In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
A nerdgasm – John Scalzi
The above sentence abridges Ready Player One, quite nicely. I’ll refrain from repeating the ever descriptive blurb and just jump right into it. Ready Player One is not for everyone. However, I cannot give a simple description of the person(s) it’d be geared toward. On the one hand, it’s overloaded with 80’s paraphernalia, from movies to music, and, obviously, video games, but it’s strictly the nerdiest topics in the 80’s. Then there’s the dystopian element, although it’s not heavily engrained within the novel, yet quite necessary to the plot. There’s also the whole otherworldly theme within OASIS. The particular audience this is geared toward is an enigma to me; therefore, I’ll say give it a try. If you’re not engrossed after chapter two, it’s not for you. I’ll try and review this, here goes nothing.
Level One: Did the 80’s throw up in here?
Everything nerd-specific in the 80’s is mentioned in this book. The regurgitation of the 80’s within is pretty narrowed to simply “nerd” specific topics. Having been born in the 90’s with a fascination for the 70’s, 20’s and 60’s I cannot pretend to be well-versed in this time period. However, there were some wonderful things about the 80’s that I am well aware of.
There was an overload of 80’s culture mentioned, with a variety of sci-fi and fantasy movies, video games (Atari, Pac-man, joust, asteroids, etc.), music (Rush), and the limited times Family Ties was mentioned. I feel as though this book can only be fully appreciated by an 80’s fanatic, or someone looking to indulge themselves in some nostalgia. The amount of geek-inspired information Ready Player One is packed with is truly awe-inspiring; however, if you really don’t care and aren’t interested in what the 80’s had to offer I’d skip this.
Level Two: Dystopi-no?
The dystopian present is a major contribution to the plot; however, it’s not done very well. Wade Watts lives in a vertical trailer park. Rape, murder, and thievery lurks within every crevice of his community (well, that’s what we’re told). Cars riddle the streets because of exuberant prices of gasoline. The Earth’s infected by humanities many unforgiving practices following the industrial revolution for energy. With the downward spiral in the economy companies like the IOI emerged providing resources for the needy in exchange for —basically — your immortal soul.
Because of the desolate state of the world, the OASIS software is a haven for everyone looking to escape the real world. No one has to face reality with OASIS because it creates a virtual reality you can do anything from. Learning tools, jobs, clubs, shopping, socializing, whatever your aim, it’s got you. This actually isn’t too dissimilar from our present. Kids learn from iPads, and I shop online for nearly everything – what’s this world without technology?
Doesn’t this dystopian world sound quite intriguing? Well, don’t expect it. Cline tells us this world is so bad and we’re supposed to take his word for it. We’re in the real world for about 1% of the book, which isn’t enough time for me to establish that the world is in the toilet. Yes, burning fossil fuels and the continued utilization of non-renewable resources is a big issue. It’s a global crisis but did that engender stacked trailer parks and ravenous conglomerates? And honestly, the outside world doesn’t sound that bad. I’ve been to Cleveland and trust me, it looks like that regardless of a global crisis.
Cline both criticizes and commends the advancement of technology, giving his thoughts on the downfalls and advantages of its usage. However, all of his thoughts are much more pronounced and direct than this one. He goes on this near two-page rant condemning believers of organized religion and the belief in God as, put simplistically, the mythical imaging of idiots, and the reason for all the bad past events, yet discredits all the words he’s spouted off by saying,
“But hey, Halliday is my God, finding the egg my heaven. The egg falling into the hands of IOI is my hell, and the Almanac is my bible. So I can’t throw stones when I live in a glass house.”
I don’t personally practice organized religion, I’ve mentioned this before; however, I don’t believe in belittling others faith and values. This took down my dislike of Wade, in the beginning, thankfully, it wasn’t mentioned very often in the novel. It’s like Cline wanted to get that off his chest so he could continue the book without mentioning it again.
There were little things that bothered me about the dystopian element. Me being the picky person I am noticed a lot of disparaging things that made me scratch my head. Why is the entire world still in crisis if electrical transport has been established effectively? I’m going to guess they’ve found a way to power this electricity using wind, solar, geothermal, or hydropower because he said we were in crisis with gas and pollutants….unless they’re using regular old conductors in which case, what’s the point? Another issue was him printing out the Almanac. I know this is super extra to mention, but I have to! 1,000 pages he printed in an environmental crisis. Lastly, I didn’t understand how everyone had the internet. I pay 60 bucks a month for my internet and if everyone uses OASIS almost 24 hours a day. How the hell is everyone getting access since it requires a network connection.
Now, onto IOI. They had so much potential to be a badass villain it’s making my boots quake. I thought they were going to be like Mr. Robot’s enemies in the television series, yet we got this lackluster bad guy barely seen or heard and not very scary besides what happens at the beginning of the book. Which also makes me pause. SPOILER Wade doesn’t even blink when he realizes that the IOI really did detonate a bomb killing a whole lot of people due to his actions. We all know it couldn’t have technically been avoided, but you needed that emotion from his character that made you realize he’s a good person – the humanity. At first, I assumed it was Cline’s way of showing how the morality of people was gone, where the death of a player meant more than a human life, but this didn’t prove true because it wasn’t expanded upon. I don’t know, it’s just off to me.
Level Three: OASIS
OASIS deserves it’s own level because Cline did a magnificent job immersing you into this software. Because it’s a software and being alone in a simulation there’s not a lot of dialogue involved in Ready Player One. This didn’t bother me, but for some, it could lead to potential issues, especially if you dislike Wade. The descriptions and space/science fiction feel you receive from this part is an excellent dose of futuristic virtual reality. I’m not a video gamer (After a stint of not washing and barely eating for three days playing saint row, I decided the gamer life wasn’t for me), but I absolutely loved OASIS. Now, Wade is supposed to be the quintessential nerd/geek gunter (people obsessed with finding the Halliday’s egg/with Halliday himself and his interest) unnaturally pale, overweight, and socially awkward with limited interpersonal skills. Wade doesn’t technically have his own personality, he’s a carbon copy of James Halliday. The music, movies, video games, books, etc. are all recreations enjoyed by Halliday, and it just seems like he enjoyed these particular things because of his obsession with the egg, not because he had genuine interest originally. Plus, Halliday was a nut – sorry to say but he was – therefore, he’s following the mind of a looney tunes character…Although, I understand what he was trying to do with OASIS and letting people escape so much that they no longer lived in the real world because OASIS was perfect and reality isn’t.