Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline, 2011

New Release! Copy for review provided by Netgalley.

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Premise: In the very near future, life is pretty bad. Most people spend their time (and their money) on the OASIS, an enormous virtual system that has replaced the internet, schools, many workplaces, and more. But the late creator of the OASIS left a secret, an easter egg, in the program somewhere. Whoever finds it is entitled to the late billionaire's entire fortune. There are corporations that spend all their time and energy in the search for the egg, but there are also lots of freelancers. Freelancers like Wade Watts, high school kid and gunter (egg-hunter). But no one has made progress on the riddle of the Egg in years, that is, until now...

This is the most charmingly adorable dystopia I think I've ever read, and I mean all the words in that sentence. Halliday, the man behind the OASIS and the hunt for the Egg, was a child of the 80's, and layered the pop culture references of his childhood into some environments in the virtual world and made them the key to the elaborate game that he set up for his aspiring heirs. This means that much of the book is kids in the future studying and becoming obsessed with the 80's, which is pretty entertaining. Obscure video games, movies, D&D, it's all in there. (Well, not too much in the way of books, which is odd for a book, but whatever.)

The book itself is structured like a classic 80's film: a group of kids from different backgrounds are in search of treasure, the obsessions of young people are extremely useful, the antagonist is an evil corporation whose motives and actions will probably be kind of silly if you think about them too hard. It skims over uncomfortable aspects of the future, touches on subjects without exploring them; again, much like many 80's movies.

It's a super-fun read, not serious science-fiction by any definition, but it's not trying to be. There were a few aspects to the plot that I found too easy or pat, but the tone was generally light enough (even when the subject matter got dark) that I could overlook them.

The puzzles were fun, the sense of teen adventure was strong, and I couldn't put it down once I got into it, devouring it in two marathon sessions. The ending was simplistic, but I'm still giving it high marks.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book


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