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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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?

Released:  August 16th 2011            Pages: 374
Publisher: Random House NY         Source: Library

First Look: ****I've seen this one floating around on Goodreads for awhile, but for some reason I've completely ignored it until recently.  I'm not sure why.  Once I really read the synopsis, though, I knew I had to get myself a copy. 

Setting: ***** 
One GIF:

It's like watching Inception.  Like seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.  The visuals, the experience--brain overload.  Your brain is all like "WHAT.  I can't even handle all these sensations."  Or at least, that was my experience with Inception and Phantom.  The visuals are so incredibly cool that you brain goes all asdfjkl;.  (Don't deny it--asdfjkl; is a real feeling.)

Everything about this setting is cool.  I felt like I was immersed in this world the entire time, and I loved the feeling of it.  Everything, from the dystopic "reality" to the in-game worlds were fully realized, planned, and described.  I enjoyed sitting back and simply taking it all in.  It was unique and fresh, and I wish more settings gave me the same sense of "This is so COOL!"

 Characters: ***** I liked Wade.  He has an awkward, geeky charm to him.  His actions and emotions were portrayed in a way that made him realistic.  Maybe a bit scary at times--after all, he did spend weeks without ever leaving his apartment, without ever speaking to anyone.  Playing a video game.  That's the dream of every basement World of Warcraft player, right?  Except Wade actually pulled it off.  That takes a huge amount of introversion.  In this book, though, in the storyline, it worked.

I liked others, too.  Aech was also likable and realistic, and I liked the bond between him and Wade (as well as the real-life friendship, once they meet).  Art3mis was a love interest that, for once, you could actually see why the main character was attracted to her.  So many YA love interests have no purpose apart from to be the love interest, but Art3mis had her own personality and motivations just like everyone else.  She was probably my favorite character.

 Plot: ***** I love books that involve a game or competition.  It adds a whole new element to the plot.  Done well, it can really add to the intensity of a book.  And this was done well.  I was kept interested the whole time (mostly). 

My only problem was that every single in-game "challenge" that Wade encountered, he was able to complete with no problem.  (For those of you who haven't read it--as part of his quest to find the in-game fortune, Wade had to complete a few "missions", like winning a video game inside of the massive video game.)  I understand that Wade knew basically everything there is to know about 1980s pop culture, but is it realistic that he would be a master at every single game that came up?  He knew the lines to every movie he needed to know?  It might have been more interesting if he'd had to work a little harder at some of this, because after the first time around I knew there wasn't much of a chance he'd fail.

Uniqueness: ***** 
Finally, here is a dystopian/futuristic novel with a cool twist.

Writing: ****
The writing was well done, and didn't distract me from the story at all.  My only problem, though, was the amount of infodump that went on.  The story moved quite slow towards the beginning, because of it. I'd heard about this book's 50-page infodump, and the reviewers didn't lie.  Some of it was interesting, yes, but it dragged a little. 

Likes: I don't want to give any spoilers, but I'll just say this--Wade's reaction to seeing Art3mis in real life, with all her imperfections, made me respect him even more.

In thirty years, can someone make a book like this with 2000s or 2010s pop/fandom culture?  Someone will be saved by knowing the significance of "Moffat! *shakes fist*", quoting The Avengers flawlessly, or being able to recite every line from The Reichenbach Fall without sobbing uncontrollably, or something.  Maybe I'll do this.
Also, I'm watching Iron Man as I type this.  I just thought that was worth noting.

 Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned above, so I leave you with this GIF of Hiddlesworth playing a video game.  It's kind of related, since this book is about video games.
I love how Chris is all intense about it and Tom is just "I played a video game once maybe".

 Overall: How to describe this book?  Geek.  Geeky.  Geekfest.  The geek is strong with this one.  It'll also make people who love the 80s happy, because this book is basically one big tribute to both geeks and the 80s.  It's exciting, with likable characters.  It has an awesomely planned and described setting.  It had some infodump problems, but overall, I very much enjoyed this.   And I'm not even a gamer, and have never lived in the 80s.

Similar Books: This book had a very similar premise to Epic (except that Ready Player One was everything I wished Epic had been), dealt with virtual reality like The Reality Bug, took place only a few decades in the future like Unwind, and felt a bit like A Confusion of Princes, though I'm not sure why.  The writing style, maybe.

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  1. Will definitely be picking up a copy of this some time soon! Sounds like such a cool read.

    Marlene Detierro (All Alaska Outdoors Fishing Lodge - Alaska Ptarmigan Hunting)

  2. The book is a thrill ride from start to finish. It's perfectly paced and you'll never want to set it down. The entire hunt revolves around hundreds of references to 80s music, movies, games, novels and comics. It's just a fun read. There's tons of action and comedy, but the book can also be surprisingly touching. There's a love story here that I won't get too much into, but it's very well written. You'll love the characters by books end, and wishing there were another 400 pages to read.

    I can't recommend Ready Player One enough. Just a delight all around.
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