Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishers on August 16, 2011
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 4.31
In the year 2045, 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.
Obviously, Ready Player One is one of the most hyped books at the moment. While it was published in 2011, the movie releases in just a few short weeks. Since I’d never read it, I figured now was the perfect time to. I’ve seen many conflicting reviews from many people I trust, and wasn’t sure what to expect when going into it.
At the beginning, I found the story fun and endearing. The world Cline had created was interesting, as was the way OASIS had taken over as the both dominant means of interaction between people and the most common form of escapism. I found Wade (aka Parzival) to be a bit of a cringey, although fairly realistic, character and enjoyed becoming immersed in his day-to-day life.
Anyone with a penchant for 80s nostalgia will love the pop culture references in this book, as they hit hard and heavy. Even though a lot of the stuff referenced was over my head, I still enjoyed following Wade as he solved the puzzles — and I thought the DnD-related bits were great. There were also a lot of humorous moments peppered throughout the book, which were nice.
There were also some not-so-great aspects. For one, I felt very uncomfortable with a lot of the ways Wade spoke about and to his love interest. He joked about cyberstalking her, and actually did cyberstalk her, which I don’t consider to be a funny topic. During one conversation where they talk about how he only knows her through OASIS and has no idea what her real-life identity is, he makes a comment about how as long as she’s a “female human who hasn’t had a sex-change operation,” he still wants to date her. Glad to know transphobia is alive and well in 2045 (/sarcasm).
Avoiding specific spoilers, there is one point during which Wade puts the integrity of the hunt over the actual lives of actual human beings, which kind of ruins his integrity as an empathetic human being in my eyes. The second half of the book as a whole kind of made me lose interest. Things continually drop into Wade’s lap in increasingly unbelievable ways, until it hits a point where the stakes don’t really feel like they matter anymore. No matter how dire things become, as a reader you just kind of assume he’ll figure it out and don’t really care how, because the solution will just turn out to be absurd anyway. For me, it ruined any suspension of disbelief I had and was a large part of why this didn’t receive a higher rating from me.
Clearly Ready Player One is a much-beloved book with a large fanbase. I definitely think it was worth reading, and I definitely expect a lot of the people going into it to like it. It just didn’t hit expectations for me and really does read like a debut novel, particularly in the second half. I’m interested to see what Cline does in the future and will certainly pick up other books by him. If you think Ready Player One sounds like it’s in your wheelhouse, I would recommend you give it a shot.