Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Brief Summary: The world has fallen apart, and most people live in great poverty, but for all there is always comfort in the simulated world of the OASIS. Wade, like many who spend most of their time in the OASIS, is a gunter, a treasure-seeker searching for the ultimate treasure left behind by the OASIS creator James Halliday. But when Wade uncovers the first clue to Halliday’s treasure, the sheltered fiction of the OASIS may never be the same again.
Tsundoku Scale: Top of the pile, 8 out of 10.
The Good: Ready Player One has to be the world’s first science fiction, trivia-ridden, geek-approved fairly tale. Normally, I stray away from the whole dystopian video-game world dynamic, but there is a sense of childish impunity in the narrator, Wade, which made this story consistently relatable. Wade tells this adventure story as the kid he is—complete with finding a first love, snide, backhand comments, and a little bit (ok, maybe a lot) of social awkwardness. There is one scene where Wade has a text message conversation with Art3mis (not a spelling error) for three whole pages, and it’s a great, clever aside within the story. I could see my younger self making almost any of Wade’s clumsy, but humorous flirtation attempts, and could not help but laugh. Nonetheless, while humorous this story is unexpectedly dark. It is also a story of murder, mystery, and total, utter loneliness—the OASIS is not just a game. Yet ultimately the irony makes the story more touching than disturbing, for in this dark, hopeless world Wade is still determined and full of hope to find a game, a life, that he’s happy to live for. This is the coolest coming of age story you could read.
The Bad: Sometimes the story seemed to slow down too much, and then rush ahead and trip over itself. The 1980s references, especially in the beginning, were a bit much, and I found myself disappointed in the solutions to many of Halliday’s riddles, especially after all the trivia that we were forced to read about. And when you get to Aech’s moment (you’ll know what I mean) I think you’ll realize that the story may have been trying just a little too hard on getting out a message about stereotypes and so forth when that isn’t what the story was really about. While the story does lend itself to social commentary on society, in reality the book really has very little interest in suggesting how to make a better society. Instead the story is truly invested in making Wade into a better person, and that is a worthwhile goal in and of itself without trying so hard to cram in other points about society.