Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Pages: 372
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: Awesome Authors
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money and will donate it to my school library
Summary (from the back of the book): 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 this 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 create 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. 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.

Review: I have only ever played one video game in my entire life and that was on a date when I was in graduate school. We played Centipede. Needless to say we didn't go out again. And I never played Dungeons and Dragons. However, I was in high school and college in the 1980s and I got all the references to popular culture in this book and that is what hooked me.

The first 70 or so pages were slow for me, the main character living in a virtual world, engaging in battles, etc just didn't grab me, but I persevered because I've read so many great reviews of this book and figured something was going to hook me. And it did! While for me there was a little too much video game in the story, I really got into the story line, the characters, the "game" that was being played and the outcome of the book. In fact, I'd say the last 100 pages were some of the best I've read in a long time, this is where the plot really comes to a head and I was riveted, not wanting to put the book down so that I could find out what happened.

I loved the references to the songs, musicians, fashions, movies, television shows, and other cultural references of the 1980s. I knew exactly what those things looked like and sounded like, which made this book even richer for me. It also brought back wonderful memories of going to concerts, watching TV, jamming out to music, etc and that was fun. I've found myself thinking a lot about my high school and college days this past week.

The characters. I really cared about them. They are "normal" people living in this virtual world that has been created, avoiding the real world. They have created characters for themselves that they can hide behind; this allows them to look better than they think they look in real life, be braver, and to be rewarded for their vast knowledge of trivia. I really liked the friendships that existed and I was rooting for them all the way through.

And the ending. I didn't see the twists and turns of the final chapters coming. I knew the ultimate outcome (sort of) since we're told about it up front, but I liked that I was surprised at how we got there.

Geography Connection

(photo credit for the image of Tetris)

Click to see my updated Google Map. Most of this book takes place inside a virtual world for which there are no images. I know that the main character lives in Columbus, Ohio for a while and ends up in Oregon, but that's about it.

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