnest Cline gives Wade a “Harry Potter” back story: his parent’s are dead and he lives with an Aunt that doesn’t care about him. Wade escapes his horrid existence by logging into OASIS which is a massive online world. Most people live their entire lives inside of the OASIS system, Wade even goes to school there.

The inventor of OASIS died a few years before the start of the story. In his will, he announces a contest in the game system, with the winner getting all of his money (over 200 billion dollars) and control of the company that makes the OASIS game. There is another company called IOI, that has become extremely profitable offering services in OASIS, they want to win the contest and take control of the online world. Wade figures out the first clue putting him on the world’s radar and in IOI's cross-hairs.

Overall, “Ready Player One” is a charming book that borrows a little from many different areas. The book feels familiar and Cline’s writing style is smooth and easy (I finished the book in 2 days without really trying). The story drags a bit in the middle (typical main character self-loathing which seems to be a requisite for modern books), but Cline moves past it before it becomes a problem. Also, due to the familiar feeling of the book, I never felt like the antagonists have a chance at winning which takes the punch out of the conflict, but honestly, after reading the first page you know Charlie is going to get the chocolate factory, you just want to know how.

“Ready Player One” is a fun book that celebrates 80’s culture and gaming in the package of an adventure. The story is like chocolate cake, I can't think of anybody that won’t like it.