Ready Player One is a 2011 science fiction novel written by Ernest Cline. It is one of the most popular sci-fi books of recent years and it is a very entertaining read for sure.
First off, the plot. It is set in the year of 2044 where Earth is such a harsh place that people all around the world have more fun and joy not living in it, but rather logging into OASIS, a utopian website and video game where you can be and do anything you want. After the creator of the site James Halliday died, he left his entire fortune to the person who finds the key hidden in the game. But in order to do that, our protagonist Wade, with a help of a few other seekers, has to go through many puzzles and tasks in a video game fashion to unlock the key. The story is very action-oriented and spectacular and grand which are all the reasons why it would work wonders in a film. It is very entertaining and it was mostly incredibly riveting to me. And I like its attention to detail, its characters and especially its world-building which is vast and quite admirable.
Now, for its obsession with the eighties pop-culture references. It is done for better and for worse and while I personally liked it, the novel is still overwhelmed with those details and references making it seem redundant. Of course I liked most the film references as I am a movie buff, but I also liked the video game references as well and although, as I said, it is done too much, it is still an intriguing exploration of the geek subculture and I liked how for once the geeks are the heroes here. It also seemed necessary for the plot progression and for the goal in the novel to know all that stuff meaning that it is overall a nice inclusion in my opinion.
Now, what I did not like in Ready Player One is definitely the action. The action passages are certainly overwhelming in the later parts of the book and the whole robot fights in the end are typical and ruined the experience for me, they ruined the otherwise extraordinary conclusion. But I liked the real-world moments as well as the game ones and both I found rather intriguing and well thought out.
The characters are superb and are easily the highlight of the book. Wade Watts is a stupendous protagonist in that he is an unusual hero, very realistic and nerdy. His whole behavior is portrayed in a respected grounded way which is why he got on my nerves at times with his too colloquial speech, an unfortunate quality from which the whole novel suffers, but more on that later. Now, the supporting characters are even better. Aech is great as his best friend and the realization of who he is at the end is just so incredible and such an unbelievable twist, but the one that is done carefully and thoroughly with a couple of genuinely warm moments.
Artemis is also a great character and a very strong and capable female character to be exact, but the one who is also realistic like the rest and the relationship between the two is great. It can be seen that a male writer wrote this as her beauty is way too emphasized, but she is still a badass and memorable character. Daito and Shoto as their Japanese friends are not as well explored as the rest of them, but they are still okay and the drama they go through is harsh. Halliday and especially Morrow are great as these wise old men and the whole incorporation of them in the later moments in which both finally appear are extremely well done. As for Nolan Sorrento, he is the weakest link here arguably as I found him a typical, over-the-top villain who had some intense moments, but still ended up being so-so.
Now, I have to touch upon the writing. It is pretty weak unfortunately. Ernest Cline is not a particularly good writer. He has a great idea here and he executes it with a well crafted story, but the execution in terms of writing is not that good. As I said before, the speech he used is too colloquial and the whole first person narrative here does not work particularly well as I too often found Wade’s thoughts annoying and excruciating to read. Also, he floods the book with eighties references and sometimes it can become annoying. Also, the whole video game angle is great, but the robot and action angle is very unlikable and a typical Hollywood stuff dressed in typical blockbuster clothing.
But the biggest problem here is that the work is just too uneven in terms of pace mostly. The whole first part is extraordinary as is the last, but some of the middle parts are just plain boring or plain annoying thus preventing me from finishing the book earlier. The quality of storytelling just drops in the middle of it, but eventually gets back to full speed in an extraordinary conclusion with a fantastic finale that is a satisfying ending for all of the characters. It is rather emotional and warm in the end.
I liked the friendship angle here because it is done in a very grounded approach with a lot of cursing and fighting with each other, but still with their evident care to each other. And I liked the detailed approach with its world and objects in the game. The whole dystopian premise may sound similar, but is still entertaining and the video game aspect of it is very refreshing and unique and should prove fascinating for gamers. And I like how it emphasized on classic games for a change. It really is a strong love letter to classic video games of the eighties.
Ready Player One may not be particularly well written or paced, but it is such an entertaining and unique story filled with interesting references, wonderful world-building, very likable and realistic characters, entertaining plot and it is overall a fun novel that is a great love letter to classic video games.