Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ready Player One

Because, no title can top the one the book already has. In the interest of reading diversity here on the Book Pantry, I've decided to do something a wee bit different with today's book post. Today, I'll be handing the keyboard over to my boyfriend for the meat of the book review portion.  I read across a pretty large array of genres, but inevitably there are books that, while interesting, simply aren't my cup tea (earl gray, two sugars and cream, please, thank you) or that I simply set aside to pursue books that interest me more at the moment.  Ready Player One is one such book.  I initially picked it up thinking it looked super-interesting, but just never really got around to reading it. While I'm sure I will, I wanted to go ahead with a blog post, because I have an inkling of a suspicion that it's a epically awesome read.

The Basics
Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. New York: Crown Publishers, 2011. Print.

Ernest Cline was born in 1972 and thus grew up in the 80s (that remarkably obvious statement explains a whole lot about the novel; trust me (P here: don't trust her)). He is an author with many hats: spoken word artist, screenwriter, novelist. And to confirm his status as super-nerd (and thus a hero to us lesser nerd peons), I offer this proof: he owns a 1982 DeLoreon DMC-12 a la Back to the Future.

Set in the year 2044 with the world left in a not-so-nice state, most of the populace has chosen to abandon reality in favor of the OASIS, a massive online video game created by James Halliday.  Halliday becomes the richest person on the planet as a result, but dies without an heir.  Instead, he leaves a quest behind for players of the game, hiding three keys that unlock three challenges that will ultimately lead them to find Halliday's Egg (as in Easter Egg).  Whoever possesses the Egg becomes the heir to his fortune and the controlling interest in OASIS. Wade Watts, aka Parzival, finds the first key and the real adventure begins.

The Book
So, without further ado, I hand the blog over to my boyfriend:

There's a lot to love in this book, but for me I think that the greatest feature was all the references to 80s pop culture, and gaming in particular.  The OASIS is massive,  with hundreds of planets and star systems based on both real and fictional locations that the three keys could be hidden in. In order to have a prayer of ever finding them, Egg hunters (known as Gunters) have taken to studying all of Halliday's obsessions in the hopes of finding likely hiding places. Since Halliday grew up in the 1980s, 80s music, movies, TV, and video games have experienced a resurgence in popularity due to Halliday's love of the decade.  This leads to loads of glorious fan service, and every page of the book is chock full of love for the decade.  References to Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, War Games, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Blade Runner, and even School House Rock show the love that Ernest Cline has for the decade and offers up a nice bit of nostalgia.

The book's virtual reality setting allows the characters to experience situations that they could never find themselves in in real life.  The fictional world has both fantasy and sci-fi elements, so in one chapter Wade may be fighting off space bandits in his spaceship, when earlier he was exploring an ancient tomb inhabited by a lich.  This also allows for some truly outrageous (and awesome) action scenes, from gun battles in anti-gravity dance clubs to giant robots fighting rubber monsters. Even the scenes that involve nothing more than playing classic video games such as Pac Man or Joust are so well written that these seemingly mundane activities are made tense and exciting.  The fact that the characters are not in real physical danger (most of the time) never diminishes the excitement of what's happening.  I found myself getting pulled into the story, trying to figure out the clues along with characters, which made things even more fun.

This is probably one of my favorite books in recent memory and for good reason.  It was as if someone reached into my brain, pulled out all the things I love, and made a book out of it. The action is good, the dialogue between characters feels genuine, and the world-building of both the real and virtual future is extremely interesting. This book is definitely not for everyone.  The large amount of 80s and video game references could serve to limit some people's enjoyment of the story. However, if you have ever thought of yourself as gamer, nerd, or geek, then this book is definitely required reading material. And really, everyone else would probably get a kick out of it, too.

Hi there, I hope you enjoyed my guest author (*glares meaningfully*), I'm back to share some the neat-o-keen book related goodies scattered around the interwebs.
  • Ernest Cline has a really cool (80s gaming themed, of course) personal website.  Especially check out his hilarious bio while you're over there.
  • Like any tech-savvy author, Cline has a blog.
  • Cline created a soundtrack based on the music mentioned in the book, which can be found here on Spotify and features some delightful 80s music (who doesn't love 80s music, amiright?).
  • And don't miss out on the official Ready Player One website.
  • Check out all the spiffy covers released with this book internationally.


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