2013: Ready Player One

"Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest."

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

One of the review on the back of my paperback copy of Ready Player One refers to it as "a geek fantasia" - another calls it "Willy Wonka meets the Matrix."  Both are so accurate, I wonder whether to bother to review it at all, but since I've already done all this typing, I might as well go on!

The book is, just as suggested, heavily geek oriented.  It's set in the near future - the real world has basically gone to hell thanks to global warming, overpopulation, the usual suspects.  But what exists to give humanity solace is a real alternate universe - a virtual utopia known as the OASIS.  It was invented by James Halliday - who kept it free from corporate control.  In OASIS you can be whoever you want - invent whatever world you want.  Soon it takes over from real life - people live their whole lives there, even attend school there.  And when James Halliday dies, by far the richest man on Earth, he leaves control of the OASIS to whomever can solve the fiendishly difficult riddle he's set up.

And for five years, no one even gets close.  People become obsessed with solving it - they're called "hunters" - they obsessively scour the infinite worlds of OASIS, they try to learn everything they can about all of Halliday's obsessions (read the 1980's culture he grew up in).  People know more about John Hughes movies and Dungeons and Dragons than one would have thought possible.  But no one gets anywhere - not even the corporate groups who are trying to crack the code and take over OASIS - make it a corporate space.

Our narrator is Wade - a teenager, living in a stack of dilapidated trailer homes in Oklahoma, going to virtual school on OASIS, and a hard core gunter.  He doesn't have the resources of others - he's poor, and can't do much travelling beyond the free worlds at school (OASIS is free, but stuff inside it costs real money).  But, lo and behold, he all of a sudden thinks he might be able to crack the code, and solve the first piece of Halliday's puzzle - and that's when the action really begins.

So - this book.  It was absolutely unputdownable.  I tore through it, and I loved the puzzle thing, and the geek culture thing.  I was all set to write a glowing review.  And I still think its a hell of a read, especially if you like puzzles and geeky things.  BUT (and you knew that was coming), the further away I get from this one (and I read it like, December 24th), the less it stays with me.  It's clever and fun, but it's ultimately fluff.  I mean, it all comes too easily in the end.  Good triumphs, etc., and it doesn't really seem that earned.  It's a little, dare I say, Gary Stuish.  So, yes for the world building and the puzzle and the keep you reading quickly, but I don't think it has a ton of substance.  Which is fine, too, I guess.  But the very best books, even puzzle books, have both.  Like, oh, The Westing Game. *

*Though maybe its a little harsh to ding a book for not being my very favorite book of all time.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017