Last week I was on vacation, and it was a banner week for my relationship with the Palmyra branch of the Harrison County Public Library. It’s walking distance from my house, so I should probably drop in more often even when I’m not on vacation. At any rate, I not only scored a copy of Shadow of Night, the sequel to Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches (which I read last year), but also Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.
I read Ready Player One first, because it didn’t take me long to realize I was going to knock that one out really fast, and I wanted to share it with Chris. Ernest Cline was in one of the panels I attended at FandomFest 2012 a couple of weeks ago, and a couple of readers had copies of the book for him to autograph.
I would recommend Ready Player One to you if:
- You’re a fan of dystopian science fiction a la Logan’s Run, The Hunger Games
- You’re a child of the 80s who still misses his/her Saturday morning cartoon fix
- You’re obsessed with 80s pop culture for some other reason
- You love classic video games, D&D, and nerd culture in general
- You have a low tolerance for vulgarity or sexual references
- You dislike juvenile humor/behavior (the main character is an 18 year old boy)
- You dislike dystopian fiction, 80s pop culture, or video gaming
My take: This book is basically a guy’s version of The Hunger Games, with nerd-fu replacing mad archery skillz, no tiresome love triangle, and a self-contained, single volume story.
- Dystopian future where everyone is starving and oppressed? Check.
- Scrappy main character struggling to survive on the wrong side of the socioeconomic spectrum, with a uniquely useful skill set? Check.
- A world watching in rapt fascination as the underdog triumphs? Check.
- Nail-biting suspense as the evil Powers-That-Be attempt to kill him/her? Check.
- Romantic subplot complicated by the main character’s tendency to use isolation as a major coping skill? Check.
There’s also a constant stream of sly references and in-jokes based in nerd culture and 80s pop culture. You’ll either love that, or hate it, and you know in advance which camp you probably fall in. I fell in the “love it” camp.
It’s probably also worth noting that Wade is an atheist, and displays a typical teenage-know-it-all condescension towards anyone who isn’t. It’s a worldview that makes sense in context, given the setting and how his character relates to others in general, but some people of faith might find those passages irritating. That said, the one Christian character in the book is portrayed as unambiguously kind and generous, and the mentions of faith/worldview are pretty brief. It’s not a main focus of the book by any stretch.
I really enjoyed Ready Player One. It’s well-written, with a tight plot, bouncy dialogue and a mostly-likable cast of characters, but I’m dead center in the target audience for this book. YMMV, but I think I’ve given you enough information that you’ll know whether it’s a good fit for you personally.