Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
Had I read Ready Player One, as opposed to listening to the audiobook, I would have abandoned it in the first 50 pages. However, I am glad that I gave this book another chance, since the plot eventually became much more interesting, with more action and intrigue.
Genres: Young Adult/Adult, Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance
Format: Audiobook, Narrated by Wil Wheaton
Rating: 3 stars
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?
Had I read Ready Player One, as opposed to listening to the audiobook, I would have abandoned it in the first 50 pages. However, I am glad that I gave this book another chance, since the plot eventually became much more interesting, with more action and intrigue. The writing style improved somewhat, and at the end of the book I was ready to give it 4 stars (unfortunately, considering the book as a whole, this is not possible).
The writing style is what irked me the most. Although the main character is a high school student, there is no need for the author to write the book as if he were a high school student himself! The plot can be split into two parts: action and explanation. These explanation sections are in reality information dumps, that read like high school essays — unoriginal, uncreative, boring, and extremely repetitive. Not only does the author use the same adjectives over and over (yes, we know that Aech has a cheshire grin!), but he stresses aspects of the game and the OASIS that have already been explained many times over (yes, we understand that the OASIS is free to access, but you need to pay for transportation). I’d like to give Ernest Cline a thesaurus and teach him how to use it.
In addition, these many rants that Wade goes on are extremely tactless, and can be quite insulting or inappropriate for certain audiences. For example, beyond the adult-style swearing and mature discussions, Wade goes on an endless sarcastic teenage tirade about “the human condition,” that attempts to explain “reality”: (warning: quote contains a swear)
“Those stories you heard? About going to a wonderful place called ‘heaven’ where there is no more pain or death and you live forever in a state of perpetual happiness? Also total bullshit. Just like all that God stuff. There’s no evidence of a heaven and there never was. We made that up too. Wishful thinking. So now you have to live the rest of your life knowing you’re going to die someday and disappear forever. Sorry.”
Despite all my complaints, when all the initial information dumps are over (although many of them are dispersed randomly throughout the book), and Wade (or in this case, Parzival, the name of his avatar) finds the first key and the action picks up, the book becomes a much more enjoyable read.
(Subtle spoilers) One of my favorite parts was in the last gate, when Wade finally confronts a game he hadn’t already “mastered” a few years back. This seems like the first time that Wade is faced with something that isn’t already easy for him to complete, thanks to his years of “training,” and it makes him seem more realistic. Another part I liked was also in the last gate, when he plays through the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This was one of the first references in the book that I knew about, and was therefore more fun for me personally, since I understood and could picture what the characters were describing.
If you are a fan of the 80s, or know a lot about the media in that time, you will probably get more out of this book. Although it takes place in 2044, the majority of the game clues revolve around Halliday’s favorite decade, when he was a teenager. Although I am not an 80s fan, thanks to Ready Player One, Ladyhawke (Wade’s favorite movie) is now on my to-watch list.
For readers who enjoyed this book, I’d recommend Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde (review coming soon!), which is for a slightly younger audience, but also takes place in a ritual reality world, and is much more engaging and humorous.
What did you think of this book? Clearly many people have enjoyed it, since it is a Green Mountain Book Award Nominee for 2014-2015 (a Vermont young adult book award). Thanks to Sophie for recommending this book to me (and for reading Heir Apparent in exchange!), and for Peter for bumping it up on my to-read list. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing other Green Mountain Book Award nominees as well in the coming weeks, including Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, and The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni.
Although clearly Ready Player One is not one of my favorite books, I am glad that I read it, since it opened me up to a genre I do not read very often, and taught be quite a bit about the 80s and the impending fate of our world.