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Mswas’ CBR-IV Review #2 – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

01/17/2012

Ready Player One cover.If you are in your forties and did anything with gaming or technology as a kid, go grab Ready Player One by Ernest Cline right now. This is a tremendous debut novel. I am not kidding. Go. Now. I don’t even have to check to see that Cline is pretty much exactly my age (four years younger, drat!). Apologies to both Susan and Libby to whom this book was dedicated, this book was written for mswas.

It’s  over thirty years in the future, and the founder of OASIS, a virtual reality, James Halliday , has died. His will enables a Wonka-esque contest of the digital kind. The tasks? Based in 1980’s computer, movie, and television trivia. Essentially the building blocks of my middle school years. Now I didn’t have as much of a gaming background a some, but I do have a passing knowledge of the essential trivia, and the movies and music I lived through. The mentions of War Games, Atari, Star Wars,  and much much more are more than token nods, they are integral parts of the story.

The fact that Wade and the other gunners are  obsessed with Halliday, and trying to find clues that he embedded in OASIS allows them to constantly assess and show off bits of trivia of the time. Some of the bigger tasks allowed Wade to participate in games or movies of the time; and it was a unique way to experience the movie. Take War Games, for example:

… a young boy walked into the arcade and came over to me.

“Hi David!” he said, his eyes on my game.

I recognized this kid from the movie. His name was Howie. In the film, Matthew Broderick’s character hands his Galaga game off to Howie when he rushes off to school.

“Hi David!” the boy repeated, in the exact same tone. As he spoke this time, his words also appeared as text, superimposed across the bottom of my disp-lay, like subtitles. Below this, flashing red, were the words FINAL DIALOGUE WARNING!

I began to understand. The simulation was warning me this was my final chance to deliver the next line of dialogue from the movie. If I didn’t say the line, I could guess what would probably happen.

Wade and his friends have an immense store of trivia about the time, and Cline works it all together brilliantly. The quest is intriguing and the trivia of the time was right up my alley, but Cline draws his characters vividly as well. He puts us clearly on Wade’s side, an underdog; and we root for him and the others as sympathetic characters. The scenes when they finally all meet each other in person were excellent, and Cline makes a strong point about the democracy of anonymity.

I don’t know how Cline can follow this up. To me it was just perfect. 5 stars for sure.

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One comment

  1. 5 stars for me as well. Tremendously fun book, and a ridiculously high bar to set for a first novel. I would also recommend “The Gone Away World,” by Nick Harkaway. It’s his first novel, and my favorite book from last year. (He’s also John LeCarre’s son, so perhaps talent runs in the blood, which makes me hopeful for this sophomore publication coming out this year.)



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