Normally, I am not one for bashing books. But looking through all of my reviews on here, I have never reviewed a book I did not like. So you might be thinking that I love everything I read, which is not always the case.
But please note that the opinions expressed in this post are fully my own. I don’t claim to be an all-knowing authority on all things literature. By all means, pick up this book if it appeals to you — I’m just saying that I did just that, and (for me) it was a mistake.
I pride myself on generally being able to pick out books that I will enjoy reading. Trust me, it is rare that I do not finish a book because I am not enjoying it. I made it through Chapter 17 of Ready Player One before finally putting it down. But believe me, I knew I wanted to quit after Chapter 3.
The year is 2044 and the world is suffering through an energy crisis. The human race is struggling to sustain itself, and rather than deal with these real world problems, people are turning to the OASIS as a distraction. The OASIS is essentially a virtual reality, a simulated world where people can attend school, play games, access books and basically do anything and everything. Plus, it only costs a quarter to sign up. It was created by a man named James Halliday, who, after dying rather suddenly, announces in his will that he has left and Easter Egg hidden somewhere in the OASIS. Whoever is the first to find it will inherit Halliday’s corporation and his entire multi-billion dollar fortune.
So it’s a bit Willy Wonka-esque, but it sounds cool, right? Throw in an evil company called IOI that will stop at nothing to gain control of the company and monetize it, leaving the OASIS for only people who can afford it — sounds like a proper dystopian, action-thriller, right?
Never have I been so disappointed by a book in my life. This has been on my radar forever, even before talks of a movie being made. But it was just — ugh, I hate to say it, but — it was just terrible.
Can we start with the fact that Wade, the protagonist, is THE WORST PERSON EVER? He repeatedly admits to cyber-stalking this girl Art3mis (pronounced “Artemis”) all the time and will not take no for an answer whenever she rejects his advances. Even before he ever really speaks to her, he’s overly-possessive of her and it gives me the creeps. In Chapter 15 when Wade’s friend Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”) invites Art3mis over to their chatroom and tells her she can come any time, Wade thinks to himself, “They really seemed to be hitting it off, and it was making me crazy jealous. I didn’t want Art3mis to like Aech, or vice versa. I wanted her all to myself.” Just. Gross. Later in Chapter 17, she repeatedly tells him to stop contacting her and/or that she does not want to date him, and he just does not listen. She tells him to stop on page 169, then again on 171, and then again on 174 when she tells him not to e-mail her. The next paragraph literally starts, “I started e-mailing her.” This dude is terrible! Not to mention he makes a blatant transphobic comment in that same conversation on page 171: “Are you a woman? And by that I mean are you a human female who has never had a sex-change operation?” Also not to mention in an extremely long conversation about nothing in Chapter 3, Wade and his friends try to out-man each other, throwing out sexist and homophobic language, calling each other “pussy,” “twink,” and “fag.” And this is our protagonist?
Wade’s personality is not improved by the fact that he shows barely any remorse at being one of the direct causes for his Aunt’s death and all his neighbors in the stacks. He shows some remorse for the death of Mrs. Gilmore, his kind neighbor by crying for a hot second about her, but they literally only have one interaction in the whole book before this and it was not enough to set the relationship up as anything meaningful to the readers. Basically, Cline keeps setting up his protagonist to be a complete asshole and I can’t help but hate him more and more as time passes.
Ernest Cline is a screenwriter and Ready Player One is his first novel.
It shows, Ernest. It shows.
This guy cannot write a decent description to save his life. His descriptions are either overkill or they’re just bad. On page 117, he describes a character like so: “His wild gray hair and long beard made him look like a cross between Albert Einstein and Santa Claus. That comparison was also a pretty good description of his personality.” It just seems like lazy writing. Plus, his dialogue is overly cheesy. One example of this is on page 141: “You and the other Sux0rz can all go fuck a duck.” I can’t make this shit up. That’s an actual line that someone says in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Oh, and those nostalgic 80s references he’s always making — there are too many of them. They appear in long lists one after the other. He often sacrifices precious story flow to explain some obscure reference that is not even essential for readers to understand the story. He makes references for the sake of making references and it’s tiring to read.
I fully understand that perhaps I am not part of the audience that this book was meant for — I’m assuming it’s for people who enjoy watching other people play video games on Youtube, enjoy playing video games themselves, and/or were self-proclaimed “nerds” in the 80s and would therefore feel the proper amount of warm nostalgia.
Even though I am not a part of this audience, however, the book still appealed to me. I was more interested in the world outside of the OASIS, how it got there and what was being done to fix it. I liked seeing the real-world consequences of virtual decision-making. An extremely high stakes video game still appealed to me, but this book just failed time and time again to deliver. I just wasn’t willing to follow through to the end with this one.
My rating: ★