Fun, action packed love letter to the 80’s
As the movie adaptation hits the big screen I thought it may be good to review the much loved/criticised 2012 novel Ready Player One.
In 2045, nearly everyone on the depleted, depressed Planet Earth, including high school student Wade Watts, dreams of winning the untold billions at stake in a contest devised by James Halliday, late inventor of OASIS, the immersive virtual utopia that allows anyone to plug in and leave the real world behind.
Obsessed with 80’s pop culture and technology, Halliday creates a series of puzzles that can only be solved by someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction, player-vs.-player fighting strategies, and the software mogul's own personal history. As the stakes grow higher and players begin to die in the real world, Wade must decide whether he can trust anyone else in his quest for the ultimate prize.
This book was published in 2012 and quickly acquired a cult fan base due to the nostalgia ridden homage to everything from the 80’s. Music, TV, anime, fashion, movies and mostly arcade games and gaming, the popular and the obscure, it’s all covered here.
It’s a massively divisive book and the many, many mixed reviews attest to this. Many fanboys/girls of the book wallow in page laden 80’s nostalgia but the detractors appear to see it as heavy handed and lazy. Well, I am fanboy and devoured it. I loved the references to my youth and it made me warm and fuzzy. The writings not half bad either. The pace zings along in Wade’s first person, past tense narrative.The action doesn’t let up and is, at times, pulsating.
There’s criticism that the constant ode to the 80’s and list of references slows the novel down and that it doesn’t draw from the 80’s but merely name drops. For the geeks and retro obsessives this simply isn’t an issue and the nostalgia is something to enjoy and be immersed in. Other than its geeky referencing of 1980s pop culture, the books strength lies in the characterisation of Wade and his redemptive quest in both VR and the real world. Wade’s relationship with his fellow geeks is particularly endearing and makes you root for him/them all the harder.
One gripe would be the handling of the leading female character, Art3miss, a revered gamer. Initially she is a strong and powerful but ultimately ends up as the usual ‘love interest’ character for Wade and nothing more than a trophy for the protagonist. I did find the relationship a little unsettling with Wade becoming obsessed and somewhat stalky. It appeared that this female character just became another of Wade’s prizes, just like the Oasis. I’m pretty sure the Spielberg treatment on the big screen will address this.
There is also a little nod here how online personas can be misleading which is especially prevalent at the moment. Personally I’m bored of how we all hate everything, I found this book a fun, action packed romp, ideally aimed at gamers with a heavy nod to when things were better. A big warm hug of a book. Sequel incoming, no doubt.