Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Nitty Gritty: Ready Player One is the greatest easter egg hunt ever created. Created by a dying genesis obsessed with the 80s pop culture. He plants the egg in the virtual reality simulation OASIS. In OASIS you ca ben anything, anyone and do anything. For many its as addictive as crack and just as enjoyable as sex.
Wade Watts, or Parzival as he is known online, is a gunter, or egg hunter, he devotes his life to finding Halliday's egg and collecting the prize. Billions and dollars and control over the OASIS. He spends his life immersed in the 80s. From the tv shows, the video games, the food, the music, everything in search of clues to the 3 keys that will unlock the gates that will lead to the egg.
He's not the only one hunting. He has set himself up against the rest of humanity and the IOI Sixers, a paramilitary unit of corporate egg hunters out to find the egg to control the OASIS with a capitalist fist. The fate of the humanity rests in the hands of a boy who only wants to go on a date with his online love, Art3mis, a fellow gunter and OASIS celebutant.
Opening Line: "Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first hear about the contest."
The Good: This is a book for everyone who sits down and remembers the 80s with fond memories. Most people agree it was the worst decade for fashion and that might be true, but it was the dawn of the Age of The Geek.
Any book that references Real Genesis is aces in my opinion. I seriously thought I was the only person in the world who has liked or even seen that movie. Its on my DVR back in the states and it is one of my favorite movies and I dare say I would hold it up against Val's Doc Holliday as one of his greatest roles. I love that Wade loves this movie, and I'm glad I'm not the sole fan.
Just as Rick Riordan took the things about ADHD and dyslexia and turned them into superpowers Cline has turned all the obsessions and habits of a nerd and made them bankable. Bankable in a virtual world, but still useful. All the time we spend in fantasy worlds and unplugged from the real world pay off in this tale. They pay off in a big way. The countless hours we spend with a controller in our hands is a good thing. A thing that helps get the prize, and ultimately get the girl.
The Bad: This book is soft core porn for all the white ubergeeks of the 80s. Reading this book you would think that no black person contributed anything or even participated in geek culture in the 80s. While I wasn't a teen like Halliday in the 80s I was a kid and therefore I remember the decade as fondly as Halliday does. However my 80s were a bit more colorful than what is portrayed in this book.
The erasure of black geeks is a constant uphill battle that blerds (black nerds) like myself have been fighting since we bought out first Ghostbusters lunchbox. We are ignored by the mainstream geek culture and picked on and bullied by our African American cohorts. Its a lonely place to be. We are always the sunflower seed in a pile of rice. Where was the Cosby Show, Reading Rainbow, Coming to American, The Golden Child, Beverly Hills Cops, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, The Jeffersons, Fat Albert, Family Matters, Different Strokes, 227, Amen, A Different World, Whitney Houston. Reading this book one would think the nerd world is a totally white space made available by and for white men.Yes Aech turns out to be African American, but Cline took care of that by giving Aech a white boy avatar in OASIS. A virtual space where someone could be a troll or a vampire if they so choose to be. So race or gender shouldn't and didn't really matter. Oh sure he gave us the token "its easier to be a white man" excuse for Aech, but I'm not buying it.
Cline completely and totally disregarded any contribution from black culture into geek lexicon. And it hurts.
The info dumps abound through this book. Which in a fantasy book is sometimes needed, but not when your novel is based in the real world and you are referencing real things. Cline describes things as if he alone is the preserver of all things 80s geek related. As if he were the only geek in the 80s enjoying Labyrinth or Atari or Pacman. I can assure you I loved going to grab a slice of pizza and paying Pacman at the table. Granted I never played a perfect game, but I can still get down on a game if I have to. I think the book could have been streamlined without all the info dumps. 80% of them were wholly unnecessary to the movement of the plot. They seemed to just be dumped so Cline could show off his nerd knowledge. Well grants us nerds are known to show off for each other, but we never do it in full view of the normals. Its just not done. And Ready Player One is the reason why.
For all the buildup of the sinister nature of the Sixers I expected more of a fight out of them. I expected some Jason Bourne, James Bond, Lisbeth Salander antics from them. They blow up a trailer stack and kill one gunter. And those two actions are separated by nearly 200 pages of nothingness from them. I thought they would chase Wade around the real world and through the OASIS. But they didn't and I was disappointed that this turned from a great set up to just another 'chosen one' trope, where everything neatly and always worked out for the main character.
Final Thoughts: I want to give this a two just for the bad taste I got after realizing that my brand of nerdom was totally erased, but it was still an enjoyable read.