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Archive for September, 2012

Ready Player One

Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

From Ernest Cline‘s website: 
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.

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?

Disclosure:
In real life, my day job so to speak, I am a game designer. I spend my days, and sometimes my nights, designing video games. I have done this for years. I feel the need to disclose this because the way games are designed and developed in this book are not how games are made anymore. There are several references in the book to the development of the OASIS, and every single one of them was jarring to me, to the point of taking away from what was going on in the story. If you don’t know a lot about game development past the early 90s this shouldn’t have any effect, but if you are familiar with the development process be forewarned.

General Impressions:
This book has been talked about for awhile and has been on my TBR list since the first time I heard about it. So needless to say when my spot on the library’s wait list came up I promptly dove into the book. It didn’t take long to get into the story.

This book is Ernest Cline’s first book and there are some tells and pitfalls that show it is a first novel. I have seen some complaints in other reviews about writing style and info dumps. It didn’t really bother me. Sometimes the info dumps were a bit jarring, but not enough to pull you out of the book, and they really did add a level to world that would not have been there otherwise. Also, the writing style fit with the main character and the tangents that happen in the story fit with the type of thought process of people I know like Wade.

Wade, the main character, is a very interesting and resourceful character. He was easily to relate to for me. The biggest thing I liked about Wade is that he kept me guessing. There were times where he would do something I never would have expected, but made sense when looking back. This is what I absolutely love while reading a book. Also, Wade’s love of all things 80s was simply a joy to read, even with the accompanying ear worms. Cline inserts 80s references as little nods to those who grew up during that era. None of the references are really key to the plot, but are there to add another layer to the world.

Final Takeaway:
I highly suggest this, especially if you are a fan of video games and the 80s. Normally when I get jarred out of a book, as described in the rant above, I will put the book down and not pick it back up. It says a lot about this book that not only did I keep reading it, but would stay up late and get up early to read it. I am very interested to see where Cline’s career goes from here. He has a way with stories, and I would like to watch his craft grow and the new worlds he weaves in future novels.

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