Sunday, 17 September 2017

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
I'm actually nervous to write this review. This book has a reputation, and it was recommended to me by people who's taste I trust. My friend and I wanted to do a little mini book club, and the movie coming out, we picked it up.

I finished this book weeks ago but I've been struggling with how to write the review. Suffice to say, I didn't like it.

Other people have explained better why they didn't like it, so I feel like I'd just be repeating things that have already been said.

I was born in the early 80's. I have a sibling who is over 10 years older and I am, so I was exposed to music and movies earlier than I probably should have been. My parents were hippies, so my media consumption for the first decade of my life was Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, David Bowie, Traveling Wilburys, Laura Brannigan, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Willie Nelson. I grew up with The Dark Crystal (One of my top 5 movies of all time), Footloose, Flashdance, The Breakfast Club, Moving Violations, Labyrinth, Never-Ending Story, Dragonslayer, Willow, Don Bluth, John Hughes, ET, and Flight of Dragons (The second top 5 movie of all time).

My foster families were The Bundys and The Connors.

See what I did? I listed a bunch of things. Can I have a publishing contract now?

Let's take away the references, don't worry, we'll get back to them, but for now let's just talk about the writing.

The characters are paper thin or racial stereotypes, everything just happens with no real struggle or stakes, the lead character is directly responsible for the death of hundreds of people and he barely thinks about it. The internal logic of the world doesn't work, on page one we learn both there's a global energy crisis but also a global MMO that almost everyone is almost always playing. They even do schooling through it.

The writing consists of lines like:

"After five long years, the Copper Key had finally been found, by an eighteen-year-old kind living in a trailer park in the outskirts of Oklahoma City. That kid was me."

Then a few pages later it goes on a huge info dump about how God doesn't exist.

Then, after that, after telling us how his laptop has access to everything ever made, all books, music, movies, everything, his laptop is destroyed. Oh no, right? Conflict! Stakes! He lost everything!
One paragraph later he explains how he has two more laptops hidden in his hideout. He could have, you know, walked to his hideout and let the reader wonder what he was going to do, and it could have been shown as a reveal. Instead, we're told. The whole book is like this.

Oh, he also describes what his avatar looks like while looking into a mirror.

We’re told Art3mis is a great, funny, insightful writer but never read any of her blog posts.

Also, can I just point out that his name is Wade Owen Watts? WOW.

When it’s not telling instead of showing, it sounds remarkably out of touch in a “Hello, fellow kids!” way.

Aech: Top o’ the morning, amigo.
Parzival: Hola, compadre,
Aech: What are you up to?
Parzival: Just serving the turf. You?
Aech: Got the Basement online. Come and hang out before school, fool.
Parzival: Sweet! I’ll be there in a sec.


or

“Everyone began calling them the Sixers. These days, most gunters referred to them as “the Sux0rz” (Because they sucked.)”


Also, no one calls XP “Xps”. That’s one of the many many notes I made. Specifically my note was “No one calls it that. Are you on drugs?”

I have made many, many notes in my Kindle over this book. So far in this review I have only touched on 11% of the book.

Now, to the references.

A lot of reviews have said the book is basically author wish fulfillment. "What if everyone liked what I liked?" And they're right.

I write. I have characters. Some of my characters like some of the same things I like. It's a staple of their personality. But, it's not ALL my characters and it's not ALL they like nor is it ALL the things I like.

There's a scene in Ready Player One where Wade is inside a giant robot. Inside the giant robot is an 8-track player that was retroactively programmed into an otherwise exact replica of the giant robot’s cockpit, with 8-track tapes. Wade puts in AC/DC.

My personal kick-ass-and-take-names song is The Gears by Dethklok. If I am doing a final battle with the prize being a bajillion dollars and ownership of the biggest company on the planet, you BET I'M going to listen to MY kick-ass-and-take-names song. Screw your likes and your aesthetic and your quirks. This, for me, for Wade, is a life-changing moment. It's The Gears or nothing.

And that's the thing. People are nuanced. I like Dethklok, I like Alice Cooper's albums from the 80's, 90’s and now but I don't like Alice Cooper's early albums. I like many things, and the internet is vast and full of billions of people who all like many things. The idea of the entire Internet fawning over the 80s is unbelievable. The OASIS was established as a place of infinite possibilities and the limit was your own imagination. But nope. 70’s and 80’s everywhere.

If this is truly the holy grail of geekdom, well, I thought we were better than this? More well-read than this? We have LOTRs and ASOIAF on our shelves. Harry Potter, Watchmen, The Killing Joke, World War Z, meticulous D&D Monster Manuals. We’re sticklers for world building and internal logic and flair for words.

How did this get such high praise?

View all my reviews

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