Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

First off, I have to state for the record that instead of reading this book I listened to the audio version narrated by Wil Wheaton. And if you’re going to listen to this book, I’m convinced there’s really no other way to listen to it than to hear Wil Wheaton walk you through its pages, audibly seeming to geek out over the same things the story’s main character does. It’s like doubling down on the geekiness!

And speaking of doubling down on geekiness… On its own this book does just that, over, and over, and over again. It’s as though someone took a dictionary of all things gaming, sci-fi, and 80s pop culture oriented and dropped a storyline on top, with references crammed in in small seemingly random lists here, and there, and over there, and over there too.

Most of the story takes place “online” in a virtual reality environment known as the Oasis, then every once in a while the storyline scrambles back to the real world to catch readers up a bit and settle whatever was still left undone in the real world. For this reason, at several points I had to figure out, “Is this real in the story right now, or is it occurring in the Oasis? Why is this important?” Problem is, what happens in the Oasis does become, in many ways, real for the story’s main character Wade, so we non-gamers must resist the urge to roll our eyes when, for example, Wade realizes his jet-propelled boots have been removed from his inventory and therefore he can’t reach a certain magic door in the story. I drew parallels between this and my husband’s infrequent video game binges, which always prompt me to ask “But what does playing this this game for days on end accomplish for you in the real world?” I’ve never gotten a conclusive answer to this question, and likewise, at many points in the story I felt similarly dissatisfied.

In summary:

If you’re a gamer you might like this book more than I did.
If you’re obsessed with 80s pop culture you might like this book more than I did.
If you’re okay with seemingly random lists of trivia interrupting the storyline at every turn, you’re probably going to like this book more than I did.
And if you’re not really interested in any of these things but you enjoy sci-fi stories, you might appreciate this story just a little bit for that alone and then just spend the rest of your listening time marveling at how delightfully geeky Wil Wheaton makes his reading of it.

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