Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011, Arrow Books)
The front cover blurb states that Ready Player One is Willy Wonka meets The Matrix. In my view it’s more Willy Wonka meets Ender’s Game and Virtual Light. Wade Watts is the poor kid living in a post-apocalyptic, gerry-built, bricolage landscape, escaping into the virtual worlds of the OASIS with the dream of solving an eccentric inventor’s challenge and inheriting the company and associated fortune. There’s very little to fault in Cline’s storytelling or the detailed world he creates, which has a strong sense of plausibility and realism. Wade is on a dungeons and dragons style adventure through an enormous set of virtual worlds, where the quest is steeped in references to 1980s culture - the music, video games, movies and fashions. On his journey he undertakes challenges, collects artefacts, builds the powers of his character, makes friends, falls in love, and battles an evil empire to save the future of humanity. And just like an addictive game, the story hooks the reader in and the pages keep turning. The characterisation is nicely done, the plot is excellent, and the contextualisation is very well realised. Indeed, it’s clear that Cline spent a lot of time on the details and it shows -- it’s a tale about a bunch of geeks doing geeky stuff that is geeky in its creation. At times it’s a little too linear, and once Wade has found a path he tends to travel down it relatively easily, and the real world tends to fade into the background, but this is all very minor stuff. Overall it was a joy to read and given its strong plotting and intertextuality, I can envisage the story being made into a TV series or a movie.