I like sci-fi. In books and movies alike, they are fun to read and often provide with something to think about in terms of what could be. Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is the kind of sci-fi book that gives you a lot of could but presents it to you wrapped up in a bunch of ideas from other people. It’s the Family Guy shout-out system applied to sci-fi.
The book follows a guy named Parzival who is a poor dude in a video game alternate reality world where the creator—a billionaire—creates a game for everyone to play where the winner will inherit both the world and his fortune. May the best player or company or entity win! What a great setup, right? It is great. The issue is that Ready Player One takes place in an eighties nostalgic world of constant references and longing for “those days.” I’m all for nostalgia but I’m also one for new ideas.
Ready Player One has some new ideas, yes, but a lot of them are just, “…and then we played Joust.” or “…and then we played Ms. Pac Man.” The intellectual coat rack to which the story is hung is one that already has a bunch of coats already on it, meaning everything about this book is derived from a pop cultural reference you have to be in on or that you’ve heard before. It gets taxing.
Moreover, Cline has a great knack for writing and writing and writing around a subject, extending the reprieves between action as far as he can. It’s frustrating and annoying and makes you want to skip until things get going again. There’s a lot of business at points and then, at other times, a complete lack of business where you want it. (See: the entire second section/second gate part of the book.)
Since the book is simply one big reference to the eighties written explicitly to be made into a movie, you have to wonder what the motivation for Cline to debut this book as his first. Obviously, money is the motivation—but what else? A love of video games? A love of the eighties? A masturbatory desire to watch lawyers fight for the likeness of Matthew Broderick and every video game and computer device ever? I’d guess all of that.
The book is fine. It’s not bad but it definitely isn’t the type of thing that I read and grind my teeth, wishing that I had wrote this. I definitely don’t wish I wrote this book. I wish I could rewrite it, maybe, but it’s not a good book. It’s not well written. The originality found here is just a quilt of references laid atop of a virtual reality bed. It also just ends, without resolving the initial premise of the world being shit. There are no solutions. It’s all very Hollywood.
I’m going to stop before I have an aneurism. This book makes me so angry.