Ready Player One, First Impressions

So, I’ve started reading Ready Player One.

I’m only five chapters in, and I don’t know anything else about it beyond what the book cover and what the chapters tell me.

What do I think? I’m enjoying it so far.

Summary:

The story takes place in a sort of post-apocalyptic world, though not nearly that dramatic (you know, no explosions, just the slow deterioration of the planet. Much nicer way for everything to end) and in an almost Willy Wonka-esc way, the great James Halliday leaves an Easter Egg within his virtual reality game, the OASIS, and the one who can find it will inherit his vast billion dollar fortune. Only catch, the OASIS is universe of a MMO, within thousands of planets built into it, making it near impossible to find.

Impressions:

Ernest Cline does a fantastic job setting up this world. Most of how he conveys it is a lot more telling than showing, as he has the main character, Wade, reflect on how the world is rather than letting us see it for ourselves. But in this context it isn’t that bad. He does show us the reality where Wade lives in a trailer park where the trailers are stacked on top of each other and with everyone evacuating to space around cities just for the resources that we, today, take for granted.

And even when we’re in the OASIS, from what he describes, the world is too BIG for us to see how everything works. Plus, with how well he shows us how crappy reality is above, it makes sense how this game (an Oasis, if you would, cough cough) would become such a global phenomenon.

In a real world sense, it captures why we gamers, or readers, or movie watchers get so immersed in this media. Reality sucks. Sure, we don’t all have to live in stacked mobile homes and have to wait in a job que to work at McDonalds, but our lives aren’t easy either. We struggle, we suffer, and when we get home we just want to crash and get away from it all.

And in addition, when times are bad, we often look to the past for what we believe to be “The good old days.” Nostalgia incites those childhood memories we love, like eating that dish mom always used to make, and Cline does a good job inciting that in his characters. What’s more, it’s clear that he absolutely loves 80s culture. It seeps into every word his character’s dialogue and exposition.

It’s clear this book is also heavily inspired by Willy Wonka, which kind of goes without saying. Poor kid longing to experience the world of a wealthy billionaire (though instead of chocolate, it’s 80s nostalgia). So I’m curious to see how tightly Cline keeps to that formula as I continue to read.

No spoilers please.

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Brian J. Branscum

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