Friday, July 12, 2013

Ready Player One

I recommend the most recent book I read, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, with some hesitance. I say read it if you are a video gamer, a lover of 80s pop culture, and/or a hungry reader. I agree with many of the reviews here, and I'm curious as to how the story will translate to film (either extremely well or horribly are my guesses).

Short synopsis (taken/summarized from the jacket cover):

In 2044, humanity escapes reality through the OASIS, a glorified video game/virtual reality utopia. Wade Watts, our protagonist, dreams of discovering the ultimate lottery ticket concealed in the OASIS, hidden there by its creator, James Halliday, in the form puzzles based on 80s pop culture (video games, music, and movies). Whoever finds the prize gets Halliday's fortune. The riddles have gone unsolved for years when suddenly Wade solves the first one. Suddenly, the hunt is back in full swing--danger, love, chaos, death, triumph, and competition ensue.

Sounds promising, right? We are definitely close to the world of RPO--we have video games controlled by our bodies, and a lot of humanity spends all waking moments plugged into some sort of virtual reality while many others suffer, starve, and die. Something was lacking from this novel, though. I'll admit, the story got better the more I read (and it kept me entertained enough to continue reading), but I think a few more revisions could have helped polish it a bit more.

What hurt the book most was the fact that I kind of hated Wade, the kid who spends all of his free time playing video games. I wanted to yank off his virtual reality gear, slap his fat head (he's gotta be fat--constant video games, lack of movement, eats junk food, never outdoors...) and tell him to GO OUTSIDE and DO SOMETHING. Of course I thought this as I sat on my couch on a beautiful July evening reading a book, but I at least spend parts of the day outside, and I know the difference between reality and electronics.

The other problem I had was that while Cline wants so bad to write for the audience of people who did experience the 80s, and therefore would get all the references, he mucks it up by long explanations of what all the references are for his non-informed audience. Even as a member of the non-informed audience (I barely know pop culture references from my own childhood), I found the explications clunky and contrived. Some things he mentions once and never again, serving only to prove that he knows his 80s trivia (while stalling the plot). Cutting down on the references and focusing on the actual story would have helped a lot, and I hope that's what the screenwriters do when they start on movie production.

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