I’m sure by now that most of you have heard of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. But for those not in the know, here’s the brief description from Wikipedia:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Okay, so there’s the gist of the story. If you’re curious about reading it, or haven’t finished the book yet, STOP NOW. I will be talking in depth about the book and its story. So it should be without saying that there WILL BE SPOILERS.
Getting into it now, I guess I should start by saying that overall, I didn’t like this book. Honestly, I don’t get why it was lauded over for the past few years. Hell, even Spielberg is set to make a movie based on this book. What?
But let me explain why I didn’t like this book first. It wasn’t all bad, and I’ll get to that. It seems right to start at the beginning though.
First off, I don’t like the main character. He’s rather one-note (a problem any characters share), and overall kind of uninteresting. Thankfully it’s easy to forget who you’re reading about since the book takes place in first-person. I just took to creating my own character in my head and pretending that was the protagonist. It didn’t really work in the long run, but I did what I could to make it interesting.
The villain, if you could say there is one, is cliche. It’s your typical evil corporation who wants to take the thing that’s free and popular and charge lots of money when they take control of it. And the guy chosen as the figure of the corporation is barely present in the story. As far as I remember he only has two scenes with the protagonist. It’s hard for there to be a lot of conflict when the villain isn’t really present in the story.
While the character of Art3mis was interesting at first, the fact that a romance just had to bloom between her and Wade just played right more cliches and tropes. It read to me like the guy had just met his YouTube crush and somehow she managed to find him interesting. There’s some conflict in the relationship but naturally everything comes together at the end. It read as forced to me.
So if you know anything about Ready Player One, you know that the 80’s culture is extremely important to the plot. And while elements of that are fun to see pop up here and there, a lot of it is so steeped in nostalgia it makes you cringe just reading it. It reads like the author was bullied as a child for being nerdy. So he decided to make his obsessions so important to the plot that without it no one would get rich (of course the irony is that he did become rich and famous off of it through this book).
Besides that, the plot steadily becomes more and more predictable as it goes on. There was infighting between the antisocial Halliday and the more jovial Morrow – who by the way are modeled exactly after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak – and because of that they hadn’t spoken in ten years. It becomes something of a subplot as to why this is. But once you get a little backstory on the two characters, which appears in the beginning of the story, you can easily tell what happened between the two. It’s practically spelled out for you. It was obvious that there was jealousy on Halliday’s part when it came to Morrow’s wife.
This predictability continues until the third act, when for some reason Cline just starts throwing Deus Ex Machina’s at the plot. Things start happening that were purposefully hidden from you in order for there to be some kind of surprise. The fact that Wade happened to buy the access codes to all of IOI’s infrastructure came out of the blue. There wasn’t even a throw away scene to show him buying them and saving them for later. He just happened to have them when he needed them most.
Then when all the characters are under the gun and it seems like all is lost, Morrow shows up to bail them out. It turns out he’s been watching our main characters all along… And now he wants to help them win the contest by giving them access to his wonderful mansion with all the high-tech gear that could ever want. Why this only happened now, instead of in the beginning once the contest got going (for real) is beyond me. It just seemed like a way to wrap up a few sub plots and stick Morrow in the ending of the book.
There’s a weird transphobic comment in the middle of the book. It has to do when Wade is talking to Art3mis. Just seemed rather out of the place and the book doesn’t do anything like that again. It just rubbed me the wrong way.
The reveal of Aech’s true identity also felt forced. It felt like Cline had reached the end of the book and realized he’d only written thin, straight, white people. And there was only one main female character. So he made Aech’s real life identity black, female, heavyset, and lesbian. Now I don’t mind a character being any of those things. But to shoehorn it in at the very end – and then to continually refer to Aech by her in game persona seemed extremely forced.
This probably isn’t even the full list of things I had issues with but it’s late and I’m tired. So there it is. I’ll still see the movie, because I’m curious to see what Spielberg changes and how he can improve it. There’s plenty of room to do so.