Ready Player One - Ernest Cline Let me cut to the chase and ask a few pointed questions:

1. Were you raised in the 80's and/or love 80's geek culture?

2. Are any of the following movies among your favorites: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, War Games, Blade Runner, Ladyhwake?

3. Do you love video games, tabletop RPG games, D&D, or MMO's?

4. Is your iPod filled with Rush and ACDC?

If you answered "YES" to any of those questions, stop reading this review RIGHT NOW and buy this book. I'll wait until you finish reading it before continuing my review.



This book has totally blown my mind. I spent an entire weekend reading it. I read it while eating; I read it while waiting for downloads or airplanes; I read it before bed. I couldn't get enough of this book. It has become one of my Top 10 Favorites of All Time.

What about this book has made the slowest reader into a speed reader? What about this book stopped me from wasting time surfing the Internet for Memes I've missed? What has captivated me so much that I want to go to the nearest mountain and scream, "I HAVE READ THE MOST AWESOMEST BOOK EVER AND YOU NEED TO READ IT TOO"?

This book has so much going for it. Great world-building. Well-developed, realistic characters. A nerdy, geeky sub-culture. Science-fiction. A post-apocalyptic world. A well-done romance. NO ROMANTIC TRIANGLES. A love for the 80's. A deeper look at how the Internet affects us now, and the differences between reality and virtuality.

Cline obviously loves the 80's. This entire book is a tribute to that totally tubular era. We have the obvious mentions of popular culture--the music, movies, and video games of the era. But I see the whole book as a tribute to an 80's movie. The young man living in destitution dreaming of hope while living his existence in a virtual reality. Where he meets the woman he's always wanted. Supported by his gnarly friend. And through the strength and wit of his own mind, he is able to solve the puzzles and forge ahead. After a few montages (the romance montage, the "training" montage) and a setback in Act 2, our hero determines to press on--but his goals are no longer the "Fame and Fortune" of his youth. He's there to fight against the faceless enemy (lead by the evil villain out for profit and to destroy people's freedoms in the name of business). He's fighting to prove his love to the girl of his dreams. He's there to bring hope to the destitute.

Quintessential 80's movie? For sure!

Our characters are lovingly created, from our protagonist Wade/Parzival, to his love, Art3mis, to his best bud, Aech (think "H"). Wade is everyman; he is a normal student, trying to get by while living in the slums of Nowhere, Oklahoma with his aunt. He's an average guy, with an above-average obsession with everything 80's and specifically the likes of his role model, James Hallidy, video game designer of the most popular game, OASIS. Wade reminds me of myself and others I know. He's obsessed with video games, 80's nostalgia, and geeky films. He retreats into them instead of facing life, and yet instead of enjoying this freedom, he wants more.

Art3mis did scare me a bit; Love Interests can often be shallow, excuses for a hot babe and a good roll in the sack. But Art3mis isn't that girl. She is like me as well. She is a nerd girl amongst guys. She is strong-willed, independent, free-thinking, and determined. She doesn't need a man to save her; she works fine on her own, thank-you-very-much. But she definitely does have chemistry with Wade, and she admires/loves him. Seeing them grow together was a breath of fresh air; no "insta-loves" or "stalker loves" here!

And lastly, we have Aech. Aech is quite the mysterious figure (when you find out his identity, I'm sure you'll be a bit shocked, I know I was--not to mention who he turns out to be says a little bit about the supposed "freedoms" in this utopic OASIS), but he works well with Wade. They somehow are able to be the best of friends even though they are both competing for the same prize. And even when their relationship hits a few bumps, you don't have long drawn out Big Misunderstandings between the two.

I do have a few character complaints, but they are really minor. Shoto and Daito are said to be Japanese and they talk a lot of "honor". Not saying there is anything bad about this, but it feels a bit stereotypical. There aren't many females in this book--Art3mis is really the only major female character. However, this may have been done on purpose (all the jokes about how rare gamer/geek girls are and such). There is a character that appears at the end to save the day, in a somewhat Deus Ex Machina fashion. I'm not too perturbed at what he does--the book is somewhat fashioned after an 80's movie--but I wish that we had more time with him, understanding him.

Cline was a master at the world-building. There are a lot of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction out there right now, and most of it suffers because of poor world-building and not a deep enough understanding of how the world works (oh, yeah, and this thing called "Let's make a romance and toss in some bits to make it about a dystopia, because EVERYONE loves romances and dystopias are popular right now"). This is not true with "Ready Player One". I felt Cline did a superb job advancing us 30 years into the future (though some of the devices he talks about feel a little too advanced, but those occur later in the book). I felt as if I were being plugged into the OASIS, being transported alongside Wade, Art3mis, and Aech. From Wade's home in Oklahoma to the remote depths of OASIS, the world was real to me. I loved the attention to detail Cline included--giving the background of Halliday, the energy crisis, the deteriorating living conditions, etc.

The writing is addictive. Once I started reading, I really couldn't stop. It had a great flow to it, was clear and clean, and really matched well with Wade's personality. I certainly didn't expect to read this book as fast as I did; I am a VERY slow reader and getting through an almost 400 page book in a weekend is a rarity for me!

I've hinted at the story, comparing it to classic 80's movie plotlines, but it genuinely is unique and interesting. I love journey/adventure stories. I love stories where a character uses his or her own mind to solve puzzles and to race against time/someone else. And "Ready Player One" has that in abundance. Wade has to find a key, but he has numerous obstacles in his way. Money. Resources. The Threat of the Sixers. Love. His struggle to find meaning and hope in a world that isn't worth living in. It's a deep, compelling story, one that resonates with me.

Towards the middle of the book, the story does slow and threaten to come to a halt. This is around the time of the romance/training montage. I get WHY these scenes were necessary (what good 80's movie would NOT have a montage???), but there was more than once that I almost put aside the book and left it there. Fortunately, these sections don't last long, and once again, we are thrown back into the race for the keys.

I loved this book. It was a totally awesome book. I loved almost everything: from the characters to the story to the world-building to the 80's geek out to the prose. But what really sticks out is the message. It's a message that is becoming more and more real to me: what is reality and do we want to bother with it? If there is a paradise, a world where you can be whatever you want, an "OASIS" from life, should we run away from the hardships of reality and sequester ourselves into this otherworld? How are real friendships affected by the distance that we place people, the anonymity we shroud ourselves in when we adopt these artificial constructs and run around in this virtual world? Can real friendships be made with those we've never met in person? And how will this affect us in the future?

I don't have all the answers, but I know one thing: as much as I love surfing for more YouTube videos of cats, I would much rather spend time with my family and friends (friends I've met both in the real world and the virtual world), than in the grips of a virtual paradise. And I think Cline, uber geek that he is, feels the same way.

So, yeah, go out, buy this book now. You won't regret it.

P.S. Oh, and I SO HOPE they make a movie out of this. I think it could seriously ROCK!!