Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction ??
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2011
Read by: Wil Wheaton
The Short Version:
A thoroughly enjoyable venture into a virtual reality world that anyone who lived through the 1980’s will enjoy listening to.
Why I Read It:
This is another one that I might not have read or listened to at all but for the encouragement from the bookish folks I chat with on Twitter. I had far too many people whose reading tastes I trust recommend this and overwhelmingly recommend the audio version to pass it up.
I don’t think I can give any kind of coherent description of the story without rambling and making it sound way more confusing than it is so I’m using the publisher’s summary.
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.
I was in college and just getting myself settled as a working adult in the 1980’s so I didn’t get too involved in playing a lot of the video games of the era. That part of the pop-culture references in this book was not as familiar to me as other parts. That did not keep me from enjoying the heck out of this book in the least. All the movie and TV references brought a smile to my face and made me want to re-watch a few movies I hadn’t seen in a long time. I definitely need to see War Games soon (and possibly Heathers).
The worlds Cline created in this book are inventive and wonderfully rendered. This is true for both the real world in which Wade lives as well as the virtual world inside the OASIS. Yes the characters were virtual reality avatars for much of the book but there were real world characters behind them that were sometimes much like their avatar counterparts and sometimes very different.
At times the story became so involved and complex within the OASIS that the return to the real world of the characters seemed almost less real. Cline does a wonderful job of moving back and forth between the two without losing the thread of the story at all though.
I became wrapped up the main characters and their quest to find Halliday’s Easter Egg and win the prize. As the story went on however, the real quest of keeping the evil corporation headed by a man named Sorrento from gaining control of the OASIS became the reason for wanting them to succeed.
The tension gradually built and the fun and funny references to so many wonderful pop-culture memories from the 80’s balanced that out. The danger both within and outside the OASIS kept me involved. I found myself taking the long way or adding extra errands to my daily drives so I could listen to more of the story.
Wil Wheaton does an excellent job of reading this. He’s telling the story as Wade so it’s natural for him to not characterize the other characters with their own voices. It’s told by Wade and Will Wheaton is a perfect Wade. He’s got just the right tone as Wade and I loved when he had to read his own name as one of the elected overseers of the Oasis.
I highly recommend the audio version of this one. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I had read it. I’m putting this in The Hubster’s audiobook queue because even though it’s something that’s very different from our normal reading fare, I think he’ll like it a lot.
SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books