Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Original Publication Date: August 16, 2011
Length: 374 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books
Source: From the library
Format Read In: audiobook
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
View at the Traffic light:
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?
I decided to pick up an audiobook from my library for my drive home over Thanksgiving break. My library doesn’t have a huge selection, so I perused the shelves until Ready Player One caught my eye. I didn’t know anything about this audiobook, though once I looked it up on Goodreads later I would find out that this book had a reputation for being a pretty terrific audiobook, and I have to say it lived up to that label. It helps that Wil Wheaton narrates Ready Player One, and his voice is perfect for Wade’s sarcastic and self-deprecating tone.
Ready Player One has a really serious story at its heart(murder! corporate corruption! The world is crumbling!) but it remains an air of being so FUN just because of the character’s voice and all the wonderful ’80s references. As a ’90s baby, I can’t say I caught most of the references(though it was extra fun when I did, because I got to squeal for a moment that I knew what was going on), but they were pretty well-explained most of the time and moved the story forward.
I’m not much of a gamer, except for the concessional Legend of Zelda games my dad & I used to play when I was growing up, but as far as I can tell, Ready Player One is basically a video game in book form with a little side of reality thrown in, and I think people who like video games will really love it. It merges our current video game culture with a fantasy world and a science fiction element to create something entirely unique.
I thought the world-building in Ready Player One was really well done. Almost every time I started thinking, “But how does this work?” It was explained. How the OASIS works was one of those things I wasn’t sure I could buy into at first, but I so totally did just by virtue that the world was so cleverly laid out. I’m not sure if it was just the audiobook, but it did seem a bit info-dumpy at times–though that could just be because it takes so much longer to say words out loud than it would if I was reading it myself in print, and at any point, it never really distracted me.
The characters in Ready Player One were all quite interesting. One of the things that is mentioned a lot in the book is the OASIS persona verses real-life persona, and how similar they can be but also how different. How you can choose to hide things from people online, and the impact(both good and bad) that can have. Ready Player One never really answers that question, but brings it up for the readers to explore.
I loved the plot of Ready Player One with it’s focus on the quests. There’s a lot of great scenes in there, especially once something happens about a quarter of the way through that really ups the stakes for all the major characters involved. The evolution of the plot worked out really well in my opinion. My only minor complaint is that while Wade did have to struggle for a lot of things, towards the end some of the plot twists just seemed awfully convenient, and a little too easy. Then again, the clues for these things were placed quite deliberately earlier in the story, so they mostly made sense in context.
In a word, this book was:
Ready Player One was just a really great & fun listen. It was one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to(not that I’ve listened to a lot), and made an impression on me. I was going out of my way to do routine tasks so I would have an excuse to put the audiobook in. 4/5 cupcakes.