Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publication date: April 2nd 2013
by Poppy

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
-This novel was listened to via audiobook-

When you read dystopian after dystopian you realize that most of them are more or less the same, so it's extremely refreshing to come upon one who truly stands out from all the rest. Ready Player One is probably one of the coolest dystopian/sci fi stories I've ever read, and it's sure to amaze any pop culture fan, especially those who have lived through the 70s and 80s.

Ready Player One brings us into such a unique world that it's hard to not become fascinated by it all. This world involves being able to live your life--school, work, etc--through a virtual universe where you decide what you look like, who you are. Think of it like suddenly living inside your favourite RPG game. This includes being able to travel from world to world, level your character, and farm for items. What's the most exciting, though, is how for years and years, people have been looking for a certain easter egg--a key to billions! How's that for a competition? When the novel begins we're immediately thrown into this premise where we learn exactly what this world is, who is behind this hunt, why, and what's at stake. Even though it's a lot of information thrown at us, I never felt overwhelmed, my eyes simply grew wider and wider with each passing minute. As someone who has enjoyed her fair share of RPGs, it was a whole lot of fun to imagine this kind of life! You don't need to have been a gamer to enjoy this novel, but if you are, and if you catch a lot of 80s references which have to be amongst the hundreds, then you'll have just a little more appreciation for it.

The egg hunt revolves around a man obsessed with the 80s, thus we get unlimited mentions of 80s pop culture in this book. The sheer amount of it amazed me, actually, and I wonder just how many hours Mr Cline spent on research for just this one book. Even though I only really got maybe 50%, if that. of all the references, I was still lost in a 1980s nostalgia filled with movies, music, and video games. Built around these, the egg hunt lets us explore Oasis, a virtual universe that Cline builds until it comes alive before your eyes. I could not only see myself walking this world, but I was left pondering what exactly I would decide to look like. In a world where you can be anybody, would you change your appearance? Your size? Your race? Even your sex? It was a lot of fun to think about.

The best side to this book for me, however, was Wade itself. Narrated by Wil Wheaton who did a fantastic job tuning into this character and bringing him to life, Wade Watts is your average teenage outcast who likes to lose himself in obsessing over this game, while simultaneously escaping his pathetic trailer park life. Wade tells us the story of how he became a legend, and right from the start I found myself easily connecting with his witty personality. While he does make mistakes along the way, his perfectly flawed nature makes his character and this whole journey very compelling. He's intelligent, no question, but he gets ahead of himself, learns a few life lessons, falls in love; showing us that he's human above all else. This is character development at its best! He's not alone through this process either, we meet characters who are, or become, Wade's loyal friends in this hunt. Having a common enemy will bring people closer and I loved seeing the sincere integrity of some of these other players. In the end it shows how important it is to lean on others to help, instead of greedily trying to go through it alone. This is something we see during Wade's transformation in this story. He starts off as an introvert with self esteem problems, and comes out a true hero.

Ready Player One is not a mindless read, it's a book you read when you want a sharp, intelligent, and imaginative read. Ultimately. it's a puzzle that will blow every pop culture fan's mind!

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