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September 29, 2012

Ready Player One



Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Fiction
2011 Random House Audio
Reader: Wil Wheaton
Finished on 8/8/12
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)




The mystery and fantasy in this novel weaves itself in the most delightful way, and the details that make up Mr. Cline’s world are simply astounding. Ready Player One has it all—nostalgia, trivia, adventure, romance, heart, and I dare say it, some very fascinating social commentary. ~ Huffington Post


From the website:

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

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.


A world at stake.


A quest for the ultimate prize.


Are you ready?



In a word: Fun! Want another? Clever.

I am not a gamer. I didn’t grow up with a Magnavox Odyssey or an Atari 2600. I did, however, play Pong (created by Atari and located in bowling alleys across the U.S. in the late ‘70s), although I can’t say that it became an addiction. By the time Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers rolled around, I was a working parent with no time for such frivolities. Sega hit the shelves, followed by Sony’s PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Xbox, but I was still clueless. I never got into Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft. It wasn’t until we were visiting some friends that I learned about the Wii and was tempted to get one, but the small room size of our 1930s bungalow wouldn’t accommodate the latest in gaming technology.

So, why in the world would I be interested in this debut novel, let alone become its local cheerleader? One friend wrote: 
The book is fast paced and I would have loved it just for the adventure, but what took it to the next level for me were all the pop culture references. The creator of OASIS grew up in the 80s and was obsessed with it. So the players in the adventure have to immerse themselves in the films, books, TV, music and especially the computer and video games of my favorite decade. You can’t turn more then a page or two without coming across a line from or a reference to classics (?) like “Family Ties”, Monty Python, “Buckaroo Banzai”, Rush, Gundam, Robotron, or “Brazil”. If you are a gamer, a science fiction/fantasy fan, can recite the Castle Anthrax scene, or just love a great adventure, I highly recommend “Ready Player One”. (Lee's Bookshelf)

I kept hearing about the audiobook from other bloggers, but I think it was Trish’s review that finally pushed me to download the book from my library:
I was a bit leery of the sci-fi, cyberpunk thriller premise of the book and have heard many others say the same. This is a common phrase: "This book was not something I'd normally pick up." Or "This book was way out of my comfort zone." But...I've seen very few people dislike it, so really--what are you waiting for? Plus there will be a movie, so why wait...

Bottom Line: If you are remotely interested in cyberpunk, science fiction, 80s trivia, gaming, or fast-paced adventures, this one is worth every bit of the hype it has received. Though this isn't something I would normally ever pick up in book form, I really enjoyed the listening experience.

Yep. That would be me. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but I have enjoyed books (and movies) such as Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, The Stand, The Giver, I Am Legend, The Sparrow, Ender’s Game, The Hunger Games and Alas, Babylon. And, I was still (just barely!) a teenager in the 80s, so the pop culture references were great fun to come upon. Even the technological references (TRS 80, Commodore 64, floppy disks, etc.) were familiar, as I worked in the Electronic Publishing division of HBJ Publishers, back in the early 80s, and helped test their software on these dinosaurs. But the movies! Of course I’d seen Airplane, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, The Breakfast Club, Ghostbusters, Risky Business, Short Circuit, Sixteen Candles, Sneakers, The Terminator, War Games and Weird Sciences (to name just a few). And the music? Rush, Oingo Boingo, Wham!, Cindy Lauper, Billy Idol… well, yeah. But Cline doesn’t stop there. He gives a nod to 80s TV (Family Ties, Simon & Simon, Knight Rider), as well as literary references (Adams, King, Card, Bradbury, Tolkien, Gaiman, etc.). This book is loaded with references that any 80s geek would love.

An action-packed, highly entertaining, nostalgic thrill ride through the past combined with the danger and excitement of a not-too-distant future. It marries the fantastical world of Harry Potter with a touch of Orson Scott Card—where fantasy is reality, geeks are cook, and the possibilities are endless. ~ New York Journal of Books

I recommended this book to my husband, a family friend and several co-workers. Most of them agree with me that it’s a highly entertaining and imaginative novel. Three read the print version and my co-worker loved it, but my husband felt that the writing was subpar and the friend thought it was slow to start. I didn’t notice either of these with the audiobook, which, by the way, was outstanding! Wil Wheaton’s performance is one of the best I’ve listened to. I didn’t have any trouble getting or maintaining interest in the characters or the plot. It was such a compelling read, with perfect pacing and at times, hilarious dialogue (I loved the customer service scene so much, I had to share it with several friends who would enjoy it as much as I did), that I plan to seek out more books narrated by Wheaton.

This is Cline’s first novel and his screenwriting background is perhaps just a tad too obvious, but I was ok with that. As a matter of fact, I had no trouble visualizing any of the scenes and I hope someone makes this into a film became my constant mantra. Well, someone is. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long as Ender’s Game or The Sparrow!

Final Thoughts: This may be better on audio than print, but I plan to revisit Wade’s world with the print version before the movie comes out. It’s an edge-of-your-seat, action-packed debut that you won’t want to miss. I look forward to more by Cline and would be completely thrilled with a sequel.


Visit Cline's website here and learn more about the book here.

Watch a video interview of Cline here and find more information about the film here.

21 comments:

  1. Okay, I totally have to stop trying to resist this one and just give in. I have a feeling I won't be sorry!

    Sounds like we must be about the same age.

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    1. It's excellent! I don't think you'll be sorry at all, but I do recommend the audio.

      I was born in 1961. How about you?

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  2. This one really didn't work for me at all, but I know I'm in the minority. I have been told by several people that the audio was fantastic and I wish I would have tried it that way.

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    1. From all I've heard, I think this is better on audio than print. Maybe you can wait a couple of years and "reread" it on audio. I'd almost be willing to listen to it again myself, it was that good!

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  3. Les,
    I am so glad that you liked it! As for another Wil Wheaton narrated book, you might try "Fuzzy Nation" by John Scalzi. It is a good, old fashioned science fiction novel with a lot of humor and a lot of heart. It was just outside my Top 10 for lat year. I read the print version, but the author raved about Wil's work on his site.

    Lee

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation for Fuzzy Nation. The timing was perfect, as I had a customer ask for something similar to Ready Player One! I'll see if I can get the audio from my library.

      Keep the recommendations coming!

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  4. I'm like you - totally not the market audience for this book yet I loved it. Everyone I've recommended it to has loved it as well.

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    1. Wasn't it an unexpected surprise?! I just loved it!

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  5. My oldest son loved this one and combined with some blogger friend's reviews, I purchased this one on audio. Now I so can't wait to get to it!!!!!

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    1. LISTEN TO IT NOW!!! ;)

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  6. I see Debi's comment above. Does this mean that you guys have finally connected? Love. :)

    The second time I read this one...for book club...I did a read/listen combo and agree about the writing. It's fun but very conversational which can be a bit jarring to read. Definitely one to be listened to! So glad you enjoyed it Les!

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    1. Yep, we connected a couple of weeks ago. I think it might have been after I signed up for Carl's RIP Challenge. Maybe. Who knows. Who remembers these things? ;)

      Thanks so much for giving me the nudge to listen to this amazing novel. I need to hit you up for my audio recs. I have a ton on my Nano (from my library). Maybe I should post a list and have you tell me which to read and which to skip. :)

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    2. Ha!! I haven't listened to THAT many. ;) But right now I'm listening to The End of the Affair narrated by Colin Firth (audible production). Firth makes for some very fantastic listening. But I would love to see what you have on your queue!

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  7. You and Trish are making this book so hard to resist, but I'm pretty sure my reaction would be similar to Lisa's. Still, it was the best-loved title of Audiobook Week... I'm definitely wavering.

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    1. Why resist? It's an amazing audiobook and one I'll probably keep on my Nano for a future "reread." Give it a try and let me know what you think. I have a feeling you'll enjoy it!

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  8. Glad you liked this one!! It's patiently waiting on my shelves. Having met Ernest Cline at the same time Trish did, I'm really showing how slow I am to read it. lol

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    1. Hmmm, I wonder if you'll enjoy the print version. I'm leaning more toward recommending the audio. Wil Wheaton's performance is one of the best. If you can't get into the book, ditch it and get a copy of the audio. I'll bet your library has it. It's getting quite popular.

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  9. I am so glad to see you liked this one. I listened to it and then made The Hubster listen to it. It's so different from our usual fare but we both really enjoyed it.

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    1. I loved it!! I think it was yours and Trish's reviews that convinced me to get it from my library. I'm so glad I did. Now to see what happens with the film... fingers crossed!

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  10. As you already know, I thought it was a good diversion audioread, but nothing spectacular. I am happy that you loved it though. :)

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