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.
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
Before I even begin, I will confess that I am a former gamer and thus may have taken a little more from this book than someone who isn’t. But seriously, it’s not a prerequisite or anything.
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. This book has been on my radar for some time and after seeing several great reviews for the audiobook I decided to give the audio a shot. Thank you, Ernest Cline, for brightening up my work days for a solid week.
First, let’s talk narrator. When I have listened to audiobooks in the past the narrator has mostly been an afterthought for me. I know, I know, that sounds strange. It should be the foremost thing that I notice, right? Probably, but unless they are really bad or their voice bugs or something I just kind of tune it out and focus on the story. Not so in this case. I honestly don’t think that a better narrator could have been chosen for this book. Wil Wheaton was just amazing, amazing casting. If you’re familiar with him at all you probably know that he’s a bit of a cult icon amongst internet dwellers (hopefully you follow Wheaton’s Law…don’t be a dick) and has a pretty broad following from his sci-fi work as well. I’m not so into sci-fi but I can’t recommend The Guild enough, especially if you are a gamer of any sort. Anyway, he’s great. Very entertaining and he does great accents – including Canadian, which I think would have been overlooked by a lot of narrators. So bravo on that one. And there is one part that ends up being hilariously meta and made me laugh out loud. I think I have developed a bit of a nerd crush.
Depending on your age or how immersed in pop culture you are, Ready Player One has a crazy amazing number of pop culture mentions. They are too plentiful to list, but among my favorites were Ghostbusters, John Hughes movies, Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo, Better Off Dead…and oh. muh. gawd. There’s a Planet Goondocks with a Goonies quest inside the Oasis. Goonies Never say die!
Wade is an awesome main character. He’s a huge nerd and not all that attractive – so in other words, he flies in the face of the typical YA male main character. He’s also dirt poor and both of his parents are dead, so you can’t help but really feel sorry for him. I was rooting for him SO HARD as he tried to solve Halliday’s game and collect the fortune/take over the company! And the secondary characters are pretty great also, especially Wade’s best friend H. He’s totally cool and engaging, and he and Wade have a genuine friendship even though it exists completely in cyberspace. I was less crazy about Artemis, though she did eventually grow on me as the book went on. And villains. WHOA. This book has a villian that is off the charts bad and it’s an entire freaking CORPORATION. I mean don’t get me wrong, there is a huge dick working for the corporation, but the company itself is Wade’s nemesis as they are huge cheaters and do not follow Wheaton’s Law at all. I loved this. They were so easy to hate and I felt scandalized any time they did something dickish or evil.
So am I just going to sit here and rave about how amazing this book is? Mostly, yes. I did have a few minor problems with it – namely I didn’t understand why, when Halliday went to so much trouble to create the game, he totally ignored how easy it would be to cheat. And I did find myself zoning out a bit a few times when Wheaton would be reading a long bit about technical specs or the scoreboard. These really were minor nitpicky things, though.
I can’t recommend this book enough and I highly suggest that you seek out the audio version if you have the opportunity to do so. It really adds to the experience in this case.