Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline


Publisher: Crown

Edition: Kindle (purchased from Amazon)

Drop a quarter in the slot, grab onto the joystick, and get Ready Player One.

Cline’s debut novel is a dystopian adventure set in the year 2044, where a great depression leaves much of the world in poverty. With nowhere to turn, many find their escape from reality by joining the virtual universe of OASIS.

When the OASIS software’s creator, James Halliday, passes away, he leaves behind a series of challenges that in the end, promise one winner his entire fortune. Millions of competitors search in vain for the first Easter Egg until a teenager named Wade Watts (whose OASIS handle is Parzival) solves the riddle. Suddenly, he finds the entire world watching him.

As Wade continues on his quest to stardom, he competes against a blogger named Art3mis (with whom he develops a love interest), his best friend Aech, and a corporate team led by Sorrento who will stop at nothing to win Halliday’s lottery. Wade must solve the remaining clues, escape those trying to murder him, and even give up the woman he loves in order to win the prize.

Ready Player One is a thrilling ride that doesn’t stop until the last page. Those who grew up in the eighties will find themselves at home. The novel is packed with eighties geek culture, including several references to movies, music, and video games. There are so many details that Cline obsesses over (including famous robots of the eighties) that will make any eighties fanboy giddy.

But don’t be fooled — the story has substance as well. Wade deals with many of the pitfalls teenagers do. At times he is unable to look past his feelings for Art3mis to see the bigger picture and he occasionally sidetracks into juvenile behavior. All of this makes his character real. The plot has its merits as well. Wade’s quest is clear, yet he must overcome many internal and external obstacles to reach his goal.

I think the biggest difficulty I had with the story was that it read like a young adult novel. The pacing was quick, the plot line was straight forward, and the characters were primarily in their adolescence. The eighties pop culture, on the other hand, lends itself more toward a Gen X reader, who may desire a little more complexity in the characters and story.

Overall, I gobbled this book up, even swallowing a few pages whole. The novel was page turning, upbeat, and in the end left me satisfied. For those who want a light read and want to relive their geek obsessions from a quarter century ago, Ready Player One is the perfect oasis.