Ready Player One

I kept debating whether or not to read Ready Player One. Part of me wanted to go into the movie without being biased by the book. Another part of me has been wanting to read it and just kept putting it off. Anyways, I decided to read it (well listen to it) and I need to say that I was not all that blown away. It was good, and some of the letdown could have been from my own expectations. Also, I may have felt differently about this book had I read it in 2011 when it came out.

For those that have not read it, the book is set in the future. The planet has gone to shit, the United States is falling apart, and it seems that almost everyone spends most of their time, living and working in the OASIS, a virtual reality world. The story focuses on Wade, who is on a quest to find the treasure the OASIS creator hid somewhere, which will give the first person who finds it control of the company, making them very rich. The book is full of 80s & 90s geek culture references.

Okay, from here on out, there will be spoilers…

So I think my biggest problem with the book was the ending. It was fairly telegraphed (the quarter, the mention of the Catalyst) and it just did not come off as all that shocking. Plus, from the beginning, we know that Wade wins the Contest. He says at the onset that this is the actual story of how he won. But a weak ending did not ruin the book for me. There was something off-putting about the weird message at the end. Halliday tells Parzival something along the lines of “get out there and enjoy the real world” and then shows him a Big Red Button, that can destroy the OASIS forever. We go through this whole quest, we hear about the positives (and negatives) of this VR world, and then the moral ends up being “you kids and your damn games, go outside and play with a stick!” And what does Wade do? He goes outside and talks to Art3mis and they have their first kiss and he says something like “and that was the first time I had no desire to log back in.” Awwww…

The other thing that bothered me was Parzival’s meeting with Aech. His best friend turns out to be an overweight black girl, who happens to be a lesbian! OH MY GOD, HOW SCANDALOUS! I felt like the book was really trying to point out that in this online world, you should be more accepting of people, how many times does Parzival say to Art3mis that he does not care what she looks like in the real world, he is in love with her mind and he knows who she is. But then his best friend is revealed to not be a guy and we are supposed to freak out? This is the future: a generation of kids who have grown up in this simulated world. I feel like kids now would meet someone they play video games with and be like “oh cool, you are a girl, neat.” Those reactions are not what we would expect from younger people growing up in that time. That is how a 45 year old reacts now.

Again, I do not want people to think that I totally hated the book. The puzzles were awesome and the references were really cool. I am excited for the movie to see how many things Spielberg is able to get licensing to use and how much of it he will just put in background shots. Reading it reminded me of another book I read years ago, Silverlock. For those of you that have never read it, the book is this amazing adventure in a weird land, where the main character keeps meeting people who are different characters from other books and history (he meets Puck, Daniel Boone, Don Quixote, Robin Hood, Faust, and a ton more), but they go by different names and it is up to the reader to figure it out based on clues. I suppose that is what I am hoping for in the movie, some subtlety.

One of the things I loved was Parzival’s plan to take down IOI and the Sixers. When he first gets arrested, my thought was that he purchased the Catalyst and was going to set it off and somehow take out everyone as a final act of heroism to prove himself to Art3mis, but then he would be resurrected because of the quarter. But once he starts to use the company intranet with the passwords he purchased, I quickly deduced what he was going to do and that is when the Catalyst/Quarter ending became clear to me. I kept expecting Sorrento to pop up at any moment and say “oh Wade, we have known what you were doing from the beginning, who do you think sold you those passwords?”

Anyways, the book is pretty fun. Even though it is only seven years old, it feels like some of the tech is already becoming dated (and when you think about it, some of the pop culture stuff is too…no mention of the new Star Wars films, do you think Halliday loved or hated The Last Jedi?). I cannot remember it now, but there was something in the book with technology that did not really mesh with where tech is now as compared to 2011 (isn’t that crazy to say?).

Here is the trailer, which looks so damn cool…

I should also mention that the whole Rush thing was hilarious to me. Not because I have anything against Rush, I dig them as much as the next guy, but anytime I hear Rush, I think of Alice Cooper. Or more precisely, listening to Nights With Alice Cooper while cooking at work back in the day. Alice Cooper would always make jokes about Rush, mostly to piss off Rush fans. He would say stuff like “look, I am have nothing against Rush, and I may even play one of their songs…not tonight, but maybe someday.” I do not know why that always stuck with me and still makes me laugh.

Here is the Rush song that is featured in the book…

And even better, here are the Foo Fighters covering Rush…which starts at like 5:20ish, but the whole video is pretty awesome.

You thought this would be a boring book review.


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2 thoughts on “Ready Player One

  1. I read your first sentence and was like.. pshaw! Yes!

    I’ll totally agree that expectations will completely color an experience, and if you went in with super-high expectations, that probably affected your experience.

    How about Wade’s briefly-mentioned Atheist outlook?

    I’ll agree that the ending wasn’t the best part of the story. I can imagine that writing endings is hard. Don’t they always say it’s more about the journey than the destination?

    And I’ll agree that the Aech revelation seems perhaps a bit clumsy. It was (I think) supposed to be surprising if not scandalous. Keep in mind that this book is mostly targeted to readers who grew up in the 80s when you mention that it’s how a 45 year old reacts now. I’m 44. I played D&D and Zork, watched Tranzor Z and listened to Van Halen. This crap is my childhood, although I’ll admit there was a lot in there that I’d never been in touch with – I never listened to Rush when I was a kid, or experienced a lot of that Japanese culture stuff.

    How funny is it that Joust was such a big part? Such a flipping weird game.

    Anyway – I loved the book despite its flaws. I guess I try to ignore shortcomings and just have fun with the story. I seriously hope the movie is decent – seems like it would be easy to do it poorly. I wonder if they’ll include the Blade Runner and Wargames portions.

    And it’s so funny that you mention 2112 – I first learned about the album from the book, and I listen occasionally. I actually had Alexa play that album at home this past Saturday (2 days ago) while I was washing dishes.

  2. Yes, it is about the journey, not the destination. And I definitely liked it, just not enough that I am rushing out to read Armada. It is not a book that I would probably read (listen to) again.

    You are not that much older than me, so I consider us to be in the same geek generation. I will admit that I never played D&D or any games like it, so that may be why it does not resonate with me as much. My geekdom was more comics and star wars (dude, I read every star wars expanded universe book that came out from 1992 until about 2000–it was an addiction).

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