Book Review: Ready Player One

I was in Lincoln, Nebraska for over two weeks during the roller skating National Championships.  It is a long time to be away from home, and I read through all of the books I had brought with me a few days after arriving.  Luckily, Lincoln has some awesome used book stores, and I was able to find some of the titles on my wish list.  I’d heard a lot of conflicting opinions about Ready Player One, so I thought it would be an interesting read, even if I didn’t particularly like it.  But, happily for me, I loved it.  In fact, this may be my favorite book (not counting Words of Radiance) that I have read so far this year.  Yeah.  It was that good.

Ready Player One is set in a rather bleak future-Earth.  We’ve depleted our resources and never quite managed to bounce back from the most recent economic crisis.  Rather than deal with the problems outside, people take to the OASIS – an online virtual reality that has become the center of most people’s lives.  The obsession only grows when Halliday, the OASIS inventor, dies and leaves his vast fortune to anyone who can use the clues to complete his epic quest of 70s and 80s pop culture puzzles.  Ready Player One follows the journey of Wade Watts as he works to solve the riddles and claim Halliday’s ultimate prize.

Looking at this story objectively, I really shouldn’t like it as much as I did.  It is the same old, over-used hero’s journey (read some Joseph Campbell if you don’t know what I mean) set in a virtual reality.  We get the same sort of plot and tropes and life lessons we always get.  The only difference is that most of the time spent in this world is used to geek out over pop culture references that the characters would never have experienced or cared about in their normal lives, but that the readers (most likely) will have a great deal of nostalgia for.  I’ll be honest – most of the references outdate even me, and not being a hard-core gamer growing up, there were a lot of references I didn’t necessarily know about before reading the story.  However, I had enough of a frame of reference that I still got more than a little excited when PAC-MAN, R2-D2, and Firefly class space ships showed up.  And the writing was so good for the rest of it that it really didn’t even matter that I’d never experienced it for myself; the character’s experiences and the descriptions were enough to keep me immersed in the story.

What this book does so brilliantly is give us everything we’ve ever love about science fiction and fantasy (and I mean everything – if you liked it, it probably exists on OASIS), while still making the story feel new and exciting.  A large part of that is due to the writing, which was absolutely fantastic.  This was the sort of book I wouldn’t have put down if I hadn’t had other obligations.  Like, you know, skating and eating and stuff.  Sleep… may have been compromised in the finishing of this story.  But it was worth it because it was good!  So good.  The worst part about this book is that it is over.  And while I could re-read it, it won’t have that same sense of exploration and discovery and danger and excitement that the reader has the first time through.

So anyway, this book is my new obsession.  I loved it so much I may have even used the Ready Player One Fan Soundtrack Page to create my own iTunes playlist.  Which I’ve listened to several times already.  I’m wanting to go back and re-watch old films I haven’t seen in years.  I’m trying to figure out ways to play vintage video games.  Heck, I might even want to search out Ladyhawke.

In conclusion, Ready Player One – READ IT!

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