Book Reviews

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

A review from my Goodreads. On reading it a second time I’ve made some changes.

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2/5 Stars

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.

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20 thoughts on “Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

  1. I’ve been told to read this one by many people, but something has always kept me away… The “all of this takes place in a video game” premise, for example. I’ve always been a gamer, but I don’t really want to read a book about a video game. The weaknesses you point out here sound problematic enough that I’ll probably continue avoiding this one. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For starters, I respect your opinion. There are a couple of areas I disagree however. You assessment of the dialogue is correct, it was lazy, I think that was the point. I think part of your distaste for the novel stems from a disconnect with the culture. The behavior is very reminiscent of the kinds of kids I knew growing up. Both the lazy and unthoughtful parts of the characters is what makes them well but it is also their demise from the perspective of character development. The book mirrors the king of movies made in America during this era while the setting attempts to be futuristic. I also believe that unfortunately you have to be a certain age or be familiar with life if those of a certain age to reap the full nostalgic benefit. The kind of character depth you are looking for is rarely found in sci-fi novels or movies. Just my take on it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Some interesting points! I definitely think a lot of the nostalgia was lost in translation. I certainly picked up on the book wanting to emulate a movie, which is why I think it will make a better movie than a book.
      But I disagree on your point about the character depth; on the one hand, I agree that character depth is often missing from sci-fi – this is actually a point I made to someone else recently on their review of Huxley’s Brave New World. But you generally find this with hard science sci fi’s , where the book is more a platform for the author’s scientific, psychological and sociological theories than anything else. I don’t feel like Ready Player One can use this excuse? I personally didn’t feel that there was something else in the writing that was done well enough to forgive another aspect being so poor.
      By the way, an excellent exception to this rule is Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time. That’s got some incredible science, brilliant world-building, and excellent characters.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. “I’m sure Matthew Broderick wasn’t the only actor making movies in the eighties.” Okay, this line made me chuckle haha. I just want to stop by and say I agree with you about the sloppy writing and overuse of exposition and explanation.

    The entire premise and majority of the narrative is built on 1980s American pop culture, as you stated, so I can understand why that could cause a disconnect (I’m a 92 baby myself so while I caught a lot of references, some were lost on me as well) and I also didn’t care for the stereotypical geek characters. The author also breaks the Chekov’s gun rule of narrative and that was what turned me off of the book most.

    Thank you for posting an honest review and not falling into the trap of overwhelming positive reviews for something that didn’t quite live up to the hype for me either.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comment!
      After googling Chekhov’s gun (😂) I completely agree with you, that’s an excellent point and (yet another) very frustrating thing about his narrative.
      I make a point to only write honest reviews, hopefully without being negative for negativity’s sake. If I dislike something I do try to back it back up!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, I’m definitely not reading the spoiler part, but I thought your review was very good 🙂 although it makes me even more curious to read this book now, as I was going to read it anyway. As for the knowledgeable teen – I can SO relate to this problem! This is present in half YA books and I often have a problem with that.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I could not agree more with your review, and to indirectly respond to an earlier comment – Good writing will make you care about subjects you otherwise wouldn’t. Bad writing, on the other hand, makes you loathe subjects you should love. This book, built entirely of cliches and shout-outs, is the latter.
    It is a boggling mystery that so many legit, respectable authors and critics are falling over themselves about this book.

    I was born in 79 and recognized most every reference he made. At best, they’d tug a quarter-grin over my face. Worst case, and far more often, exhausted eye rolling / gag reflex triggered.

    I’m familiar enough with my old interests to have sought out a lot of games, books, music, movies and pastimes since I first experienced them. Mario, the Fresh Prince, LoTR, etc. are all fresh with me right now. So the myriad references came off not as refreshing nostalgia, but more like Cline name-dropping hot topics and keywords… and somewhat desperate.

    The pace was as smooth as a cinder block. First 1/4 of the book is a ginormous infodump peppered with sparse characterization and story movement. The rest of the book is one huge unending reference to the 80s, with sparse characterization and story movement.

    I found the “relationship” of the book to be forced, awkward and unrealistic.

    This will easily be a better movie than book.

    Thanks for your review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your review is very well written. I admit I am someone who enjoyed this book, but I think many of your points are well made. In many ways Ready Player One is more of a vehicle for nostalgia fueled conversations with the characters, and a certain amount of wish fulfillment fantasy, as the “nothing character” grows to become one of the strongest figures in the fictional world. It’s more guilty pleasure than strong storytelling, and I think it’s always good to see a few critical reviews out there that actively break down why they didn’t care for the story, in contrast with reviews that read like kind of anger fueled diatribe. Your analysis is well thought out, and it prompted me to consider the story in a new light.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    1. I think that’s the best comment I’ve ever had on one my reviews, thank you so much! I don’t agree with disliking something just for the sake of it, I like to hear people’s reasons behind their choices (my kids are going to hate me so much when they’re older xD)
      I think you’re absolutely right about the book, and for me that wasn’t nearly good enough lol
      thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

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