Sunday, 11 March 2018

Ready Player One


Book Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Date Started: February 28th 2018
Date Completed: March 11th 2018
Genres: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Three Star
Final Rating: Four stars

Ready Player One is a book that has me really conflicted. I enjoyed it a lot, but I feel like it was supposed to have more gravity than that. And for me it was fun and that was it. I wanted more. That being said I think it does a brilliant job of reviving 80s pop culture in a way that people who aren't well-versed in it can appreciate and engage with.

This book is renowned for its references. In fact, the only thing I really knew about it going in was that it was full of them, and I was worried that it wasn't going to be very accessible because of it. I like video games and I grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars, The X Files and god knows what else, but I sit and watch Stranger Things and only really recognise Dungeons and Dragons. But, actually, Cline did a good job of explaining things - sometimes a little too well. There were some parts where I was sat there for two or three pages thinking 'yes, I know how virtual reality works, thank you'. But that was needed so that any reader could enjoy the story, and I think they can. It must be a hell of a ride for a male 80s geek though.

Now, I swore at this book more times than I can count. And not the 'holy shit what just happened' way, more of a 'fuck off and get over yourself' kind of way. Did it escape the bounds of believability? Amazingly, no. Did is use the protagonist's conveniently obsessive knowledge and seemingly undefeatable charm/wit/characteristic-I-wasn't-sure-was-there at every opportunity? Absolutely. The plotline itself is the traditional underdog overcoming the odds and the state, but it does feel different just from the sheer amount of geekery, and that's what makes it fun. I'm not sure it makes up for the deus ex machina copy and pasted in like a video game cheat code at multiple points but, like I said, we're here for the fun.

What really impressed me with Ready Player One, and kind of pushes me over the line with my opinion of this book, was how well it did with referencing existing material as opposed to name-dropping it. One of my biggest pet peeves for books is when an author name-drops, essentially just to say 'hey, look, I know this thing! Look how I know this thing you know, that makes me/my character/my story cool and clever'. Nine times out of ten it doesn't, it's just lazy. You don't want to put the work in yourself so you mention someone else who did it instead. Cline doesn't do this - and it's frankly astounding. You gotta give it to him, it's impressive to create a story where 50% of the material is not your own and make it feel new. And it pays off because you can tell he had a whale of a time writing this book. If people want to know what a homage (or several hundred) is, they should read this.

There's generally good diversity in the characters. I wasn't a fan to begin with by how testosterone-driven literally everything was. This didn't necessarily go away - Wade still annoyed the hell out of me the entire way through with his insecure arrogance (I solved the first riddle in about thirty seconds, the only gaps was the 80s context) - but it balanced out as some more perspectives were added. I would've liked to have seen some characters that weren't obsessively knowledgeable just so someone would embody me sitting there saying 'really?' every five pages, but I accept this wasn't their story. I am a bit sad that a book about being a geek didn't have anyone I could relate to, though. And the self-proclaimed 'quintessential geek girl' pissed me off and still does. Which is damn irritating considering Art3mis was a pretty good character on her own terms.

I did really enjoy it, and I look forward to seeing the film, but it wasn't as epic as it'd be hyped up to be. I think it comes down to the fact that the hunt was, at the end of the day, a competition for money. Yes, it had mortality issues at times, but the stakes for winning the game never felt like they were that drastic. The freedom of the characters, maybe, since they were being seriously threatened, but that wasn't really the focus of the book. It's all fun and games - literally.

1 comment:

  1. Such a fun review of a fun book - it really did make me smile 😃