Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

readyplayerone

Okay. I don’t know why I waited so long to read this. The title stared at me from the glowing screen of my kindle for months, and I kept thinking I’ll get to it when I get to it and moving on, reading other books, the majority of which were excellent. But why did I wait so long for this one?!

Ready Player One is Ernest Cline’s first novel, and it’ll be a tough act to follow. Fortunately, he seems up to the task with Armada, his forthcoming novel which appears to be about an alien invasion that reminds the intrepid protagonist of his favorite video games and sci-fi. Cline may have a certain theme he likes to work with, but that’s fine by me, given how much I liked Ready Player One.

A love song to the 80s by way of Willy Wonka, Dan Brown, and Snow Crash, Ready Player One was an absolute blast to read. It was fluid, fast-paced, action-packed, clever, and exhaustive in its employment of witty cultural references. The trick is that these cultural references are relevant to the story, because they’re at the core of the plot. I’ll set the stage:

A dystopian near future in which most of the world is constantly jacked into a collective simulation that began as a massively multiplayer online video game, where just about everything is a reference to 80s nerd culture. Its creator, considered a folk hero, leaves behind a mystery when he dies. The person who solves the mystery wins the greatest treasure imaginable — an enormous sum of money and control over the Oasis (the simulation.)

Naturally, this starts an obsession, and before long culture has radically shifted, and the more obscure facts you know about cartoons and video games from the 80s, the better your chances of winning the prize. This makes for some excellent banter, fabulous settings, and zingers that earned more than a few actual chuckles while I read the book on the train.

Thing is, this book had its hooks in me for one simple reason: it was fun. Really, really fun. The characters engaged me, were varied and each had their own twists. The puzzles were fun to solve alongside the characters, and the excitement that filled them when they reached the next stage filled me as well. I’d pull out my kindle at every opportunity to read a page or two, even if it meant missing my stop on the train (which actually happened), forgetting to cross the street when the light changed (also happened), or eating lunch at work alone (that’s actually pretty normal).

Long story short, I really enjoyed this book. I can’t remember the last book that I had this particular brand of fun reading. I love almost everything I read, but this was special in a different way. It might not be your cup of tea, especially if you don’t like obscure game references, but it was certainly a flavor that worked for me.

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