Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Published August 2011 in hardcover, June 2012 in trade paperback
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for this review
Thirty years in the future all of our worst fears have come true - this year's drought has stretched on for decades, gas is scarce and cities are crumbling under the weight of an influx of people who have moved in from the small towns and suburbs. The one place every wants to be is the OASIS, a computer simulated universe designed by the Howard Hughes-like James Halliday.
When Halliday dies, his will puts the world into a frenzy. Somewhere in the OASIS, among its hundreds of sectors and thousands of planets, Halliday has hidden an egg. The person who finds the egg will inherit Halliday's billions and control of the OASIS. The egg can only be found after three keys are found and three gates entered and beaten. Five years later, when no one has even discovered the first key, most of the world has given up. But for "gunters" (egg hunters) like Wade Watts, the search is everything. An orphan, Wade lives with an aunt who only puts up with him for the extra food she can get. With no friends outside of the OASIS and few inside, the only thing Wade really has going for him to an incredible memory and mad gaming skills.
When Wade discovers the first puzzle and the first key, his avatar draws the attention of the world, including the attentions of a giant corporation intent on winning the egg and ready to do anything to do it. To beat them, Wade is going to have to draw on everything he has learned about Halliday's passion - the pop culture of the 1980's and learn to trust and depend on others.
The Barnes & Noble overview calls this book "wildly original." That it is; I've never read anything like it. It also says Ready Player One is "stuffed with irresistible nostalgia." It certainly is filled with nostalgia; unfortunately, I had no problem resisting the nonstop references to the movies, music and games of the 1980's.
Since almost all of the action takes place in the OASIS, Wade is almost the only human we meet until very nearly the end of the book. With a story filled with nothing but avatars, Cline was left himself with very little to develop in his characters and it made them difficult for me to connect with them. While there were some things I wasn't expecting, there were no surprises for me which was a big disappointment.
At 100 pages, I was ready to make this my second DNF (did not finish) in a month but so many people love it, I plugged along thinking I would soon come to the point where the book would grab me. It never did. I will, however, pass this one along to Mini-him who is a gaming nerd. Although he wasn't born until almost the end of the decade this book highlights, the intricacies of the game play will certainly appeal to him more than it did to me.