Book Review: Ready Player One

Posted July 10, 2015 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 0 Comments

Book Review: Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing on August 16th, 2011
Genres: young adult, dystopia
Pages: 374
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

This review has been a long time coming – I read this novel back in March. However, I just couldn’t really find the proper words to describe why I rated this novel as 5 stars. There are so many lovely reviews already written for this book. What could I add? I included this novel in my top 5 books of 2015, without even writing a review for it. It made me feel a little bad.

Then, inspiration struck me. I was able to rope my sister into reading the book, since we are both going to the author signing at the end of the month (I almost died when I discovered that he was going to be in North Texas!) Watching her go through those reactions and feelings revived my strong feelings, and I decided that it was time to put my thoughts out there into the universe.

First of all, this isn’t the cheesy conglomerate that I was expecting. I really loved watching everyone go gaga for the nerdy culture references in the book, and I especially LOVED the gifs that accompanied the reviews. So, thanks to countless 80s gifs and fawning reviews, I bought it. Hey, even if it was glorified geek name-dropping, I could still feel the nostalgia pumping through my veins.

When I see that a book is centered around a niche, I usually feel that the book is catering to the reader and the fanbase and trying very hard to be edgy and The Ultimate Cult Favorite for X Fans™. This next confession isn’t going to make a lot of people very happy with me, but I had that exact feeling when I was watching Scott Pilgrim – it was so forced and in your face. The entire movie just screamed, “Look how in the know I am, isn’t this the best? Worship me, nerds!”

It might help if I draw the parallel with geek girl jewelry. For years, I have wanted a nice Mjolnir hammer or a lovely Batman symbol for a necklace. Not just a little dangly piece of plastic on a cheap ball chain necklace, but something a little more classy. Look, I love my plastic geeky decorations, but I don’t always want costume jewelry. My fandoms are practically a religion to me, and you see secular people wearing nice, well-crafted crosses or stars or other such talismans. I want to see more of that. I want to see a Norse hammer of the same quality as a cross that people wear to work.

So this is what I was expecting:  a “costume book.” That’s fine and dandy – I can work with that.

I wish I could go back and beat  Past Lyn with a stick for ever doubting this novel. To quote my sister’s words: “This book is so much better than I expected!”

Yes, it is a dystopian, but such a believable future! The world has gotten horribly bad and reality has sunk to a new low. Instead of trying to fix anything, society depends on avoidance. I can totally get behind that reason for a dystopia. Everyone uses a souped-up version of the internet. Students attend online classes, companies create bigger and better equipment for accessing the virtual worlds, and a large, Walmart-esque type of corporation is basically trying to tack a user fee onto a public, free service. I love to see a world that is a real possibility. I believe this is a very real threat to our future. Distractions and avoidance are in place of resolutions and cooperation. That added an extra layer of horror to the story.

The novel follows a teen boy that grows and feels like that. He pines after one of the best known online female personalities, he mopes at times when things get rough, he wallows in his rewards, and he makes some bad and risky decisions. I don’t enjoy a lot of male-POV novels due to the problem of objectifying women and the constant stream of sex sex sex sex.

It isn’t for me. I can’t even say it is a bigger problem in one genre over another. Seeing a male POV sci-fi novel from a male author, in all honesty, made me a little hesitant to pick it up. But thankfully Cline avoids the brash use of sex to appeal to his audience. Is there romance? Yes. Is there a bit of “girl and boy are friends and the boy wants to take it to the next level”? Yes. Is there slut-shaming, entitlement, or the lamenting of the friend-zone?

NOPE.

In fact, the reader watches Wade try to pick apart his emotions and determine what to do if you want more than just a friendship. He doesn’t automatically think that romance is the next upgrade for a friendship, earned after you have been Such a Good Friend™ for a lengthy amount of time. He likes the friendship, and is even cautious himself of going for the romance part. I appreciate this approach from a male perspective because it seems that guys have it ingrained that a girl isn’t being fair when she doesn’t want to make a friendship into a romance.

This next part is hard to discuss without spoiling any of the novel. What I can touch on is the focus on social issues, such as gender, sexual, and race identification, and how people who accept one of these identities may reject or discriminate against the others.  It was beautifully constructed and executed, and I had some real tears during a particular scene in the novel revolving around this theme.

My favorite part of the book–the BEST message I love to see in any novel–was the theme of fellowship. As the story builds, you can just feel the energy in the novel and the charged, emotional tension of togetherness, of people coming together for a common cause. I love this overwhelming feeling that the needs of one can outweigh the needs of many. Sometimes, you make large sacrifices for the better. Even if that means you get nothing and someone gets everything, it is necessary to become a martyr just in the name of what is right.

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Don’t think that all of the heavier materials in Ready Player One transform the book into a dull excuse to soapbox. This novel still packs a lot of fun and a lot of nerdy goodies. This book is engaging, thrilling, beautiful and the perfect example of the imperfections of people. Cline gets the formula right – he tackles some tough subjects while paying proper homage to the deconstruction of the future, and the pop-culture heavy era of the 80s. His balance is just right. He doesn’t rely on one emotion or theme to carry his novel. He stays true to his vision while focusing on important issues. I can’t recommend this book enough to everyone. This is one novel that I feel is going to be read for a long, long time.

Lyn Sig Plant

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