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Review: Ready Player One June 25, 2012

Posted by Jesse in : Book Reviews , add a comment

I have a really long commute to work, so I listen to quite a few audiobooks in the car. This weekend I finished Ernie Cline’s Ready Player One, narrated by Wil Wheaton, and I really, really liked it.

The story is set in the year 2044, and the world is in a horrible state. There’s a major energy crisis, the environment is screwed, there’s a population problem, and a general feeling of apathy has taken over. To get away, most of the world seems to spend most of their lives logged into the OASIS.

The OASIS is a Matrix-like computer generated world that got its start as a very complex video game, but has grown up to replace the internet and take over the world. When the creator of the OASIS (Jim Halliday) dies without any heirs, he triggers a contest to solve a series of games and puzzles. The winner will inherit everything. Halliday was obsessed with 80s geek culture, and thus the contest revolves around the 80s, and the book is filled with a constant stream of 80s references. Video games, movies, music, novels, fashion, breakfast cereal, it’s all in here.

I had a great time with the book. Since I was born in 1977, my teenage years were during the 1990s, but I definitely have a huge soft spot for the 80s. If you’re a fan of modern geek culture, enjoy cyberspace stories (Neuromancer, Snow Crash, The Matrix), or you’re a fan of the 80s like me, I think you’ll enjoy the book too. Cline created a world that I really want to step into, and I hope he writes more novels about it.

Since I consumed the audiobook version, I should mention the narration. Wil Wheaton did a fantasic job on this book. So good in fact, that I immediately purchased John Scalzi’s Redshirts, which Wheaton also narrated. It’s really clear that he was having a blast reading this story, and I imagine he had to stop several times to ask if he was really getting paid to say these lines. (Particularly a line about himself and Cory Doctorow. It made me giggle a bit.) There’s a scene where the main character has to quote from a well-loved 80s movie, and he really put himself into the role so it was a lot of fun to listen through.

I did have a couple of problems, but they’re really minor.

Spoiler Warning – Spoiler Warning – Spoiler Warning
Don’t read any further unless you’ve finished the book!

Since I work for the parent company of World Events Productions (the company that created Voltron) I was really hoping for a better showing for my favorite robot lions. How awesome would it have been for Voltron to form blazing sword and face off against Mechagodzilla? (Ernie and Wil, I’d be glad to raid the Voltron store and send you guys a t-shirt. Email: jesse@thirdpartyninjas.com)

A couple of times the OASIS is referred to as an open-source system. If that’s true, then how would it be possible for Wade to delete the source code for the OASIS by pressing the “big red button” as described by Virtual Halliday? Perhaps he meant that the OASIS is an open architecture that programmers can create additional content for. Maybe Cline just misused the term. It doesn’t really matter much, I was just a bit confused.

I wish we’d gotten to spend more time with Aech and Art3mis. I know this is Wade’s story, but I found them to be equally interesting.