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Ready Player One: A Novel Paperback – June 5, 2012
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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)
About the Author
ERNEST CLINE has worked as a short-order cook, fish gutter, plasma donor, elitist video store clerk, and tech support drone. His primary occupation, however, has always been geeking out, and he eventually threw aside those other promising career paths to express his love of pop culture fulltime as a spoken word artist and screenwriter. His 2009 film Fanboys, much to his surprise, became a cult phenomenon. These days Ernie lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, their daughter, and a large collection of classic video games. READY PLAYER ONE is his first novel.
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But after four hours of the audiobook, I couldn't take it anymore. I know a lot of people love this book, but I didn't end up enjoying it one bit.
The biggest flaw is that the 80s references aren't fun. They aren't interesting. They don't make any commentary or provide insight on the 80s. They're just sort of... there. This is the same problem I have with Family Guy and its endless 80s references. They don't actually amount to anything other than: "Hey everybody, remember the 80s? Yeah - they totally happened!" But it's even worse in RPO, because every reference is provided with an explanation. This misses the point of cultural references, which, in a way, are like jokes, in that if you have to explain them, the purpose of telling them has failed. Also, who are the explanations for, anyway? People who grew up in the 80s or are hip to 80s pop culture don't need them, and those who aren't are unlikely to be reading an 80s nostalgia piece in the first place.
Also, Cline has no discriminating taste even in 80s culture. Thus, the references come across less as a bunch of hip references from someone who loves good pop culture than just a dump of a list of stuff that happened in the 80s. The disquisition on Family Ties is a good example. I watched that show with my dad back in the 80s, too, and I remember it well. It sucked then, it sucks now, and it will continue to suck in the 2040s. It was unfunny, maudlin dreck then, and now it doesn't even have any kitsch value. Every decade has stuff that's worth remembering and stuff that's worth forgetting in it. This book just seems to take everything equally, no matter where on that scale it lies. It comes off, as one reviewer on Amazon said, like reading a Wikipedia page on the 80s.
And yeah, the exposition... the endless exposition. Even in the four hours I put into it before I gave up, there were things explained two or three times, in more detail than I really needed them to be. Especially since the premise is, really, not all that futuristic or original. Snow Crash covered much of the same territory twenty years ago, and MMOs have been around for more than a decade. Again, I don't really need them explained to me all that deeply, and taking the time to do so made the story sluggish.
There's also a weird tone of arrogant mean-spiritedness to this book. It's a little hard to describe, but it reeks of that attitude you get at a comics shop if you say that you really don't know that much about Green Lantern or that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was actually a pretty okay movie. The author's taking occasional breaks to beat you over the head with his sociopolitical views doesn't help, either. The whole "geekier than thou" thing just doesn't work for me. It definitely keeps the book from being as "fun" as a lot of people have claimed.
And yeah, the writing is clunky and artless. It's of the "This happened, then that happened, then this happened, then that happened" style. The characters are flat and undistinctive, and have more than a whiff of Mary Sueism to some of them. The bad guys are generically bad, mostly because they - horror of horrors - want to run a business at a profit, which reeks of pure evil to those who have the internet generation's "everything ought to be free" sense of entitlement.
And none of that would bother me if I didn't hear everywhere I turned about how this was the best book since A Tale of Two Cities and the most clever thing to come along since Dorothy Parker retired. But I just don't get the raves for this book - it's a generic Snow Crash clone, except not half as good and peppered with joyless 80s name-dropping.
Is it just me?
First, this book panders to nerds. That isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but you get the feeling very quickly that they are in there just so that nerds reading can think "HAH, I GET IT!" And instead of just throwing them in there so that people into nerd culture get them, he explains every single one. So not only do you immediately recognize the references, but then you get to sit there as he explains them anyway. If you're not completely turned on by having things you know about name dropped and then explained, this will bog down the story. Oh, Family Ties is a TV show from the 80's? Glad you explained it. Thanks.
Secondly, there are two types of nerds. Generally decent guys and girls with nerdy hobbies, and then anti-social, smug, condescending, pseudo intellectual nerds who are incredibly unpleasant to be around. These are, in popular vernacular, known as "Monvilles". Sometimes the author veers very, very close to outing himself as a Monville. A perfect example is that he includes a long, out of place rant about how he's atheist (he's speaking through the protagonist, but it is clear he wanted to rant against religion and used his protagonist as the mouthpiece) in the first chapter. He even includes "Deal with it" during this rant. It's out of place, silly, and I could see reading it on a message board, but here it's awkwardly inserted so that the author can say "I'm atheist...deal with it!"
Then there are a couple of parts that deal with working as technical support...and these are even worse. I've worked tech support jobs before, and they are incredibly frustrating. However, Cline uses these instances to show just how smug and unlikable he would be in real life. He has such utter contempt for anybody who dares spend their time doing something other than learning about computers. The people who need tech support are all halfwitted, slobbering subhumans who refuse to "think for themselves" and need a nerd (who is, of course, incredibly smart) to show them the way. He wastes a ton of time ranting against the people who call into technical support. Cline has said he worked in tech support, so when you call these places realized bitter, poorly socialized nerds are on the other end, furious with you because you have the audacity to ask questions about computers.
Then there is the dialogue. There are several instances where it becomes clear that Cline isn't very socialized. The dialogue reads like it was written by somebody who had never had a conversation but was told how they work by somebody who had. The book is pretty great when it's just the protagonist doing this thing, but when more than one character shows up it gets really bad really quick. There is one conversation about Swordquest in the book that is truly cringe worthy. The dialogue is so bad, so forced, and so unnatural that it makes Cline seem autistic.
Overall, I liked the book. I'm not trying to rag on it, I just want other people (who might not be unwashed, unshaven, obese nerds who love to sneer at the plebes) to understand the problems with this book. I think the really, really geeky will love the parts I've outlined above, but most normals will find them childish and unpleasant.