Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Ready Player One

Summary: 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? -- Crown

By all accounts, READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline should not have been a book that I'd ever pick up. It's basically a science fiction/dystopian book about video games, and I don't read much science fiction (or dystopian for that matter) and I am definitely not a gamer. However, I read some fantastic reviews of READY PLAYER ONE all over the blogosphere; and my favorite go-to entertainment source, Entertainment Weekly magazine, featured it as part of The Must List... so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

And guess what? I loved READY PLAYER ONE and I couldn't have been more surprised by my reaction! This book was unlike anything I've ever read before and I honestly couldn't put it down. I started it one morning while waiting for Booking Daughter at the orthodontist and I don't think I can up for air for a day or two. It was that much fun! My only regret is that I didn't listen to it on audio because Sandy said that it was amazing.

READY PLAYER ONE takes place in 2044 when the good ole' USA ain't so good anymore. The economy has tanked and most everyone's standard of living has taken a drastic nosedive. Resources are scarce and one of the few ways that people have to escape is through a virtual on-line world called OASIS. OASIS is an incredibly complex video world where people can play games, meet others, attend school, and much, much more. The concept of OASIS is kind of "out there," but it's also just real enough to resonate with me.

Like many others, Wade Watts has little hope. That is until the creator of OASIS dies and leaves one last huge video game. He has some hidden some clues within OASIS and the first person to solve them will win an incredible fortune. When Wade discovers the answer to the first clue, he finds himself suddenly caught up in the rush to win the game and earn the ultimate prize. However, there are other individuals (some not-so nice) who are close behind Wade in solving the clue; and Wade finds himself in a fight not only for the prize, but also for his life.

READY PLAYER ONE was definitely not what I was expecting. Yes, it did have lots of references to video games and it was technically science fiction; however, this book will appeal to all types of readers. There are pop culture references that were a lot of fun, but this novel also had interesting concepts about the future, some mystery and intrigue, a little romance, and lots of suspense. I think it's safe to say that there was something for everyone.

Since the creator of OASIS was born around the same time I was (and therefore a child of the 80s), there were tons of pop-culture references that I absolutely loved. To get inside the creator's mind, Wade became an expert on all things from the 1980s. It was so much fun to read about the video games as well as the music, television and movies from that time period. It was kind of like a trip down memory lane for me!

In addition to the fun cultural references, I enjoyed READY PLAYER ONE because it was so clever. I mentioned before that this book was unlike anything I've ever read and that's certainly the case. In fact, I would love to see this novel brought to the big screen! I could go on and on about how smart this book is, but I think it's best to experience it yourself. What I will say is that I definitely appreciated the creative depiction of the futuristic United States. Unfortunately, much of the dismal world he created rang a little too close to home for me -- i.e. the lack of resources, the increased crime, the dependency on virtual worlds, etc.

And my review wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention how much I adored Wade. He was a fantastic character and one that will remain in my thoughts for a very long time. Not only did I find him to be very likable, but I also loved his intelligence, resourcefulness, and courage. Wade was just a wonderful narrator for this story! He provided countless funny moments for me with his sharp wit and his remarkable insight into individuals. And I absolutely adored how vulnerable he became when it fell in love with another girl whom he met on his quest. I couldn't help but root for him and I desperately wanted him to win the grand prize -- he so deserved it!

I feel as if I have only touched upon a few of things that I loved about READY PLAYER ONE in this review, but I truly think you should experience this book for yourself. It's an amazing ride, full of action and suspense; and it's so darn original and smart! I can't recommend it enough!

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for providing a review copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

I was surprised by how much I loved this book too! I thought it was so clever and entertaining and Wade was definitely a fabulous character.

Serena said...

Wow, sounds like this move outside the comfort zone paid off. I haven't heard of this one before, but I'd more likely read it than listen to it because I find sci-fi boring on audio for some reason.

Kay said...

OK, that's it. I have a copy here and have just gone and pulled it out. Reading it next. For sure. LOL

Sandy Nawrot said...

OMG yes this audio ROCKED MY WORLD. Wil Wheaton baby! I haven't written the review yet, becauase I have to get myself worked up. Then I am going to let it rip. I think your review did just that. I'm ready, let me at it.

Beth Hoffman said...

Y'all have convinced me to move this book higher on my list!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm on the waiting list for this at the library - can't wait to read it!

reviewsbylola said...

This isn't a book I would ever pick up either, but all the reviews I have read lead me to believe I will really like this book!

Laura Fabiani said...

This is a book I would enjoy. When a book is well-written it really doesn't matter what genre it is.

iwriteinbooks said...

Oh this is the very next book on my pile! I'm so excited about starting it. Glad you enjoyed it! :O)

joanna said...

This sounds so original! I wouldn't pick it up just from the description, but your review has me intrigued.

Kailana said...

I have heard lots of good things about this book. I really want to read it at some point!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I've avoided READY PLAYER ONE for the same reasons you did - based on your very positive review, it sounds like I made a mistake!

Looks like I'll be pleasantly surprised when I do read this.