- Are you obsessed with video games? If you are, you need no other inducement to read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.
- So-so on video games? You should still read the book; you’ll find your appreciation gives you a bit of a boost in getting into the story.
- You don’t care about gaming? I don’t care about sports featuring balls or small discs, but I don’t hold that against the various athletic characters in books I read.
- You HATE video games? Maybe you should read Ready Player One and get a fully-fleshed perspective on your stance.
In case it isn’t obvious yet, I’m recommending Ready Player One for everyone to read, especially because — and this is my trump card — the movie is coming out in a year or two and it is directed by Stephen Spielberg. Just sayin’, don’t you want to be the wise person who read the book before the hype becomes a fever pitch? I know I did.
Sometimes staying up-to-date with literary culture can be a chore, the kind that one takes to with grim determination because the results, if not the process, are known to be desirable. Take A Little Life, which was a huge book on the literary scene this year. I intend to read A Little Life in order to be a better informed reader and because I’m curious, but judging by the cover, featuring a young man pressing his face with a clawed hand, wearing a clench-eyed look of anguish on his face, someone is going to have a long, drawn-out downfall in this book and probably die of AIDS or Gut Cancer, or complications ensuing from mental illnesses like schizophrenia and consumptive malaise.
All of this is to say that, on the other hand, reading Ready Player One for cultural purposes was like drinking a can of soda — there was a wonderful pop/crack and then a satisfying guzzle with lots of fizz.
That can be my blurb: “Ready Player One was a satisfying guzzle with lots of fizz.” — Quest Reviews
Speaking of blurbs…one of the many accolades on the cover of Ready Player One tells us that we will be reading, “A GROWN-UP’S HARRY POTTER!” This really says something about the confusion around this book’s genre. I have found this book in the Fiction section and the Science Fiction section in bookstores, (the labels on the book read “Fiction — Science Fiction — Adventure.” But by a few rights, Ready Player One should be YA. Wade Watts, our main character, is 18 when the book begins and our chief supporting characters are barely older. A friend of mine claims the book is “younger” than typical Science Fiction. But the book is heftier than typical YA books as well, in both content and concept…
When in doubt, get scientific. The AR (Accelerated Reading) Score, used by schools and libraries, ranks Ready Player One as a 6.7, using the ATOS formula. A typical YA book ranks at a 5. So, Ready Player One ranks at a higher reader difficulty and maturity than your average YA. But this isn’t to say that Ready Player One surpasses all YA. Just for example, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has an AR score of 6.9. The Golden Compass is a 7.1.
All of this displacement is very interesting to me, and I could go on at even greater length, but what it comes down to is that Ready Player One can be enjoyed by many ages and readers.
But what about the actual content of the book? The premise is this — that in 2012, an advanced virtual reality gaming console was invented that basically became the new internet; now, in 2044, the OASIS is a crucial aspect of modern life and many people escape the worsening effects of climate change and the repercussions of the Energy Crisis by making lives in virtual space. Our protagonist, Wade Watts, has used the OASIS for years to educate himself. He dreams of one day escaping from the “stacks” — the vertical, urban trailer park where he lives in poverty. He even has a plan to make hundreds of billions. For he, like many thousands of OASIS players, is a ‘gunter,’ a person obsessed with finding the prize-winning Easter Egg left behind by the deceased creator of the OASIS.
The story is difficult to put down, due to Cline’s winning combination of premise, plot, pace, and stakes. All of these attributes were solid, especially the pace and stakes. Where I think Cline stumbled was in characterization. Wade was a fine main character. He was someone to root for, even though he wasn’t always admirable. But the supporting cast needed some development. Wade, as a paranoid anti-social, has his reasons for keeping people at a distance, but our narrator is an older, wiser Wade, speaking from the past tense. He has the virtue of hindsight and should give us a clearer understanding of peripheral characters.
Also needing work is another element tied to characterization — dialogue! Each line of dialogue in a book says something important about a character. It’s a powerful tool and helps to shape constructs into believable and understandable people. Ernest Cline failed to hit the nail with the hammer on this point. While reading, I often saw conversations centering on juvenile and inessential topics, or lines of speech that were dime-for-a-dozen and gave no insight into the speaker’s inner workings. This was something I noticed again and again, and felt sore over.
So, Ready Player One isn’t a perfect book. But it is a really good one. It is a book that I’m glad I bought (without reading it first!) and that I’m looking forward to gifting people with. If you’re looking around for something to read, why not give this book a play-through?