I picked this up on the Kindle either right at the end of November or the beginning of December last year. I knew enough from friends and acquaintances that the book heavily referenced video games and 80’s pop culture. I didn’t know much beyond that though. I dove in and quickly discovered just what Ready Player One is all about.
The book tells the story of Wade Watts, a destitute nerd barely ecking out an existence on a dystopic Earth where climate change and government inability to successfully manage a global economy has created vast disparities between people and where a fully immersive internet coupled with an addicting, and free, MMO called OASIS (think Second Life but fun(?)) that serves as most people’s panacea. Life sucks here so zone out and tap into a digital life that has more meaning. The co-creater of this digital utopia has died and left his controlling shares in the company that controls the game to whoever can solve the puzzle he’s designed within OASIS. Wadd Watts with the help of some friends end up claiming that prize and in doing so saves the OASIS from the evil corporation intent on turning the game into a cash cow.
Ready Player One is a fun nerd thriller; is nerd thriller even a genre? It should be one, there are enough of us… That deftly manages to use the tropes of the thriller genre to lead the protagonist and the reader through the mystery at the heart (the puzzles and riddles that need to be solved in order of Wade Watts to win the contest and claim control over OASIS) of the story without boring the reader. I didn’t have any issues with the story line. My complaints come largely from the lavish, and near constant, praise of 80’s pop culture and nerd culture (if it can even be called such a thing…) which quickly overwhelms every other aspect of the book. In fact, less than half way through the book I became suspicious that the whole story was a thinly constructed excuse to nostalgically ejaculate about the 80’s. I was there too, I remember those years. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t amazing either. A perfectly good book ruined by the author’s enthusiasm for a very niche subject area…
Final complaint: In the end, I couldn’t enjoy this book because it rewarded someone who wasted their life. It rewards this disturbing kind of obsessive compulsive expertism. That a decent, no, great substitute for making something of your own life is to catalog the minutia of someone else’s. Mr. Watts has no real skills. In this world he can not DO anything. What he can do is tell you, in excruciating detail, all about the songs, movies, and video games of the 1980’s. I have hobbies and obsession too; but, I’m not kidding myself. I’m not deluding myself into thinking that those are a substitute for hard work and useful skills. It’s the latter and not the former that are going to feed and provide for my wife and I. I just seem to have a real issue with these kind of characters.
Maybe, because I see a little too much of myself in them? Maybe, because I can’t delude myself anymore that I’m not wasting my time?