Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

January 16, 2013
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Ready Player OneReady Player One
By Ernest Cline; Read by Wil Wheaton
15 hours 46 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2011
ISBN: 0307913147

Themes: / video games / treasure hunt / 1980’s / virtual reality /

(Since this was reviewed previously on the site, you can view the earlier review for summary and MP3 sample.)

Ready Player One is pure nerd candy, geek heaven, or whatever you want to call it – it was an experience I couldn’t stop if I wanted to and didn’t want to end.

It usually takes me quite a while to get through an audiobook and that’s usually because I only listen to it at certain points of my day – when I’m in the car or walking to or from a new destination. Otherwise, I either have other commitments or other reading material.

I listened to Ready Player One in about 3 days. That’s unprecedented for me.  I couldn’t stop myself, it was too good. I’d listen to it in the car, then on the way, then I’d get there and have to listen to just a bit more. Soon, it was my entire lunch break, before bed, EVERY SPARE MOMENT!

In the near future, 2044, everyone’s connected to the OASIS, a virtual reality that lets you guide your avatar through a virtual world filled with a myriad of planets, games, and experiences. You can go to school, order a pizza (which gets routed to your local pizza joint of choice), and participate in other…adult activities.

The creator of the OASIS, is, of course, a mega-billionaire and our story begins with a short video (description) of James Halliday’s last will and testament…an elaborate egg-hunt designed to give everything to the one who can find the three keys and pass through the three gates already programmed into the OASIS.

Halliday was obsessed with the ’80s and promises that those who share his obsession are the only ones who have a chance.

This is the perfect example of write what you know. Cline’s created a future obsessed with the ’80s, the hairdos, the clothing, the games, everything. I was surprised by how much I knew given I spent less than a decade in that era and none of it paying attention to pop culture that’s for sure. Eighties knowledge is, however, icing on the cake, but far from necessity.

We follow Wade Watts in his journey as a gunter (egg hunter) as he finds time and means to get online, even amidst the squalor that is his home life, at least as long as he can get away without his Aunt trying to pawn all his stuff.

Wade begins the story in school, taking classes (mostly those that will help him on the hunt) and arguing with friends and foes alike over the best episodes of Family Ties and other Halliday discoveries.

Like many people on the OASIS, especially those in school, Wade is a geeky kid who doesn’t have too many friends and do I even need to mention his way (or lack of way) with women? Probably not.

While mostly a fun adventure with riddles and puzzles, fighting and leveling up, Ready Player One explores what is actual reality – do you have to do things in person or is it the feelings you get? And if so, can’t you get it all online?

The Audio Experience

Did I mention Wil Wheaton reads this here audiobook? Overall, he’s perfect for this. The quintessential nerd talking about dungeons and dragons and classic ’80s pop culture and video games. At one point, he even gets to mention his own name, how fun would that be?

His reading, however, isn’t all rainbows and fizzlepops. He reads a bit slow at times and en-un-ciates some words too slowly as well. The problem is that awkward silences (though very short) take away from the reading and pull you out of the story, making you realize someone’s just reading out loud to you instead of taking you to a far-off world. Rest assured, these problems were only toward the beginning of the story and did not last throughout.

Ready Player One is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Matrix, an instant classic right up there with Ender’s Game. Ready Player One is the best prediction of our future I’ve ever witnessed. Space ships and alien encounters? Yeah right. We’ll all be online.

5 out of 5 Stars (Brilliant!)

Review by Bryce L.

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