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Ready Player One Hardcover – August 16, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011: Ready Player One takes place in the not-so-distant future--the world has turned into a very bleak place, but luckily there is OASIS, a virtual reality world that is a vast online utopia. People can plug into OASIS to play, go to school, earn money, and even meet other people (or at least they can meet their avatars), and for protagonist Wade Watts it certainly beats passing the time in his grim, poverty-stricken real life. Along with millions of other world-wide citizens, Wade dreams of finding three keys left behind by James Halliday, the now-deceased creator of OASIS and the richest man to have ever lived. The keys are rumored to be hidden inside OASIS, and whoever finds them will inherit Halliday’s fortune. But Halliday has not made it easy. And there are real dangers in this virtual world. Stuffed to the gills with action, puzzles, nerdy romance, and 80s nostalgia, this high energy cyber-quest will make geeks everywhere feel like they were separated at birth from author Ernest Cline.--Chris SchluepGuest Reviewer: Daniel H. Wilson on Ready Player One by Earnest Cline
I dare you not to fall in love with Ready Player One. And I mean head over heels in love--the way you fall for someone who is smart, feisty, and who can effortlessly finish your favorite movie lines, music lyrics, or literature quotes before they come out of your mouth.
Ready Player One expertly mines a copious vein of 1980s pop culture, catapulting the reader on a light-speed adventure in an advanced but backward-looking future.
The story is set in a near-term future in which the new, new form of the Internet is a realistic virtual multi-verse called the OASIS. Most human interaction takes place via goggles and gloves in millions of unique worlds, including the boring (and free) “public education” world from which our teenage protagonist must escape.
Our unlikely hero is an overweight trailer park kid who goes by Wade Watts in real life, and “Parzival” to his best friends and mortal enemies--all of whom he interacts with virtually. Just like the Arthurian knight that is his namesake, young Wade is on a quest for an incredible treasure guarded by mythical creatures. Specifically, the creator of the OASIS and richest man on the planet, James Halliday, stipulated in his will that his fortune be given to the first person who can find an “Easter egg” hidden somewhere in the OASIS. The catch? Every devilishly complex clue on this treasure hunt is rooted in an intimate knowledge of 1980s pop culture.
This leaves the people of the future hilariously obsessed with every aspect of the 1980s. The setup is particularly brilliant, because Ernie Cline seems to have a laser-beam knowledge of (and warm, fuzzy love for) every pop song, arcade game, and giant robot produced in the last thirty years. Seriously, this is a guy who owns and regularly drives a 1982 DeLorean that has been mocked up to look exactly like the time-traveling car in Back to the Future, complete with a glowing flux capacitor.
But Ready Player One isn’t just a fanboy’s wet dream. Real villains are lurking, threatening our hero with death in their ruthless hunt for the treasure. Worse, these corporate baddies are posers with no love for the game – they have movie dialogue piped in via radio earpieces, use bots to cheat at arcade games like JOUST, and don’t hesitate to terrorize or murder people in the real world to achieve their aims inside the OASIS.
As the book climaxes, a mega-battle unfolds with sobering life-or-death stakes, yet soldiered entirely by exciting and downright fun pop-culture icons. The bad guys are piloting a ferocious Mechagodzilla. Our good guy has to leave his X-Wing fighter aboard his private flotilla so that he can pilot an authentic Ultraman recreation. And how do you not grin when someone dons a pair of virtual Chuck Taylor All Stars that bestow the power of flight?
Cline is fearless and he lets his imagination soar, yet this pop scenery could easily come off as so much fluff. Instead, Cline keeps the stakes high throughout, and the epic treasure hunt structure (complete with an evolving high-score list) keeps the action intense. The plot unfolds with constant acceleration, never slowing down or sagging in the middle, to create a thrilling ride with a fulfilling ending.
Best of all, the book captures the aura of the manifold worlds it depicts. If Ready Player One were a living room, it would be wood-panelled. If it were shoes, it would be high-tops. And if it were a song, well, it would have to be Eye of the Tiger.
I really, really loved it.
-- Daniel H. Wilson
Questions for Ernest Cline, Author of Ready Player One
Q) So it seems you’re a bit of a pop-culture buff. In your debut novel Ready Player One you incorporate literally hundreds of pop culture references, many of them in ways that are integral to the book’s plot. What’s the first thing you remember geeking out over?
A) Sesame Street and the Muppets. I thought Jim Henson ruled the universe. I even thought it was pretty cool that I shared my first name with a muppet. Until the first day of kindergarten, when I quickly learned that "Ernie" was not a cool name to have. That was about the time I segued into my next childhood obsession, Star Wars.
Q) Like the book’s hero, you possess a horrifyingly deep knowledge of a terrifyingly broad swathe of culture, ranging from John Hughes movies to super-obscure Japanese animation to 8-bit videogames to science-fiction and fantasy literature to role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. What the heck is wrong with you?! How do you have so much time on your hands?
A) Well, I’m raising a toddler now, so I don’t have as much time to geek out as I used to. I think I amassed a lot of that knowledge during my youth. Like most geeks, I was a sponge for all kinds of movies, TV shows, cartoons, and video games. Then as an adult, I worked at a long series of low paying tech support jobs that allowed me to surf the Internet all day, and I spent a lot of my cubicle time looking up obscure pop culture minutiae from my childhood while I waited for people to reboot their PCs. Of course, I spent most of my off hours geeking out, too. Luckily, all those hours can now be classified as "research" for my novel.
Q) You’re stranded on an island and you can only take one movie with you. What is it?
A) Easy! The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition. (Can I take all of the DVD Extras and Making of Documentaries, too?)
Q) You’re given free tickets and back stage passes to one concert (artist can be living or dead)- who is it and why?
A) Are we talking about time travel back to a specific concert in the past here? Because it would be pretty cool to stand on the roof of Apple Records and watch the Beatles jam up there. But my favorite rock band that’s still together is RUSH, and I just bought tickets to see them this June!
Q) Favorite book of all time.
Q) Best failed TV show pilot available on Youtube?
A) The unaired Batgirl pilot starring Yvonne Craig.
Q) Favorite episode of Cowboy Bebop?
A) “Ganymede Elegy.” Or maybe “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui.”
Q) What’s the first arcade game you ever played? What’s your favorite?
A) I was deflowered by Space Invaders. My all time favorite coin-op game was probably Black Tiger.
Q) Your idea of the perfect day...
A) Play Black Tiger. Then go see Big Trouble in Little China at the Alamo Drafthouse with Kurt Russell and John Carpenter doing a live Q&A afterwards. When I get home that night, I accidentally invent a cheap abundant clean energy source that saves human civilization. I celebrate by staying up late to watch old Ultraman episodes with my daughter (who loves Ultraman even more than I do).
Q) True or False. We hear you own a DeLorean and that you plan on tricking it out to be a time-travelling, Ghostbusting, Knight-Rider car.
A) False. I actually plan on tricking it out to be a time-traveling Ghostbusting Knight Riding Jet Car. It’s going to have both a Flux Capacitor and an Oscillation Overthruster in it, so that my Delorean can travel through time AND solid matter. My personalized plates are ECTO88, just like a DeLorean that appears in my book.
(I’m so glad that you asked this question, because now I can justify buying the car as a "promotional tool" for my book. Everyone reading this is a witness! My DeLorean is helping me promote my book! The fact that I’ve wanted one since I was ten years old is totally irrelevant!)
Q) Speaking of DeLoreans: biggest plot hole in the Back to The Future Films?
A) The Back to The Future Trilogy is perfect and contains no plot holes! Except for the plot hole inherent in nearly all time travel films: The planet Earth is moving through space at an immense speed at all times. So if you travel back in time, you are traveling to a time when the Earth was in a different location, and you and your time machine would appear somewhere out in deep space. For a time machine to be useful, it also needs to be able to teleport you to wherever the Earth was/is at your destination time.
Q) But there are two DeLoreans in 1885--why doesn’t Doc dig out the one he buried in a cave for Marty to find in 1955 and use the gasoline from it to get the other DeLorean up to 88mph?
A) Doc would have drained the gas tank before he stored a car for 80 years, so there wouldn’t have been any gas. And tampering with the DeLorean in the cave at all could conceivably create a universe-ending paradox, because it has to be in the cave for Marty to get back to 1885 in the first place. Totally not a plot hole!
“The science-fiction writer John Scalzi has aptly referred to READY PLAYER ONE as a “nerdgasm” [and] there can be no better one-word description of this ardent fantasy artifact about fantasy culture…But Mr. Cline is able to incorporate his favorite toys and games into a perfectly accessible narrative.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Triggers memories and emotions embedded in the psyche of a generation...[Cline crafts] a fresh and imaginative world from our old toy box, and finds significance in there among the collectibles. A-”—Entertainment Weekly
“A most excellent ride…the conceit is a smart one, and we happily root for [the heroes] on their quest…fully satisfying.”—Boston Globe
“Enchanting…Willy Wonka meets the Matrix. This novel undoubtedly qualifies Cline as the hottest geek on the planet right now. [But] you don't have to be a geek to get it.”—USA Today
“Ridiculously fun and large-hearted, and you don't have to remember the Reagan administration to love it…[Cline] takes a far-out premise and engages the reader instantly…You'll wish you could make it go on and on.”—NPR.org
“A fun, funny and fabulously entertaining first novel…This novel's large dose of 1980s trivia is a delight…[but] even readers who need Google to identify Commodore 64 or Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, will enjoy this memorabilian feast.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The grown-up's 'Harry Potter’…the mystery and fantasy in this novel weaves itself in the most delightful way, and the details that make up Mr. Cline's world are simply astounding. READY PLAYER ONE has it all.”—Huffington Post
“Incredibly entertaining…Drawing on everything from "Back to the Future" to Roald Dahl to Neal Stephenson's groundbreaking "Snow Crash," Cline has made READY PLAYER ONE a geek fantasia, '80s culture memoir and commentary on the future of online behavior all at once.”—Austin American-Statesman
"READY PLAYER ONE is the ultimate lottery ticket."—New York Daily News
"This non-gamer loved every page of READY PLAYER ONE."—Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series
“A treasure for anyone already nostalgic for the late 20th century. . . But it’s also a great read for anyone who likes a good book.”—Wired.com
“Gorgeously geeky, superbly entertaining, this really is a spectacularly successful debut.”—Daily Mail (UK)
“A gunshot of fun with a wicked sense of timing and a cast of characters that you're pumping your fist in the air with whenever they succeed. I haven't been this much on the edge of my seat for an ending in years.”—Chicago Reader
“A rollicking, surprise-laden, potboiling, thrilling adventure story…. I loved every sentence of this book”—Mark Frauenfelder, BoingBoing
"A 'frakking' good read [featuring] incredible creative detail…I grinned at the sheer audacity of Cline's imagination.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[A] fantastic page-turner….READY PLAYER ONE may be science fiction, but it's also written for people who have never picked up an SF novel in their lives…"—Annalee Newitz, io9.com
"Fascinating and imaginative…It's non-stop action when gamers must navigate clever puzzles and outwit determined enemies in a virtual world in order to save a real one. Readers are in for a wild ride."—Terry Brooks, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shannara series
“I was blown away by this book…A book of ideas, a potboiler, a game-within-a-novel, a serious science-fiction epic, a comic pop culture mash-up–call this novel what you will, but READY PLAYER ONE will defy every label you try to put on it. Here, finally, is this generation’s Neuromancer.”—Will Lavender, New York Times bestselling author of Dominance
“I really, really loved READY PLAYER ONE…Cline expertly mines a copious vein of 1980s pop culture, catapulting the reader on a light-speed adventure in an advanced but backward-looking future.”— Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse
“A nerdgasm…imagine Dungeons and Dragons and an 80s video arcade made hot, sweet love, and their child was raised in Azeroth.”—John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling author of Old Man’s War
“Completely fricking awesome...This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body. I felt like it was written just for me.”—Patrick Rothfuss, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wise Man’s Fear
“An exuberantly realized, exciting, and sweet-natured cyber-quest. Cline’s imaginative and rollicking coming-of-age geek saga has a smash-hit vibe.”—Booklist, starred review
"This adrenaline shot of uncut geekdom, a quest through a virtual world, is loaded with enough 1980s nostalgia to please even the most devoted John Hughes fans… sweet, self-deprecating Wade, whose universe is an odd mix of the real past and the virtual present, is the perfect lovable/unlikely hero.”—Publishers Weekly, Pick of the Week
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Here comes the plot set-up, and maybe a ***SPOILER ALERT*** now.
The year is 2044, and the global population endures its fourth decade of economic collapse. Huzzah. In a world of fading prospects and rapidly dwindling natural resources, everyone's favorite pastime is the Oasis, a massive, all-inclusive multiplayer online game that had metamorphosed into a globally networked virtual reality universe what's now habitually accessed by nearly everyone on the planet. The Oasis has become such a panoptic entity, it's become synonymous with the Internet. In the Oasis, kids attend virtual school, business offices can purchase virtual landscape to promote their wares, virtual concerts are staged. Who wouldn't prefer this utopian cyberspace over bleak reality? When they can look for James Halliday's fabled Easter egg, nestled somewhere in the vastness of Oasis?
Eccentric genius video game designer - and creator of Oasis - James Halliday, before dying, recorded a video in which he challenges all comers to seek out his hidden treasure, to first unearth and then figure out the clues he'd embedded in the fabric of his Oasis program. His Easter egg, when found, conveys untold riches and power and unfettered administrative control over the Oasis. Overnight, the hunt for Halliday's treasure became the new global recreation. Halliday's addiction with 1980s pop culture was well documented, and so, too, in their feverish pursuit did these Easter egg hunters - nicknamed "gunters" - immerse themselves in Halliday's obsession, triggering a global revival of 1980s culture. But years and years would elapse before the elusive first clue would surface. Meanwhile, the gunters developed into figures of ridicule.
In the slums of Oklahoma City, in the Stacks - a decaying community in which run-down trailer homes are stacked on top of each other - 18-year-old orphan Wade Watts ekes out a miserable existence. Reclusive and anti-social, Wade is a low-level but dedicated gunter, a walking talking encyclopedia of vintage 1980s facts and trivia. He realizes that his only hope for a better life is to win the game. And so he perseveres when so many have given up. And, even though he's only a self-declared "third level wimp," he works out the location of the first clue. It's a life-changing thing.
The virtual scoreboard allows everyone to track his and other competitors' progress. Wade - or, rather, his avatar Parzival - becomes an instant worldwide celebrity - making him the target of fellow gunters and groupies and the media and, worse, of sinister corporations hungry to seize control of the Oasis. In his quest for Halliday's holy grail, Wade Watts - alliteratively named by his comic book-reading father - must call on every bit of his tech savvy and knowledge of 1980s culture to outwit his competitors and enemies. He is an awesome character that boasts impressive measures of pluck and resourcefulness and audacity in the face of frightening odds. And Wade Watts only becomes more awesome once he's compelled to venture out into the real world for survival's sake.
If the cyberpunk yarns of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson tend to intimidate you, be at ease with Ready Player One. Ernie Cline has crafted an immensely accessible story. He makes you swim in nostalgia. I'm not a 1980s buff, but I'm an old cat who actually lived his childhood thru the '80s, and it is so much fun trying to catch all of Cline's references. Ready Player One is a well-told, richly realized, and incredibly satisfying adventure, one populated by appealing characters. There's even a sweet love story. Wade engages in an online flirtation with a talented fellow gunter named Art3mis, and so we get a peek into Wade's gnawing doubts as to what the person beneath the Art3mis avatar is really like (and even what she really looks like). But that's just misdirection. It's another character who drops the startling reveal.
"Unputdownable" isn't a real word, yet it's the perfect adjective for this book. I think that everyone, at some level, has a grain of geekness in them. If you've ever envisioned scenes of your favorite cartoons or animes interacting, if you've once loved a movie so much that you've memorized entire passages of its dialogue, or been influenced by a rock song to the extent that you'd picked up a guitar to learn the chords... Ernie Cline revives these feelings. Ready Player One moves like a locomotive, and there are scenes in it that will absolutely explode your nerdy brain. Ready Player One was a New York Times Bestseller. It's soon to be a blockbuster motion picture what's directed by Steven Spielberg, and, self-deprecating guy that he is, good luck to him trying to tamp down on the book's references to his movies. I'm hyped for the movie. But the book came first, and the book will have an even more special place in my nerd heart. It's easily in my top five favorite reads ever. Ready Player One, yeah, an immersive, imaginative, childhood-mining, unputdownable read. Armada, not so much.
I will admit that when I first read the synopsis of this book I didn’t think it was my jam. My best friend convinced me otherwise and boy was she right! I loved it! Like really loved it. I am not sure if I would have felt the same way reading the book versus listening; I think since I enjoyed the narration that I was more engaged. Either way I now can’t wait for the movie coming out in March.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is about a highly introverted billionaire, James Halliday, whom leaves his fortune and control of his company to one lucky winner of a treasure hunt he has created inside the virtual reality environment (the Oasis) that he has also created (Wow, realized I wrote a sentence that could easily become some sort of tongue twister). Halliday loves the 80’s: its music, movies and video games…if you don’t, well then you probably would not have had a chance at winning the prize (and would not enjoy this book/audiobook as much).
As someone who is not typically a fan of this genre, what Cline and Wheaton did with this story kept my attention. I did not harp too much on the numerous stereotypes within the book (stereotypical traits of gamers, nerds, and the like) and took the story for what it was (well, to me at least): an entertaining story that brought me into a new world that had me fully engaged from the start. I will certainly be expanding my reading selections moving forward.
Still need convincing (or just enjoying my review)?: One of the book’s main characters is a strong female heroine who is super smart and kicks butt.
Movie will be released March 29, 2018…countdown is on! Who’s coming with me?
That disturbing aspect of Cline's novel is imaginatively and entertainingly written. The first third of the novel is a marvel. I'd give it ten stars. The second two-thirds, like The Martian in many ways, is a bit repetitive and predictable in a TV-series sort of way.
The novel is worthy and well-written, and the fairy tale aspect is touching. You end up rooting for the heroes and heroine, and even get a small glimpse into the motivations and heart of the villain (though I think he could have been much better presented, a la J. K. Rowling's villains).
All in all, a highly enjoyable book. The best take I've read on VR and online gaming. Plus it's lots of fun!
I look forward to the movie, I have confidence knowing the author wrote the script and worked alongside Speilberg among others to put this film together. Fun book. We'll see about the movie..