The World Ended And All I Got Was This Lousy Simulation – Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One

So I’m back to post-apocalyptia sooner than I expected.  But that’s ok…  My first summer reading book has been completed and I enjoyed it!

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
384 Pages
Random House
August 16, 2011

The economic downturn in the early 21st century became a serious depression and the world economy never recovered.

Around the same time, a man named James Halliday created a realistic video game simulation known as OASIS.  In OASIS, you could become a completely new person through your avatar and escape your tedious life into an untold number of worlds ready for exploration.

The year is now 2044.  Halliday has died and left behind a video will that claims if any player in OASIS is able to find his hidden Easter Egg, they will inherit his riches (which are sizable considering the popularity of OASIS) and complete control over OASIS.

One one side of the search, we have the “gunters” who are (either solo or in groups) hunting for the easter egg with more noble intentions.  At the very least, they’re in it for the sport, as well as the money.

Your hero, on the gunter side, is Wade, not-so-better-known by his OASIS handle Parzival.  He has been searching solo, as have many other millions of people.  But one day, Parzival’s name shows up at the top of the High Score board, as the first person to ever score…

On the other side, you have a corporation known as Innovative Online Industries (IOI).  Their plan, backed with thousands of their own gunters, is to find the easter egg and use the money and power to transform OASIS into a advertising-heavy money machine.

IOI is represented by a man named Sorrento, a real knob end and all around douchebag who will stop at nothing to become the first person to solve all the game’s puzzles and emerge victorious in the easter egg hunt.

The plot is fairly straightforward, but it keeps the book moving at a rather brisk pace.  Because much of the story takes place in the virtual world of OASIS, it takes away some of the dramatic tension when one realizes that the characters themselves aren’t in any real danger… but Cline gives enough detail as to why we should be just as afraid for the character’s avatars as we would for their weak, human bodies.

The writing is also rather funny and the interactions between Parzival and his friends are typically laugh out loud funny and they bleed warmth, and familiarity.  The characters, and their interactions, are essentially secondary to the true star of this novel…

References to the 1980s.

The book gets so bogged down in the constant references to 80s movies, music, and video games that it often reads like a Family Guy script with some of the references not going anywhere.  I would be able to write this off easier if the writing was a bit stronger, but…

The book reads like it’s meant for a teen audience.  The writing isn’t bad, but it lacks complexity and (especially in the case of the villains) subtlety.  This wouldn’t be an issue if not for the fact that most teenagers aren’t going to have any familiarity with about 99% of the references made throughout the book (except maybe Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was from 1975 anyhow).
So there’s the main problem with the novel.  People my age, who are going to understand the references (and they are plentiful and often integral to the plot) may not be able to get into the prose of the novel… and those that would really enjoy the prose aren’t going to understand what the hell Cline’s talking about when he references Joust.
Just the same, Parzival’s story is a fun response to books like The Hunger Games and if you like your post-apocalypse infinitely more geeky, fun (with just enough social commentary!), and packed chock full of references to old video games and movies… You’ll find more than enough to enjoy here.
This is starting to sound like my post about the Hunger Games series.  I really did enjoy Ready Player One.  I really did!  But with a week’s worth of reflection, I’m more able to look critically at its faults.
But there are to reasons the book is worth reading:
1.  For the interactions between Parzival and Aech.  Their funny, and eventually touching, battles for the Nerd-Weight Crown are some of the best parts of the book, and it was the hope of their eventual reunification that kept me reading the novel.2. OASIS.  The real world is not the setting for the novel.  OASIS is where much of the book takes place and Cline has done a bang-up job of making OASIS seem like a real fictional world.  The sheer impossibility of OASIS makes it one of the most fascinating settings in recent science fiction because just about ANYTHING can happen.  And it does (and don’t get me started on why that’s a problem… I don’t want to knock this novel any more!).
So if you’ve ever enjoyed playing an Atari game, or ever been able to quote the entirety of Monty Python and the Holy Grail… this is a novel for you.  Plunk down the $15 and start your summer off right!
Up next:  John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Grant Morrison, and approximately ten tons of superhero comics… Summer reading is in full swing!

2 thoughts on “The World Ended And All I Got Was This Lousy Simulation – Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s