Read by Wil Wheaton
Reviewed by Maggie: July 25, 2012
Published August 16, 2011 by Random House
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Note to VH1: No one loves the 80s as much as YA authors. This is the 3rd book I've read this year set in the 80s, and it's BY FAR the most comprehensive.
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?
This may end up being one of those "on the other hand" reviews where I seemingly have 3 hands and keep contradicting myself because while I enjoyed the book, I also had issues with it.
Good hand: The premise was intriguing and grabbed my attention immediately. A virtual scavenger hunt for billions of dollars based on a rich man's love of the 80s? I'm game! Bonus points for keeping my attention in audiobook form. I've listened to exactly one audiobook in full before -- Finnikin of the Rock -- which had 3 things working for it: 1) It had an Australian narrator, 2) I'd read the book before, and 3) Hello, it's Melina Marchetta. None of those factors were in play for Ready Player One, and since I'm more of a visual person, I worried about how much of the story I would be able to retain without reading it. I actually didn't have any problem understanding or retaining the story because...
Bad hand: ...the beginning was really repetitive. I started this while stuck in my car for hours and at one point, I checked to make sure I hadn't accidentally hit the back button on my iPod because he was saying the same. thing. I think part of the reason may have been to make sure the audience understood this virtual world but the thing is...
Ugly hand: ...the world Ernest Cline is describing isn't SO incomprehensible or wildly imaginative. It's a few steps beyond our current reality, but nothing I can't easily wrap my brain around. I think many readers would say that this is a good thing, but when I read sci-fi, which isn't often, I want to be wowed and blown away. For example, I loved 1984. I loved that it was the world as George Orwell saw it in 1948. Ready Player One is looking at 1984... from 2012. A lot of the world building felt tedious because we don't need all that explanation in 2012. We're already there. It's like when I read articles in the New York Times last year explaining Twitter. Gee, thanks for the tutorial 20,000 tweets in.
Still, the story made me curious enough to stick around for all FIFTEEN+ HOURS of the audiobook, and I'm definitely not the target demographic. The Comic-Con crowd would probably eat this book up. I went to Comic-Con with my friend and when we saw Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, our reaction was,
"Eric from Days of Our Lives!"Wil Wheaton as the narrator was great, except for when he went into his Asian voice for Shoto. Um, why? He didn't suddenly make his voice higher for the female characters so I don't get why he went all Joy Luck Club for Shoto.
"And Dean from Gilmore Girls!"
"What are they doing here?"
Ready Player One was an intriguing concept that lost its novelty for me partway through, but one that I had to finish nonetheless.
Rating: 3/5 stars.