20-something student and avid reader, reading and reviewing anything and everything under the sun (although YA definitely dominates)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Release Date: 16th August 2011
Publisher: Arrow Books
Summary from Goodreads:
"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?"
Looking back at my notes after I finished reading this, I've mostly just written three lines which boil down to 'I thought this was good'. So this review isn't going to delve into characters, or the plot, or the normal things you see in a review. Instead I'm just going to focus on the main points that stood out to me. Don't get me wrong, I loved the characters, the setting, the plot, and all that jazz, but these are the main points that really stood out to me.
I like to think that I read a fair bit of sci-fi, but most of that revolves around time travel, not the world wide web, so this is my first experience reading sci-fi involving virtual reality. And I have to say, I think Cline did a very good job at it. Not only did we delve into the amazingness that would be the OASIS, and massive virtual world with anything and everything you could possibly imagine, but this was balanced against a grim view of a real world that was slowly, but surely, declining. Just when you experience something amazing in the OASIS, in the next scene you see our protagonist Wade's daily ritual, where he wakes up, showers, eats, and then jacks himself up to the OASIS for hours upon hours of gameplay. The decline of the real world has gotten to the point where Wade doesn't even leave his room anymore, it's just not worth it. Why bother when you can spend your time in a virtual reality. In fact, spend so much time in the world of the OASIS that it become's your reality, and you just leave the real world behind. It's kinda sad really. But I liked that Cline managed to weigh these two realities fairly. Just showing us the OASIS itself wouldn't have been enough to actually depict how important the OASIS is, how important it is that the gunter's find Halliday's egg and not The Sixer's. It wouldn't have made much sense without the context, so I appreciate that.
And while we're on this point, let's not forget about that ending. After the OASIS being Wade's entire life for years, after meeting Art3mis in person, he has no desire to return to that world. And I think that's a very powerful message. You could be rich and famous in an online world, but it can't bring you the sort of happiness that real, true connections do. When it comes down to it, the real world trumps virtual reality.
Moving on, I really enjoyed the 80's trivia as well, even if I didn't understand much of it given that I'm a 90's kid. It was an amusing touch that I think gave some heart to the story - Halliday really wanted the OASIS to fall into the right hands, and I think that reflected in his puzzles. They all revolved around the time in his life that he was just an optimistic young lad with a love for computing, before all the money and before he invented the OASIS. Plus it was fun and super hard to try to figure out the puzzles, since I have little to no 80's trivia knowledge, but once it was spelled out for me, it all made sense. It was fun to follow along with the hunt myself and see if I could figure anything out.
These were the two things that stood out to me the most; an important message about the negative effects of virtual reality and what happens when it gets out of hand, but also the fun 80's trivia I learnt whilst completely the hunt. Mixing an important message with the fun, light side worked well for the novel, and I really wish this were a part of some series, just so that I could revisit that world. I'll have to settle for second best, and will have to check out Cline's other novels.