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What I've been reading # 1: Ready Player One


Howdy,


I'm starting a new series of posts about what I've been reading lately. I'll stick to science fiction and fantasy. For the inaugural post, I'll talk about what I liked about a book I recently finished, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I decided to read the book after seeing the trailer for the Steven Spielberg movie based on it. I figured I'd eventually rent the movie on DVD and wanted to read the book first.


I have to admit, I wasn't initially impressed by the book. The innumerable references to the pop-culture of yesteryear and today didn't do anything for me. Occasionally, I found myself recognizing a reference and feeling a brief pang of nostalgia, but not nearly often enough. My video game playing days are long behind me, and I am too young to have been an arcade junkie. The pop culture references were overkill, often obsessively so.


Of course, our hero needs a categorical knowledge of 80s pop culture to succeed in overcoming the nefarious forces opposing him. This made it difficult for me to identify with Wade, the protagonist, for the first hundred pages or so of the novel. He lived a crappy life in the real world, and an equally crappy existence in the novel’s cyberspace world called the Oasis. You might be asking yourself, why the hell did he read the story if it's so terrible? I was thinking the same thing for the first one hundred pages. What kept me reading is that the novel moves swiftly and is a quintessential quick read. What I mean by this is that I could pick it up just before going to sleep at night and read a few pages in ten minutes or so and reach a break in the action – either a line skip or a new chapter. Cline proves that fast-paced, short scenes will keep even a hesitant reader turning pages.


Now, reading the above, you might think I didn't like the book. That is not the case. In fact, by the end of the novel, I was amazed how much I enjoyed it. Wade had grown on me as a protagonist from an unlikable loser to an unlikely hero. The supporting cast of the fellow gunters (treasure hunters in cyberspace) grew on me as well, especially when we met all of them in the real world. Plus, I like the novel's message that the virtual world, no matter how fantastic, is not enough to sustain a person.


So, in the end, I recommend this book. I believe it an entertaining read (if you can make it past the first 100 pages) and provides an object lesson in the virtues of writing a fast-paced novel.