As mentioned in my previous book review, September Read-a-Thon didn’t go as well as I had hoped. Some kind of combination of being too uninspired and too busy led to me only reading a couple of books for the first three weeks of the month. However a recent long commute to rural NSW and the desire to at least go out of September with a bang is what brings me to bring you today’s book review.
No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful
– Don’t Let’s Start (They Might Be Giants)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline:
Ready Player One is your average teenage dystopian fiction with the twist of being 110% about 80’s pop culture and gaming. Your protagonist is Wade Watts (who you know by his gaming ID, Parzival for most of the book), a poor orphan growing up in the year 2044 on Planet Earth that is all about ready to implode on itself for all the reasons we know about today (scarcity of resources, global warming etc). Humanity’s only reprieve is OASIS, a massive multiplayer online virtual reality game that everyone has taken refuge in, to avoid the harshness of reality. Eccentric billion gazillionaire James Halliday, the mastermind behind OASIS is dead and has now left all of his wealth behind for whoever can find the Easter Egg behind three gates he has put throughout the OASIS worlds. It’s no ordinary treasure hunt though as the pursuit involves knowing anything and everything that Halliday has ever been passionate about and it is years before any progress is made, that is until Parzival finds the first one.
Cline’s imagination creates an easy enough prediction/depiction of what the future will be like. Today, all around us is evidence of reduced face-to-face interaction and a heavy reliance on computers. It’s also no coincidence that Halliday is characterised to be like Steve Jobs on steroids, complete with a Wozniak-esque past evidenced in Halliday’s partner-who-he-had-a-falling-out-with, Ogden Morrow. Although it hits quite close to home, I had issues with some of the things about the Ready Player One world being over-simplified as it seemed all too easy to just accept that the world is trashed and no one is doing anything about it. Not very much detail at all went into the real world and I guess that’s just a by-product of almost all the scenes taking place in OASIS. But the lack of detail was always a big reminder to me that this was a book targeted at a much younger audience. Another tiny thing I’d mention is that it can also be a little bit hard to connect with the book if you’re not an 80’s buff like every single character in the book is. Which is a little bit disappointing as the biggest 80’s fan I know is my dad but he probably isn’t the target demographic for a book like this.
But aside from everything else above I did really enjoy reading this book. It was really relaxing and easy to read and I did enjoy the puzzles even if I didn’t completely understand the riddles sometimes. The closest thing I can relate this to is a kid’s version of The Da Vinci Code. The characters are all also quite lovable and some parts very humorous. The descriptions of OASIS were often so rosy that it had me wondering what it’d be like to have a bit of escapism like that. With games like Second Life and devices like the Oculus Rift, it probably isn’t very far away. Lastly, as always a tale of good triumphing over evil is just so satisfying.