Book Review – Ready Player One

Not to give away my thoughts on the novel in the opening sentence of the blog post or anything, but wow, what a read this was. Having said that, I didn’t understand the hype around this novel until I’d read over a hundred pages.

Before we get to that, though, a quick summary of the story. This will be a spoiler-free post, so please keep reading even if you haven’t read the novel. 🙂

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is set in the year 2045, in the aftermath of the chaos humanity caused on planet earth. The story is narrated by Wade Watts, a high school student and orphan who lives with his aunt in the Oklahoma City stacks (trailers stacked on top of each other, held in place by metal beams). That’s who he is in the real world, anyway. In the OASIS, the massively multiplayer online simulation game created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow, he’s known as Parzival, named for the Arthurian knight, Percival.

Now, James Halliday was an eccentric billionaire, addicted to all things from the 80’s, who left his entire fortune as a prize in a game, called Halliday’s Easter Egg Hunt. Upon the day of his death, he announced this game and shared the rules – the winner of the hunt would win his fortune and also ownership of the OASIS. All the players had to do was follow the riddles and quests (which all had to do with the 80’s) to find the Egg.

As you can imagine, everyone started hunting for the Egg. Also, the 80’s became cool again and the culture, films, novels, games and TV shows from the era were studied religiously, to find clues about the Egg. When Wade’s story starts, the hunt for the Egg has been going on for five years, without any success.

Now, I mentioned that I was reading Ready Player One in another post, where I also admitted that it was going painfully slowly. The story just didn’t grab me. It took me about four weeks to read the first hundred pages for that reason.

I’ve spoken to a few other folks who have read the book and they all said the same thing – exposition, exposition, exposition. The information you’re given at the beginning of the novel slows down the pace incredibly and there’s a lot of repetition. If I’m being completely honest about it, I wouldn’t have finished this novel at all if so many friends hadn’t sworn it was really good. I usually bail after thirty pages.

I’m so glad I listened to the recommendations, though. Once you break through the backstory and Wade’s story really starts taking off – at page 106, the beginning of chapter 7, if we’re being precise – every word just leaps off the page to grab and suck you in.

As I mentioned above, I spent four weeks on the first hundred pages, but finished the remaining four-hundred-and-seventy-five in two days. I couldn’t put the book down, nor did I want to.

Being a gaming nut and major geek myself, the premise of the story really spoke to me. I mean, who doesn’t want to hang around in a virtual world where anything is possible, with so many references from the time you were born? This is the geek dream, folks.

I also have to admit that the info dumps in the first few chapters do help you understand the world so much better later, when the pace picks up, but it is still my biggest issue with the novel. Maybe I’m so wary of exposition simply because I’ve been called out for writing arm-long info dumps fairly often (I have wonderful editors, if you’re looking to be called out too 😛 ). From a writing point of view, it’s something we’re taught to avoid at all costs. At the same time, most of my friends and family aren’t writers and don’t know the exposition rule, but still picked up on the slow start of the novel.

Ignoring the info dumps though, the writing is super tight and the characters are interesting and well-developed. Wade is an awesome narrator and I really enjoyed seeing the world from his point of view. I also loved the other characters, especially Aech and Art3mis, who are epic.

The idea of the OASIS makes me giddy. To be able to go to all of the worlds I’ve been fangirling over all my life, and then some, would be so amazing. Add the free education and access to every book ever written in virtual libraries, and it sounds idyllic. Still, the message that nothing compares to real human interaction is strong and wonderfully delivered.

And now I can’t say anything more, for fear of spoiling the plot. 😛

All in all, this is an awesome novel that I recommend to anyone, especially fellow gamers. In fact, writing this review makes me want to read it again. I think it’s safe to say Ready Player One will always remain on my favourites list.

Thanks for stopping by and have a good weekend.