A review from my Goodreads. On reading it a second time I’ve made some changes.
I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this book; I’d seen a lot of positive buzz about it, even from authors I admire such as Patrick Rothfuss.
Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future (2044) where the overpopulated world is in the grips of an energy crisis. People escape this bleak reality by logging into a virtual world called The Oasis.
The creator of The Oasis has died, and has created an Easter egg hunt with his estate as the prize. The protagonist, Wade Watts, must use all his knowledge of the eighties and retro gaming to solve the clues.
I did enjoy the premise, the idea of a treasure hunt; it felt like Rowling’s Goblet of Fire for gamers.
And I did like the nostalgia; I was born in ’87 in the UK, so much of the references were lost on me but there were many I could appreciate (such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Terry Pratchett)
But I had so many issues.
Although I liked the treasure hunt, the book demanded a large suspension of belief to accept that the teenage protagonist was able to stumble on the answers and had superior knowledge to anyone older or more knowledgeable.
And although I liked the nostalgia, it became insufferable at times. I’m sure Matthew Broderick wasn’t the only actor making movies in the eighties.
The narrative was chock full of unnecessary explanations and descriptions. It seemed to be lacking faith in its readers; for example explaining how to pronounce the acronym IOI. It was exhausting wading through minute descriptions of everything and explanations of how they work. I normally love descriptive text but there are different ways of doing it and unfortunately I did not feel it was utilised well in this book; there wasn’t much scope to use your imagination.
The writing and dialogue was very juvenile. I appreciate the characters were teenagers, but they were shallow stereotypes and their speech was full of postulating and clichés. I didn’t feel like I knew the characters very well at all, any emotional depth that was attempted at felt unconvincing; for example the girl who can’t trust people because of her appearance and her motivation and primary goal is to end world hunger – like some kind of beauty pageant contestant. As a whole, women were very badly represented, and women gamers badly represented. Art3mis came across as a stereotypical nerdy boy’s crush and it was such an uncomfortable read.
Overall the writing felt lazy. Problems facing the plot were fixed by the protagonist winning a “fixes everything” amount of money, or simply knowing how to hack into a system. I kept having to put the book down as something would frustrate me (such as the five and a half pages of text message between Art3mis and Wade, or the relentless description of Wade’s new tech).
I firmly believe it will make a better movie than it did a book.
If you’d like to see what you make of it, Ready Player One is available here
The next part of my review contains SPOILERS regarding the end.
I was relieved to see Wade leave the Oasis at the end and face the real world. However, I disliked his motivation for doing it; namely, Art3mis. His motivation doesn’t arise from the recognition that it’s unhealthy to hide from reality instead of facing and changing his circumstances.
Rather, it was because he was a nerdy boy who likes games and the girl of his limited dreams has shown an interest in him. This was a theme that made me very uncomfortable throughout, this perpetuation of the stereotype that if you like videogames you have to hide away in solitude and girls and women are never interested in you. Cline even proposes that “geeks have a harder time getting laid” and this is why the human race was able to advance scientifically, and as evidence he refers to Einstein (a notorious womaniser who had multiple affairs) and Curie (who was married). I’m not sure if this was an attempt at humour that I’m taking too seriously but it made for difficult reading. The resolution of the book was the nerdy boy miraculously “gets” the girl.
In short, an interesting premise that was let down by poor writing.