Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Published August 16th 2011 by Random House NY

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
Ready Player One might have only been published in 2011 but it's already considered a classic.  As such, it might shock some of you to learn that I only found out about this book a few years ago.  Once it was put on my radar though, I knew I needed to read it.  After getting into audiobooks this past year, I heard that this book was narrated by none other than Wil Wheaton, and given the genre, it sounded like the perfect combination. And so I settled in to find out what all the fuss was about...and I was completely blown away in the process!

I feel like most of the reviews I've read for Ready Player One focus on the virtual reality and gaming aspect, which I think do the book a huge disservice. Yes, the book does focus on virtual reality and gaming...but you don't have to be a hardcore gamer to get into it. Not by a long shot. Ready Player One is above all else a straight up Dystopian novel, with one of the most harrowing and realistic dystopian worlds I've come across in a long time. Basically, in 2044 the planet's resources have burned out. which is completely plausible and makes the whole thing that much more engrossing. The economy and our societal structure is crumbling: the vast majority of people are living beyond what we consider poverty (like, housing a group of 20 in a tiny trailer stacked on top of countless other trailers in a ginormous trailer park).  Food supplies are scarce so most people have learned to survive with whatever they can get their hands on. As a result of all this, most of the population have escaped into the virtual reality world of The Oasis.

The Oasis, an all-inclusive virtual world where you can go to school, work, socialize and pretty much do anything else online. It's the perfect escape/distractions from the bleak reality here and it makes a lot of sense, especially considering how quickly our world has already changed with the introduction of the Internet and technology in general.  The Oasis was invented by some brilliant, geeky, mad scientist-type called James Halliday and while you can do real-world stuff in The Oasis, it also doubles as a worldwide, massively popular multiplayer game. Being the benevolent/evil-genius that he is, Halliday set up an 'Easter-Egg Hunt' within The Oasis upon his death.  There are keys hidden within the game that unlock secret gates. The first person to find all of the keys and unlock the gates will inherit Halliday's vast fortune and empire. Which brings us to our main character: Wade Watts.

Wade Watts is a geek. No. Scratch that. He's like, THE KING of geeks.  Naturally, he spends all of his free time logged into The Oasis. He's become obsessed with finding Halliday's Easter Egg and has spent the better part of his life learning everything he could about Halliday and everything that Halliday himself was obsessed with: gaming, movies, television shows, music and 80's culture in general.  As a child of the 80's and a fellow introverted geek, it was easy for me to like and relate to Wade but I was chilled by the state of his life all the same. Wade has no social life.  He goes to school through The Oasis since attending school in real life has become too dangerous. Since his mother died and he never knew his father, he lives with his shitty aunt and her family, packed into a tiny trailer, so obviously his home life is of no relief. Within The Oasis though, Wade has friends and a social life. The juxtaposition between Wade's real life and his Oasis-life is beautifully done.  I have to give props to Ernest Cline for the chilling social commentary and equally chilling vision of the future.

A clear highlight of this book for me was the smorgasbord of geek culture. Ready Player One is deliciously geeky - and it's filled with amazing 80's nostalgia! Being born right in 1980, I missed out on a lot of things that 80's teenagers would have been into, but it didn't stop me enjoying this one bit. I was tripping over all of the geeky references to old video games, television shows, movies and books. Even if you're not familiar with the 80's, there are so many nerdy references to enjoy: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek...etc. Needless to say, I was in heaven. Even when the author referenced stuff I wasn't familiar with, he explained them out well enough to get by and nothing, I mean nothing ever took me out of the narrative. This book is incredibly immersive and pretty much made of awesome.

On a final note: Wil Wheaton is an AMAZING audiobook narrator. I mean sure, he was perfectly suited for this particular book but his voice acting was consistently on point. He always accurately portrayed the tone of the narrative, the situation and the feelings that any of the characters were going through at any given moment. He was a delicious mix of intense, snarky, suspenseful and emotional.

Ready Player One is an amazingly imaginative mix of bleak dystopia and thrilling sci-fi.  I was riveted from start to finish and I already want to listen to the entire thing all over again!  You don't need to be a gamer or an 80's geek to enjoy this one, though being a geek in general would help. Dystopian and Sci-Fi fans should absolutely check this one out.  I couldn't have picked a better read to finish off 2015!

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

39 comments:

  1. Good to know you don't have to be a hardcore gamer to get into this one Micheline! I've never been a huge video game person, but I've heard such great things about this one:) And yay for 80's culture references! I'm 1982, so I'm looking forward to the nostalgia:)

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    1. You definitely don't need to be a hardcore gamer Jenny^^ it's more like the virtual reality/gaming aspect turns the book into a sci-fi adventure and combined with the dystopian reality that's at play here it makes for a really unique and brilliant read :D The 80's pop culture references were the cherry on top of this cake of awesomeness LOL!

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  2. This is such a fun book. I agree with everything you said, and the OASIS is such a coo concept. The world was chilling and his life pretty much sucked, but in the OASIS you could do so much! I was amazed how immersive it was.

    Also, I remember the game JOUST, and just the fact that he included that in the book made me happy! LOL

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    1. SUCH a fun book! The OASIS worked perfectly giving how depressing their real world was to bear, you could totally imagine people just wanting to escape…and the OASIS was perfect for that! I was amazed by how immersive everything was there^^

      I vaguely remember JOUST but when they referenced CONTRA that made me giddy - I used to love that game XD

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  3. When I reread Ready Player One (and I WILL reread it someday, hopefully soon), I'm going to listen to the audio. I've heard such good things and it makes me really want to read it again, just so I can listen to Wil Wheaton narrate! Well, and also so I can reread this awesome book again. Great review, Micheline!

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    1. YES^^ I'll definitely be rereading/re-listening too Andrea^^ I want to own a physical copy but at the same time, the audio was just SO AMAZING, I want to experience it that way again for sure too! Did you know they're making a movie to be directed by Spielberg? I'm not sure if I should be excited or terrified by the prospect LOL! Thank you!!

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  4. Wonderful review! This book has only recently come to my attention, but now I'd really like to read it! I might not get all of the references, but the world just sounds so engrossing. I'm glad you enjoyed this one!

    Ally @ The Scribbling Sprite

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    1. Thank you Ally! I'm a child of the 80's but even I didn't get ALL of the references…luckily, it didn't stop me from enjoying it one bit! I hope you'll get to experience it for yourself soon and that you'll love it just as much as I did :)

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  5. Good to hear you don't have to be hardcore- I play some games, so would understand part of it... the geekiness sounds great

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    1. Definitely, I'd say just so long as you like/get video games, you should be able to enjoy this^^ The geekiness was the best!

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  6. I'm so glad you finally got a chance to read this. I thought it was pure fun, though being an MMO gamer didn't hurt. As someone who has met many of my friends through online gaming, this book touched me in a very deep way, I'm glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did!

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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    1. Pure fun is the perfect way to describe it! I'm sort of a gamer but not as dedicated as others but I still thought it was the best. I totally know what you mean too^^ even as bloggers where we meet so many good friends online, it's easy to relate and understand Wade's reality! Thanks Mogsy!

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  7. The premise of this one reminds me a lot of the Insignia series by S.J. Kincaid. I guess it works because you can totally see something like this happening in the near future, you're right. Anyways, I'm glad you loved this one so much because I feel like it guarantees I will love it too when I eventually get around to reading it :) Oh, and I love Will Wheaton as a narrator too - he narrated the second book in the Little Brother series by Cory Doctorow, as well.

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    1. Hmmm I'm not sure if I have Insignia on my tbr shelf but I'll check as soon as I finish typing this comment! I absolutely loved every second of this one so I hope that you'll get to it soon-ish so we can chat all about it :D Wil Wheaton's narration here made me wish he'd narrate ALL of the audiobooks…well, him and Tim Curry LOL!

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  8. This book is on my "You Have to read this, this year" list. And seeing how excited you are about it makes me even more excited an eager to get to it. I was apprehensive about going the audiobook way with this one because of it's 15 hours length- but meh. You've convinced me!

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    1. YAY! Now I'm excited too Sara :D It was one of the longer audiobooks I've listened to but Wil Wheaton's narration is totally worth it! I hope you have as much fun with this one as I did!

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  9. Yet another book that's been on my shelf for way too long. Need to read this one! I'm glad that you say it appeals to those of us who aren't really gamers too.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Oooh you must fix that soon Nicole^^ Yeah the way the gaming aspects are set up just take the book from dystopian to sci-fi which is seriously cool.

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  10. I've seen so many people enjoy this book! I admit, I'm not a gamer type, but I'm glad that people who have no interest in gaming might enjoy this one. Lovely review, Micheline!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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    1. Thank you Alyssa^^ You're right, I have yet to see a bad review for this one. The gaming aspect is so creatively done, it just feels like another part of the adventure - one that anyone could enjoy!

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  11. Another racing review! I really need to check out this book soon. I might see if the library has the audiobook :D

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    1. I meant raving review hahaha oops

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    2. LOL! I was wondering how racing worked into this XD Oh I hope you read it soon Bec AND hopefully your library has the audio!!

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  12. So I definitely want to look this one up in my elibrary and see if I can get it on audio! I am all about nerdy references so I think Wade will be so much fun to meet!

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    1. YES Jessica! Do it!! I'm crossing my fingers that your elibrary can hook you up :D Wade was like geek royalty to me!

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  13. Ohhhh I think I will like this one! Can you believe this is the first I'm hearing of it?!?! Great review!

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    1. Well then: success. I'm glad to have put it on your radar Teresa^^ I hope you check it out and love it as much as I do :)

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  14. Oh man, reading your review reminded me how much I LOVED this! I remember being a bit skeptical going into it just because of all the hype it was receiving at the time, but it's worthy of all of it! Cline really hit a home run with this- I hope Armada is just as good when I finally get around to reading it!

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    1. Ooooh you read it right when it was in full-hype?! I must have been living under a rock back then because I completely missed all of it - I swear, I only found out about it a year or two ago O.O Cline is a genius, I know Armada wasn't as well received but I have a feeling I'll still love it...I hope you will too :)

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  15. Wow, Micheline, you've totally changed my perspective on this one! Every review I read mentioned the gaming aspects-I've actually read one where it mentioned you DO have to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy it to the fullest so I'm very relieved to read your thoughts. It actually sounds really good thinking about it from this aspect. Now I know a whole different side of this book exists!

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    1. Oh no way?! Well I mean, obviously if you were a hardcore gamer + 80's baby you'd get ALL the references but I'm only like a really laid back Super Mario kind of gamer and I had a blast here^^ Honestly it was like the gaming bits just turned the dystopian world into a kick-ass sci-fi adventure! I hope you'll try it out :)

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  16. I'm so happy you loved this one! I did too, for all those reasons you mentioned. I do play video games but i'm not like... a hardcore gamer but that aspect def drew me in. however, all the other aspects of geek culture, fun pop culture references and the overall story were amazing! I'm glad it was great on audio! Maybe i'll reread it sometime this year on audio!

    -Wendy @ Book Scents

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    1. I really did Wendy! I do enjoy gaming too but I'm not especially great or dedicated XD I was drawn into that aspect too - along with the geek culture of course. I agree, the overall story was fantastic. Oh and the audio was the best, I hope you do check it out for a reread!

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  17. I also listened to this one on audiobook and absolutely loved the narrator. Wil Wheaton possibly made this book even more fun for me than what it would have otherwise been. The book itself is excellent, of course, but I'm glad I picked the audiobook for this one because it made for a really cool experience. I'm not a gamer but I completely fell in love with the universe and the main character. Great review Micheline ^^

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    1. I think Wil Wheaton enhanced my experience with this one too Soudha! His voice was just perfect for the type of story here^^ And I'm glad to hear that not being a gamer at all didn't stop you from enjoying this one either! I agree, the universe and Wade were the major selling points here ♥ Thank you!! x

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  18. I had passed on Ready Player One in the past because I thought it was really a gamer story set in a dystopian society, Micheline. Your review has made me change my mind, though, because I'm always looking for good dystopias to add to my shelves :)
    Have a fantastic week!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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    1. Well it is, but the gamer bits felt like a sci-fi adventure to me - those bits are so incredibly immersive, it doesn't feel like video gaming at all! Hopefully you'll feel the same way if/when you read it Lexxie :) Thank you ♥

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  19. What?!? Wil Wheaton? That is fantastic. That makes me want to listen to the audiobook when I generally prefer the ebook version. I'm definitely an 80's kid so it sounds right up by alley. Glad to hear the world is set up so well with this true dystopian feeling. It sounds incredibly interesting. Fantastic review!

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    1. RIGHT?! Oh man he was such a brilliant narrator Jaclyn and he fit the tone of the book perfectly :D And as a fellow 80's kid, you should get a kick out of all the nostalgia :D It definitely was a true dystopia with a nice sci-fi twist. Thank you my friend ♥

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