Book review: Ready Player One

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A brilliant mixture of classic 80’s pop and geek culture mixed into a sci-fi story, set in a not too distant future where the Earth’s inhabitants have been escaping reality by entering a virtual world.

I recently decided to buy a selection of random books that I had never heard of before to help inspire me with my own writing and, well, to be honest? To try and get back into reading again.

I was always known as that kid with her nose in a book when I was younger. I would read a whole book in one sitting and stay up until the sun rises to find out what fate had in store for my favourite characters. It’s been a while since I have allowed myself to get lost in a book and it’s something I didn’t realise I needed so badly until I started reading Ready Player One, Ernest Cline’s first novel. Fresh out of a bubble bath, a cup of tea in hand, I made myself comfortable and spent the weekend doing not much else other than read my new book. Rock and roll life, I know!

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Source: Giphy

What’s it about?

“It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade was obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based on Halliday’s obsession with 80’s pop culture. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.”

What did I think?

While I usually prefer to read books that have a female protagonist (although, not exclusively) I still enjoyed this book. I do feel like I could tell that the author is a straight, white man, just from the way it is written and certain aspects that weren’t considered thoroughly to make parts of the book realistic.

I absolutely loved all of the references to 80’s music, video games and other pop culture. Although I was born in 92′ it still makes me feel sentimental and nostalgic. I even played my 80’s music playlist as I read the book. There are references that most people would understand and less known references for the hardcore geeks among us.

The story and basic idea itself are very unique and interesting and I really did like it. I love video games and sci-fi so it goes without saying, a book like this would certainly intrigue me, however, I did feel let down by a lot of stereotypes, cliches and tropes that have been far too overused in the white washed and patriarchal media world.

*SPOILER* One of the male characters we meet in the VR world turns out to be an overweight, black lesbian in real life. I feel like this could have been handled better, instead of lumping all of the ‘minority’ types onto one character, why not make a more diverse group of characters to begin with? Especially as it is set 27 years in our future, when, I think, it is very likely to be a much more multicultural world than it already is at the present moment. While there was a ‘reason’ this character decided to have a straight, white male as an avatar in the game, I just don’t feel it is a strong enough reason and was just really an after thought.

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Source: Giphy

Another thing that bothered me was the only other diverse characters were two young men in Japan who seemed to have every Japanese stereotype thrown their way and in all honesty, made for some very cringe reading. I can’t wait for the day I can pick up any random book and read about a character of a certain race, sexual orientation or religion etc, and not have that diversity be what makes up the entire characters personality.

The other big thing that bugged me? About 90% of the book a female character either didn’t know who the main character was or wasn’t very impressed by him and rather annoyed and then there was a very sudden 360 and she had feelings for him and we’re lead to believe they lived ‘happily ever after’.

In conclusion, while the story and the world that Cline created were very original and interesting, it seems his attitude towards women and people of other races and ethnicity was also taken from the 80’s.
If you’re into sci-fi books I would recommend this novel, just be warned, you may end up a confused mess like I was, happy that I had just read such a unique and interesting book, but irritated by the poor lack of representation for others and the cliched parts of the story.

Side note. Steven Spielberg is directing the film adaptation of this book, with looks to being released next year.

6/10

All images taken from Ernest Cline’s Facebook page, Ready Player One Facebook page and giphy.com

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