Monday, January 5, 2015

Tales from the Bookshelf: Ready Player One

Good morning, friends! As part of my goal to read to more this year, I'm also aiming to post a lot more book reviews and other bookish things. Thus, Tales from the Bookshelf was born! (Which has nothing to do with Tales from the Borderlands, but the title is catchy, right?) My first book review of the new year is Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. This is a book I've been meaning to read for a couple years now, and was just hangin' out on my (very long) "to be read" list, but I'm glad I finally read it!

Ready Player One

From the publisher: It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

While I did enjoy reading this book, I have some mixed feelings on it. I definitely think it was written for a very specific set of people in mind, and I'm just not one of them. The whole book is an 80's video game and pop culture paradise, and unless you grew up in the 80's I feel like the book just doesn't have the full impact that it's supposed to. Obviously I love video games. I'm also a fan of 80's pop culture, but even so a lot of the references were lost on me. I know a lot of people that loved this book, and all of them were at least a few years older than me (I'm 23, for reference). And so, this wasn't a five star book for ME, but I don't necessarily think it's a bad book because of it. Anyway...

I really liked that even though the book takes place in 2044, the way Ernest Cline pictures the future doesn't seem too far fetched and is actually (unfortunately) pretty believable. The earth is overpopulated, running out of resources and the whole planet is pretty unbearable. Because of this, people take solace in the OASIS, which is sort of an MMORPG type cyber world if you expanded it by a thousand. In the OASIS you can go to school, work a real paying job, and do anything a person normally would without even having to get out of bed.

Ready Player One covers
The many covers of Ready Player one.

Some other things I liked:

- The MMORPG references (I play World of Warcraft but still consider myself pretty n00by at it)

- Daito and Shoto; two players working together in contest as well. They're from Japan and make a lot of samurai and anime references!

- Wade and and his BFF Aech's friendship

Some things I didn't like:

- A lot of the things the Sixers were up to didn't seem very believable. Like, you're saying the OASIS has such shitty tech support that they let other players entirely block off a planet for WEEKS? Come on, even Origin wouldn't have let that happen.

- Wade's obsession with Art3mis (but Art3mis herself I really liked). It kinda just fed into the myth that cool, attractive girls don't play games, and the ones that do are like rare unicorns that must be captured.

- On that note, I had a few issues with the way women overall were represented in this book. I kind of want to expand on this thought, but since I don't want to reveal any spoilers I'll leave those thoughts for another day.

Trapped in the Closet gif
How sexism makesme feel.

because of it's originality, I'll rate Ready Player One a 4 out of 5. I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, but if you grew up in the 80's or are a massive 80's movies and music fan, then it's a fun little adventure :)

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