Friday, 26 February 2016

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Dystopia 5)

This book is in SBR's
2016 Top Ten Reads

Publication date: 16th August 2011
Published by: Crown Publishers
Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopia
Read in 2013. re-read in 2014 and 2016

Publisher's synopsis
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenager Wade Watts really feels alive is when he is jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade has devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade is going to survive, he will have to win — and confront the real world he has always been so desperate to escape.

Sooz Book Reviews Gold Seal of Approval

My Review 
The premise of Ready Player One is interesting and I found it to be a very compelling read.  Like the OASIS, I found myself completely immersed in it.  It is fabulous escapism.

Although I never experienced the anxiety or sense of dread that proper Dystopia provide, it does have subtle nods to this sci-fi sub-genre, demonstrated by the contrast  between the (Dystopian) real world and the (Utopian) virtual one.  I did reflect on how sad a situation the main characters were in, that is,  only able to interact with others and enjoy life in the virtual world, while being completely isolated and alone in the real one.  The platonic and romantic relationships they have formed are with people they have never met in real life, calling into question whether they really know their friends/loved-ones.

RP1 reads like a debut to me, in the sense that there is room for improvement in the writing.  (Bearing in mind that I cannot read my own first novel without wincing at certain passages).  The narrative is cluncky in places, and Wade spends too much time explaining stuff to we readers unnecessarily.  I found the romantic plot in particular poorly executed - parts of it are a bit cringe-worthy.  With regard to the main characters (that is, the high 5: Wade/Parzival, Ar3mis, Aech, Daito and Shoto), some effort was made on the part of the author to be inclusive (in terms of gender, race and nationality) - which was refreshing - but the execution is rather clumsy and wince-inducing in parts.  I will refrain from providing examples as they are plot-spoilers.

Be warned: Wade and his companions become the 'High 5' because they are super geeks when it comes to gaming and all things related to JD Halliday (the creator of the OASIS). [One would have to be a super geek to stand a chance of winning the competition.] If you find the world of gaming and/or 1980s pop culture nauseating, you may have a problem with the relentless references and the 'attention to detail' of these topics throughout the novel.  On the other hand, if you can appreciate the references, like me, you'll probably love it.

I have now read Ready Player One three times.  Basically, it has become my go-to-novel when I want to escape.  (For example, it is ideal for illness/post-operative recovery periods or if you have a fear of flying and have to take a long haul flight.)

As you may know, I don't issue ratings and this book is an example of why that is the case.  It is by no means perfect, and yet, for me, it deserves more than the max 5 stars.  Highly recommended.

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