Ready Player One cover art

Ready Player One; Ernest Cline

| published April 24, 2016 |

Book review by Michael Bush, Thursday Review contributor

Ready Player One is the most incredible group of 1980s pop culture references ever assembled into a sci-fi novel about video games…ok, it’s probably the only such novel out there (for the time being, at least). But all jokes aside, this book by Ernest Cline is fantastic. Cline weaves a thrilling story, replete with action, adventure, romance, and intrigue. When most people read/review this book, they will gush over the references to the 80s in the form of TV shows, movies, video games, fashion, and role playing pen and paper games. I’m not going to do that…too much. I mean, I have to mention it, because holy crap it is super awesome. If you lived in the 80s, just reading this book will fill you with excited giggles, fond remembrances, and total geek outs. But there is more to this book than just the references.

First, the world building Cline achieves in Ready Player One is deep and feels real. The world is falling apart, the stacked mobile home lots, people starving and unable to afford food, water, and a place to live. It all feels real because, hell…we aren’t far off from most of that. But, aside from that grim reality, the video game which the book enters around, OASIS, really seems like something we could be seeing soon. With the VR gaming world producing products like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it is only a matter of time before we all live our lives from a haptic chair with a visor strapped to our face. Going to work, hanging with friends, breaking the law, killing dragons…all from the comfort of our own home via a virtual reality projection. Though we aren’t quite yet there, Ernest Cline has made the world in his novel feel so real that after reading, you already expect our world to be exactly like his.

Also, the characters he created are fleshed out and inventive. No spoilers, as is my constant mission in life, but there are some surprises in store when you read about these people. The peripheral characters get plenty of attention, too, and feel just as real as the main characters. It’s a genuine treat to read a book so well written that I can’t put it down. I’ve been through a bit of a drought recently when it comes to books that grab me and won’t let go. I read this entire book in less than 24 hours. It is that good.

I don’t expect everyone to love this book as much as I do, though. I mean, I was addicted to World of Warcraft for years, playing at least 40 hours a week, so I know what it is like to escape reality in a digital world. I made friends through that game that I still talk to today via Facebook, since none of us play WoW anymore. And this book is science fiction, which means a good number of people will write it off instantly. “No robots or lasers for me! Only historical non-fiction, and self help books, thank you.” But, it also has some really cool dungeon crawling fantasy parts, some very YA relationship stuff, and some great industrial espionage. Truth be told, you will like this book, or at least parts of it. It really is a “something for everyone” type book. Five stars!

Related Thursday Review articles:

Wolf in White Van; John Darnelle; book review by Kristy Webster; Thursday Review; February 5, 2016.

The Enchanted; Rene Denfeld; book review by Kristy Webster; Thursday Review; March 9, 2015.