Friday, August 12, 2011

Ready Player One Novel Impression

In a bleak future where the masses struggle, a simple game, a grand hunt, holds the key to riches, fame and a better life. Are you Ready Player One?

Ernest Cline has crafted and epic adventure with Ready Player One that is part game, part fantasy, part sci-fi and wholly awesome. In a fairly believable future a grand game left by a deceased genius holds the key to vast riches and control of the one system, Oasis, which governs just about everything. This online utopia is an escape for all of civilization and when its ownership is put up for grabs with just a few puzzles to solve, well then who’s going to win? Mr. Cline, you have created a grand adventure that was a true joy to read and brought back many fond memories from the 80’s and 90’s but what is it about Ready Player One that was so enjoyable? Let’s take a gander shall we …

The Story of Wade Watts – Just another high school student living his life in the stacks (stacked up mobile homes, trailers, etc), a life of poverty that leaves little hope for much more than indentured servitude once graduation approaches. Wade attends a virtual high school, one located in Oasis, an online world, a universe of worlds, created and owned by the genius James Halliday. Everything is done in Oasis, which began its life as a game but grew to more than anything every anticipated outside of Halliday’s head. Upon his death the mysterious Halliday left a video, a message to society, a message of hope that begins a grand game … which stalls for five years. Halliday has created a game that lives in Oasis and is based on his love for 80’s pop culture. A new culture, gunters, springs to life and these hunters are obsessed with Halliday’s riddle, his easter egg, but in five years since it’s announced nobody can make sense of the first clue, nobody can find the first of three gates needed to receive the ultimate prize and for five years the hunt begins to simmer … until Mr. Watts becomes very, very famous. Wade deciphers and solves the first riddle, his name appears on the online leader board and its go time all over again and with every avatar in the world and a massive, dirty, corporation on his heels will Wade win the prize or die, literally, trying? The prize is grand, his friends are few and Wade must stay one step ahead of an entire world to win this game. Only one thing to ask, are you ready player one?

So main plot line is the solving of Halliday’s puzzle and core character is the fairly normal Wade Watts. There are plenty of supporting characters, four other really main gunters as well as an evil corporation and some other cool folks who join the fray. The evolution of Wade is fun to follow and the pacing is well done setting the stage, stepping up the action and slowing it down when needed for explanation. There are points where the reader will think they know what’s coming next, but boom, Cline blows it up but good and it’s this change of pace that keeps the pages turning. Wade is also a character with flaws which makes him strong and relatable while the overall world of 2044 is pretty freaking depressive so this ultimate lottery anyone can win is very intriguing. The most impressive and enjoyable aspect of Ready Player One is all the references to the past, the little history nuggets. There are sights and sounds, smells even the reader who grew in the 80’s and 90’s will recognize. Pizza parlors, games on coin-op machines, movies and music, oh yeah, this is the true joy of Clines creation and that icing that makes this cake a delicious consumption.

Why Should Gamers Care? – The journey, it’s as great as any RPG tale out there and it’s just great storytelling which is now at the core of what makes a great game. The references to old games, Pac-Man, Adventure, etc is fun and refreshing and readers will find themselves wanting to take part in this epic quest. Like any great MMO, RPG, adventure game or movie Ready Player One manages to hook the reader and bring them into a grand world just as any great game does. There are so many references to games of days gone by that I’ve no doubt readers will find themselves revisiting some on their free time, just a great ready for gamers and adventure novel fans alike.

Why Should Otaku Care? – While the amount of anime references are not as large the sheer pop culture volume and gaming hook will makes fans of otaku also as it’s all about great story and in this aspect Cline delivers. Imagine this tale as an animated features, say about 12 episodes with all the cultural references and music in place, it would ROCK! My heart fluttered at the mention of 2-3 specific giant robots and the MMO angle bridges gaps in Eastern and Western game making. It’s a great read folks (I said this a few times already right).

Overall, Ready Player One is one hell of an enjoyable read, so props to Ernest Cline. I mention I numerous times above as I’m first a fan of games and anime and as such I loved this novel. Few books work their ways into my heart, make me want to continue to adventure with the protagonist and this is one of them. We could all be Wade Watts from his depths of despair to his peaks of triumph and the memories his adventure stirs are worth the price of admission. Now, when do we get that mentioned anime series???

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