I recently finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline as part of my normal reading routine. I heard about this first on the Machine Readable podcast some time ago, and Jessa even bought a copy, but it never made it to the top of my reading list until recently. Generally speaking, it was a worthwhile read, and I’m glad it finally made it to the top of my list. More specifically though, there were a couple of things that nagged at me throughout.
First, I had a hard time with the believability of the setting (this seems like a common theme for me recently). This is the smallest of the nitpicks, and ended up being fairly minor in the grand scheme, but the established setting is that the world is in an energy crisis, so everyone has crowded to the big cities because the transportation of goods and people is too expensive. However, the story is also based on the idea that everyone has access to the OASIS, which is basically a massive multi-player online game, where people can also go to school and work for real money. If that’s the case, why be near a city when you could be nearer to food? Everyone seems to have internet access and a rig capable of using the OASIS, how expensive are the energy needs of that? Later in the book, we find out one of the characters is nomadic and drives around in her RV – that sounds like a lot of energy, how rich is this person? We also find that, after he moves to the city, our main character has everything, including meals, delivered to his home, multiple times a day – that seems like it should be prohibitively expensive… …All of these things take me out of the setting a bit and make me question what’s really going on (which, to be fair, could be intentional).
Second, I felt that the plot was a little more shallow that I really wanted. I, of course, loved a romp through the 80s – Ernest Cline tickled all the right things to make it a fun read. But, there was never really anything to challenge me – the outcome was predictable, the arc the main character has with his love interest was not unexpected, and the only really unexpected plot point was very much a deus ex machina. That doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good – it was definitely a page turner, and a fun read, but didn’t feel like it had a lot of substance behind it.
Lastly, and most frustrating, was the mustache twirling villain. In general, I have the hardest time with the “evil corporation” that is touted by cyberpunk plotlines, and IOI is no different. This is demonstrated early in the book when Nolan Sorento (the face of the antagonist) decides to kill Wade. To do so, he needs to get multiple other IOI departments (at least surveillance, press manipulation, and killing people departments) on board with killing a high school kid because he beat one of the management at a video game. Then, those same department heads need to convince their people to do the job. Granted, I work in a smaller company, but I have a hard time believing that there are enough corrupt people in the company to hand down and execute such an order.
Setting all those nitpicks aside (as they really are just nitpicks), I actually really enjoyed Ready Player One. It may have been shallow, but it was a quick read, and the story fit together just fine. I look forward to the movie, and while I will likely not go see it in the theatre, I’ll probably look for it on DVD. Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes 80s references and MMO tropes – who knows, your thing might get an honorable mention.