Monday, July 20, 2015

"Ready Player One" Succeeds in beautifully combining the future and the past.

Full disclosure: I am a child of the late 70s and early 80s. I graduated from high school in 1987, so I have a love of anything from those decades.

It's quite possible, Ready Player One by Earnest Cline was written with my generation in mind.

The story line without being to spoiler-y: It's 30 years in the future, and things aren't going well. Poverty is rampant and the corporations have for the most part assumed control. On the plus side, technology has advanced to include a virtual reality world known as OASIS. The fully immersive world was created by James Halliday who was born in 1972, so, like me, he had an absolute love of the 80s. At the beginning of the book Halliday, who is incredibly rich after inventing OASIS, dies and leaves his entire fortune to whomever can find the secret hidden within the program which consists of thousand of worlds and locations.

The quest for Halliday's "Easter Egg" creates a new found love of anything from the late 70s and early 80s especially in the realm of science fiction, role-playing games, music and video games.

There are wonderful mentions to things I held dear as a young person, like WarGames, Dungeons & Dragons and Joust, but even if you were born after the 80s, it's still an enjoyable book. Cline does a wonderful job of explaining the references so the reader doesn't feel lost. I admit there are things I didn't always get, especially some of the Japanese Television shows, but I was still able to understand it.

Nostalgia for the 80s appears to be fairly common currently. Big Trouble in Little China and Edward Scissorhands both have returned in comic book form, new movies are coming out based off National Lampoon's Vacation, Ghost Busters and Star Wars and there's even an appearance in Seth MacFarlane's Ted 2 by Sam J. Jones who played Flash Gordon in 1980.

But, just having awesome 80s references in a distopian future isn't enough to make a great novel. Earnest Cline makes Ready Player One a fantastic read through great character development and wonderful story telling. I felt like I was on the adventure with the main character as he sought clues to the puzzle. I even had dreams trying to figure out the riddles until the next time I could return to reading the book.

I highly recommend Ready Player One (in fact I handed the book over to my wife as soion as I turned the last page) and look forward to seeing your comments...

1 comment:

wuvva said...

I got my paws on this book as soon as I could after you recommended it so highly. You nailed it - it was absolutely written with our generation in mind, but it's not so "insider-y" that it excludes anyone from enjoying the book. However, if you are a child of the 70s and 80s, although there were even a few of the more obscure references that I had to look up, you are most certainly the audience that Cline intended.
And that is icing on the cake to absolutely excellent storytelling. The character development is fantastic - as the reader you are totally invested in not only the protagonist, but the "supporting" cast, too. And you are pulling for the young hero all the way.
I also found every bit of the protagonist believable. It is HARD to write from a young person's point of view without slipping into overly simplistic characterization, too much use of slang, and language that diminishes the character's life experience. Cline isn't having any of that. His characters have rich inner lives, believable dialogue with their peers and elders, and complex feelings and reactions to the twists and turns of the action.
Not to mention, with no spoilers - Cline's use of gender pronouns is so refreshing. It's one of those details that the novel would be awesome without, but, like the references, it's icing on the cake.
Run out and get this novel.
While at first appearances it looks like a niche novel, it defies all expectation. It's a rich story with a clever protagonist at the center and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. I had dreams about it, too -- couldn't wait to pick it back up, and most definitely didn't want it to end.
Luckily, Cline's been a busy guy - his second effort, Armada is available everywhere, and his third novel was announced last month. There are also rumors of a film treatment of Ready Player One.