Monday, April 23, 2012

Books - Ready Player One

The premise to this book had me conflicted. It's about a dystopian future (good) in which everybody interacts and plays inside a giant virtual world called the OASIS (good) where pretty much anything is possible. The catch is that the OASIS is littered with references to 80's geek culture (hmmm, I don't know). None the less, I was intrigued enough to check it out.

Ready Player One is Ernest Cline's first book. The story kicks off with the death of James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates type who had no heirs. Instead, his will is a contest, open to the whole world, for control of his fortune and, more importantly, the OASIS. We follow Wade/Parzival as he becomes a "gunter" or egg hunter, looking for the Easter egg of Halliday's fortune. Along the way, he makes friends and enemies, including an evil corporation who wants to control the OASIS for obvious reasons. There are good times to be had in this book, but I am not sure who it was written for, or why exactly.

The 80's references sometimes come on too strong to be believable for this to be 2044. Trends are cyclical, for sure, but when they come up again over the years, they are usually watered down and re-interpreted in the context of the current time. But the kids in Ready Player One could easily be pulled directly out of the 80's, since they know the references so well. There is a reason for that in the narrative, but it seems the author's nostalgia is the main driving force at times, particularly when the characters have to play through specific 80's movies inside the OASIS as part of their hunt for Halliday's egg. Those scenes play out like a narration of the movie, with little added in terms of the book's narrative. So on that level, it would seem that the intended audience would be people my age, who grew up in the 80's and get a kick out of the nostalgia porn. But then the book is written almost like a young adult novel, rather than something for an older crowd, and this might actually be on purpose. It's almost like it's written for that adolescent living inside us Gen Xers that never grew up. If that's the case, this might be a genius book. But for me, the last half of the book, where we get to see our heroes outside of the OASIS and the 80's references aren't as heavy, was the stronger part of the book.

All in all, I don't think this was meant as anything other than fun, so I can't seriously knock any of it. I'm notoriously predisposed to dislike nostalgia but I still had fun with this book for what it was, even if there were sections I felt could have been trimmed down somewhat or replaced by something else. It would be interesting to see if this book is popular enough to be turned into a movie, and it might actually work better visually, anyway.

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