by Ernest Cline
Started: 17th August 2015
Finished: 20th August 2015
What a lot of you may not realise is that I’m a total geek for video games. Always have been. I also, which a lot of you probably do know, love dystopian novels. So when I came across Ready Player One through a Loot Crate unboxing video on YouTube I knew I just had to read it. I was really impressed to begin with however my opinion kept changing the whole way through it.
Ready Player One is set in the not too distant future where many people are choosing to spend more time in the virtual reality world called OASIS rather than the real world. One of these people is Wade Watts or Parzival as his avatar is known. A poor orphan forced to live with his aunt in cramped trailer. Everything changes when the creator of OASIS, 80s obsessed James Halliday, dies leaving his entire fortune and creation up for grabs in the most intense video game competition the world has ever seen. One that begins to consume Wade and changes him in ways he didn’t expect.
I started off really liking Wade, there was just something about him. Especially seeing how different his real self is to his avatar (something I’m sure many can empathise with if they’ve ever created themselves in a virtual world). He was smart and sarcastic, traits that I see used more and more in literature now. After a while he started to annoy me a little bit, as he’s the narrator of the novel we never get a break from him. However it’s difficult to criticise him as his attitude is fairly accurate to many who are faceless on the Internet, who gain a confidence unlike what they can in the real world. I liked Aech and Art3mis but, like Wade, their personalities started to wear a little thin after a while. One character I did really like and would have like to have seen more of is Shoto.
I thought the plot was a great idea and it was interesting to see how people became even more dependent on technology. I really liked seeing a more sci-fi side of dystopian fiction. I found the contrast between OASIS and reality really interesting, I actually would have liked to have seen a bit more of the desolate reality they all want to escape though. Even though I liked the plot there were times when the book seem to change into something completely different, the romance sub-plot completely stole the spotlight for a part of the novel… Not for very long in the grand scheme of things but still long enough for me to begin to lose interest. I have nothing against romance sub-plots but when it focuses on that rather than the intense race to find the next key or the next gate I find myself not caring as much. An element I did love about the novel though was the difference of online friends and ‘in real life’ friends and how you never can truly be sure of who it is you’re talking to, which led to a great plot twist in the novel that I hadn’t really considered (which looking back I don’t know why it was something I never questioned or saw coming in a book like this).
The pacing of the novel was a little weird for me. There were times when it was good and seemed to be going places but then it would really slow down and it didn’t maintain the intensity for me, or perhaps something was a little too convenient and seemed like the easy way out. I think this is partly to do with the fact Wade is the narrator and it’s written in the past tense. He seemed fairly calm and casual about some things when talking to the reader which didn’t fit the action of the plot very well. In addition after a while the constant explanation of 80s references started to make the novel more of a chore. Occasionally it was good to have the explanations, speaking as someone who doesn’t know a great deal about 80s films and music, however there were times when the minor and trivial details were totally unnecessary. Without giving anything away there are moments where the dialogue of certain 80s films is featured, but I often found there was too much dialogue included. It was very easy to pick up what was going on with just one sentence rather than a full scene example.
It may seem that I have a lot of problems with the novel, but I honestly did still enjoy it. I was fascinated by the plot and the characters motivations, especially the rival corporation of IOI. It was just that the novel was a little predictable and certain novelties wore off after a while when they kept being repeated. I would recommend this book, especially if you’re a geek for the retro games (and the 80s). I would love to read more books like this one in the future!