Ready Player One by Ernest ClineReady 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!
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.
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