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Ready Player One: A Novel Paperback – June 5, 2012
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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!
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“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.” —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
“An addictive read...part intergalactic scavenger hunt, part romance and all heart.” —CNN.com
“An action-packed, highly entertaining, nostalgic thrill ride through the past combined with the danger and excitement of a not-too-distant future. It marries the fantastical world of Harry Potter with a touch of Orson Scott Card—where fantasy is reality, geeks are cool, and the possibilities are endless.” —New York Journal of Books
“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 delirious, crypto-nerd fantasia...Crammed with ’80s nostalgia and sugar-high prose, it's ridiculous and addictive and full of toy surprises.” —Village Voice
“A smart, funny thriller that both celebrates and critiques online culture...Layered with inside jokes and sly references.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“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
“If you identify yourself as a nerd, geek, gamer, 1980s history buff, a fan of science, fantasy, or dystopian fiction, otaku, 1980s movie fan, romantic, someone who grew up in the 1980s, or a human with emotions—you will enjoy Ready Player One. If you identify with two or more of the above, it’s a guaranteed new favorite novel.” —Sacramento News & Review
“A modern-day fairy tale...so self-assured and enthralling that it’s hard to believe this is his first novel.” —Long Island Press
“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
“An exhilerating, unpredictable trip...Part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and part The Da Vinci Code with a healthy dose of Tron.” —Asbury Park Press
“READY PLAYER ONE is the ultimate lottery ticket.” —New York Daily News
“[Picture] the adventure comedy of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy meets South Park’s Imaginationland with a dash of Willy Wonka, except all of the cynicism has been replaced by sheer geeky love. Grade: A.” —AVClub.com
“A preposterously great read and a richly imagined science-fiction world that uses the very idea of nostalgia as a thematic jumping-off point...One of the true geek events of the year.” —HitFix.com
“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
“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
“Intriguing and thrilling. Gamers and fans of '80s pop culture will find many familiar references throughout the story...Definitely an enjoyable read and one that can be appreciated by fans of many different genres.” —Examiner.com
“Gorgeously geeky, superbly entertaining, this really is a spectacularly successful debut.” —Daily Mail (UK)
“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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Top Customer Reviews
If you haven’t yet read Ready Player One, what are you waiting for? Seriously, read this right now!
Even though it’s about gamers, you don’t have have to be a gamer to enjoy Ready Player One. Trust me, I’m the one of the worst video game players ever (my skills are directly related to the level of graphics – the better the graphics, the worse I play), and I freaking LOVED Ready Player One.
While I think that you should be a fan of the 80’s, you probably don’t have to be to enjoy the book, but it’ll make it better. I was born in ‘81 and there were a few references that I didn’t get, but it wasn’t a big deal.
I was completely sold on Ready Player One by page 3. All it took was a Heather’s reference. (What’s that? You’ve never seen Heathers? It’s probably on Netflix, go watch it!)
The OASIS is basically a virtual reality playground. The virtual reality sounds amazing. Not only does everything look completely real it’s Star Wars universe big. There are a ton of planets that you can “visit”, some that are created by users to suit a purpose (i.e. schools) and there are some that are created after movies/games/books that existed (i.e. Star Wars). The downside to all this virtual reality is that some people never leave. Because it’s in the future they don’t have to leave their house for anything so they never have to encounter real people. I know a few people that are pretty well set in their gaming already and that’s kind of a scary thought.
Ready Player One is a crazy adventure. There are twists and turns and lots of action! It’s all over the place, but not in a confusing way, in a fun way. Even though they spend a lot of time in the virtual reality world there is plenty that happens in the real world as well. My one complaint (and it’s a small one) is that I would have liked a little more from the real world.
Wade is pretty awesome, and a total nerd! And as an extra bonus he’s not perfect, he makes several mistakes (both personally and along the quest), but he also has this goodness about him.
Wade’s friends are excellent as well. Aech was my favorite, but I liked Art3mis, Daito and Shoto as well. Aech had this special attitude about him that made him easy to like.
Did I mention that Ready Player One is filled with awesome 80’s references? Because it is, and it rocks. Seriously, read it.
I especially liked the entire premise, as gaming has been a large part of my life since the late 80's/early 90's. The world was described adequately and the grave nature/stakes of the situation was presented clearly. I even appreciated some of the early imagery and descriptions of the OASIS.
However, all of this was marred by the authors insistence on cramming 80's Nostalgia down the readers throat. For anyone that experienced most of the 80's, it would seem redundant and pointless as the references are purely surface level - acting almost as filler to get more words on the page. For anyone who has limited knowledge of the 80's, the callbacks would serve as nothing more than infuriating confusion, especially when descriptive writing went out the window in place of comparisons to these historical references. Most damaging of all was the seemingly purposeful lack of any decent humour; the premise and characters and even the obnoxious Nostalgia would seem ripe for some much needed levity in this tale, but the closest we get is a few cheap jabs between characters in the dialogue.
The story was engaging enough to finish and I will say that I do not regret reading it, but for me it is a forgettable book and not one I will likely pick up again or even suggest to others. It's worth a read for fans of video games and 80's pop culture, but I wouldn't go into it expecting a memorable experience. This is one of those rare occasions where I think the movie adaptation could really improve upon many of the books shortcomings.
The characters were all flat. The several supporting character may have had a total of ten pages of character development combined. Spoilers! The character of Aech (H) was a white guy in the game but later turned out to be a black girl. This was covered in a quick back story covering some racial prejudice still present in the future but with no depth and closed up with a quick "well were friends and I don't care what you look like" queue the high five freeze frame. Wade, as the main character is more familiar but his character is confusing. At times he is kind hearted yet at others he is a huge prick. Sometimes he is driven and at others he has no drive. Having a dynamic character is fine but that's not the way it came across. There was no real reason for the changes or the reason seems contrived and the character came across as mopey or spiteful and generally unlikeable. All of this came together to make the "love story" aspect completely laughable and contrived. This is the main part I hated about this book. This ties into the characters as well because the development of Art3mis revolves completely around the love story. The love story is condensed below in ten lines:
Guy is loser, girl is famous and cool. Boy meets cool girl and doesn't know what to say because he's a looser. Guy get popular because of bow staff skills and starts to hang out with and fawn over girl. They spend time together. Girl is conflicted and stops returning his calls. Guy is mopey. Guy and Girl band together to save world. They finally meet, Girl has birth mark and that's why she was conflicted. Guy says I don't mind, your still hot. The end.
The world both real and virtual seemed like a set piece. Its is like the author came up with the great ideas for worlds to put his characters in but instead of putting the character in them just kind of described them. The interactions between the characters and the settings seems very limited. This same feeling is repeated throughout the entire story by the inclusion of so many pointless set pieces.
The style of storytelling is off as well. It is "I did this, I did that, this thing happened, that thing happened. You are with the narrator the whole way until later in the story when the author decides to hide the prison escape plan from you. Its just a bit jarring. You have know everything that is going through his head through the whole story till he gets caught. It is interesting because it is something new for him to escape from but the he simply walks out and then you are let in on the whole plan he had had the whole time. It like a bad version of oceans 11.
I know that's a lot of bad stuff but I really did like it overall, maybe more as an idea than in actual execution.