Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Published: August 16, 2011
Genres: Adult Fiction, Audiobook, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook (15 hrs and 46 mins)
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.
Ready Player One was like Willy Wonka meets a virtual reality video game and 1980’s culture. It was a blast to read. The dystopian setting in the near future was not something I was expecting. I felt like it was a way to add a little depth to a story that a lot of people might dismiss as frivolous since it’s about video games. It made me really think about how we are using our Earth and the energy on it without becoming preachy. The virtual reality felt like science-fiction but the dystopian world felt real enough that I walked away from this book wondering what we should do to conserve energy. I loved the idea that an energy crisis would make cheap entertainment rise in demand. It reminded me of the huge rise in demand of movies during the Great Depression. Also the 25 cent price of the virtual reality game invoked the 80’s vibe again of a video arcade.
I love books full of pop culture references. I love to look them all up and then write about them in a blog post but there were so many movies, music, TV shows, books, authors, video games, and comics from the 1980’s mentioned that I would have to rewrite the book to blog about all the things referenced in the story. Even though I was a young kid in the 80’s and not a teen, I still knew some of the 80’s references like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And I definitely geeked out at all of the Star Wars references – especially the strike team waiting for a shield to go down. Since there are so many cultural references in the book, if you don’t know at least a few of them I could see that it might feel kind of tedious. At the same time, the author, Ernest Cline, takes the time to adequately explain cultural references that apply to the story of the novel. He doesn’t just assume that you should obviously know all of these things. I just think references tend to be a little more fun when you know what they are. It’s also really fun to learn things from references – for example I didn’t know that Cosmos originally came out in the 80’s.
This quest for an easter egg is completely addicting. It blends the virtual reality with the real world since the consequences of one start to bleed into the others and the lines between them start to blur. I clean my house while listening to audiobooks and I would find excuses to do some more laundry and dishes so I could listen a little bit longer. Very unlike me.
Ready Player One is an example of a book that the author just put their heart and soul into. You could research the massive amounts of references that were in this book, but even then it wouldn’t be the same. I could tell the author had a love for everything 80’s and vintage just like the main characters. Research could not bring that much detail and care.
The characterization was so unique in this book. Since most of the characters are avatars of themselves, we get to know their personalities inside and out before we see what they look like in the real world. I felt my biases challenged a little bit when their personalities and their looks were separated. The characters were complex, interesting, and the best sign of all – I wish I knew them in real life.
Narrator Rating: ★★★★★
Wil Wheaten did a great job narrating. He read at just the right pace. His voice seemed to suit this sci-fi story very well. The voice inflections he used just immersed me in the story even more. It was also kind of hilarious for him to read a pop culture reference about himself.
Overall, you don’t have to be a video game nerd to enjoy this complex dystopian with great characters and massive amounts of really fun 1980’s references.
Content Rating: High, for language and discussion of masturbation. The f-word is used about half a dozen times throughout the book.
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