Ready Player One

October 24, 2017

Author: Ernest Cline.


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.

(Published Summary)

My Thoughts:

The writing is heavy on telling rather than showing and lots of thick info-dumps, some of which don’t even further the plot all that much. The futuristic story, however, rings true. It’s not our world, not yet; but it’s not hard to believe that it could be or to some extent will be, some day in the future. After all, the foundation is already here. A sometimes tight-knit online community that may never have met in person; virtual gaming worlds that can take years to explore; online school as a cheaper or more convenient replacement; the list goes on and on, creating the strong believability.

The main difference I expect? We’re not going to be so lucky as to have OASIS founded by someone like Halliday. (I don’t mean hugely eccentric, obsessed with the past, and having an odd trust in fate. I mean possessing some good-will towards fellow humans, instead of being a corporate machine.) But if somehow, incredibly, that did happen, than the villain of Ready Player One would roll right into place. Maybe this is personal – I know a lot of readers don’t like the Big Faceless Villain. It can certainly be done badly. I read a novel earlier this summer with a Big Bad Secret Agency as one of the main villains, and it was absolutely ridiculous. On the other hand, I’ve also read 1984, a prime example of the Big Faceless Villain, and it is the most starkly terrifying dystopia I’ve ever read.

So, that to say, I think it’s a trope that can be done well or badly, and to me it went off quite well in this story. Of course the big corporation would lunge at the chance to control and monetize the main virtual reality. Of course they would leverage every advantage they had, ignoring the creator’s intentions and the spirit of the competition – it’s good business, after all.

It’s not even that over-the-top that they’d start playing dirty in the real world too.

So the writing was pretty clunky, and there were a few quite odd “enlightened” views proposed (noted in the Content Review), but overall I still enjoyed it. The action-scenes and full plot were fun and kept my interest, and if the world-building was top heavy at least it gave me a clear view of the world, virtual and physical, and a colorful intriguing world it was. And, like I said, the thoughts behind it all made sense to me, from the Online Life developed by so many to the fight to save their world from Corporization.

Content Review:

Sexual Content: Character says his mother worked as an escort in an online brothel./ Some ‘your mom’ innuendo/insults. / “If I didn’t spend so much time offline, getting laid, I’d probably know just as much useless s*** as you two.”/ Character jokes about having a cyber-porn addiction./ Character says he spent some time in online brothels, until he realized it was basically self-pleasuring with help, and “went back to basics.” At this point he goes into a several-paragraph endorsement of masturbation, on how natural and necessary he considers it./ Kissing.

Language: 48 scatological terms, 24 hell, 17 derogatory terms, 15 anatomical terms, 14 d***, 8 F-words

Violence: Character contemplates suicide. Character is killed off-screen, probably by being thrown out a window. Characters blackmail a kid, threatening to kill him, and then blow up his apartment building off screen; he’s not killed, but relatives and quite a number of unrelated people are. Multiple Avatars are vaporized, causing no physical harm to the real person.

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