“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, immediately, based on its conception, is prime for instant nerd classic. A technology driven utopia? A virtual reality laden with quests, adventure, and magic? A competition for the perfectly set up Easter Egg with fortune and glory on the line? It sounds like a nerd fantasy of the ages. Except not quite. But… almost.
The story features teenager Wade Watts who represents all that a reader could want in a nerd hero. He’s the underdog from the slums who finds solace in the virtual reality known as the OASIS and comes with an extensive knowledge of 80’s pop culture. He is participating in a worldwide challenge to solve puzzles left by the OASIS’ creator for the prize of his life’s fortune. As a premise, it’s awesome.
Now, if you love world building, this is the book for you. It is expected that when a novel is created around an extensive and complex world as this, world building is a necessity. There is so much history and backstory that is integral to the plot. There’s history for this Earth, how humanity ended up the way it has, how the OASIS has come about. There are pages upon pages of the history of the competition and its creator’s life. There is so much setup, and I argue that it takes up at least half of the novel. And it was my favorite half.
Unfortunately everything else falls… flat. The character interactions feel forced, and don’t even get me started on the unnecessary romantic subplot. Wade as a character is incredibly unlikeable and poorly developed.
Arguably, the poor character development is a comment on the way that technology makes us something less than human. In defense of author Cline’s lack of likeable, well-rounded characters, they do feel mechanical and the most human interactions occur outside of the OASIS. As a writer, I appreciate this literary choice, but as a reader, it just makes for some painful reading.
While part of me wanted nothing to do with any of the characters, without a doubt, they still made me think about the philosophical meaning “Ready Player One.” It’s a book perfect for discussion and geeking out over.
“Ready Player One” is a book I recommend because I want some- one to talk to about it, but it is worth the read. Much of it is masterfully written. When the biggest action scenes are describing a dude playing Pac-Man or acting out “Monty Python,” you know you have a special kind of book.
So nerds of all kinds, read forth and prosper.