Ready Player One

‘READY PLAYER ONE’


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OPENING LINE:

If you put 1980s popular culture into a blender and mix well, ‘Ready Player One’ is the end result.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of 10,000 planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late 20th century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
©2011 Ernest Cline (P)2011 Random House Audio


THE PLOT:

When world famous game developer James D. Halliday passes away, his will stipulates that his vast fortune will be awarded to the first person to find an easter egg hidden somewhere in his massive creation known as The Oasis. This sparks the biggest scavenger hunt that the world has ever seen.
High School student Wade Watts (AKA Parzival) is just one of those looking to solve the puzzle. He researches the life of Halliday thoroughly, obsessively listening to the man’s favorite music, watching his favorite movies and television shows, reading his favorite authors and books and, most of all, playing his favorite video games. Parzival is hoping that his knowledge will give him the edge.
When Parzival becomes the first person to solve the first puzzle, just ahead of a player named Art3mis, he sets off an unexpected chain of events. Being first would not just impact him inside of The Oasis, but there would also be deadly, real world consequences .
These events would force Parzival, his crush Art3mis, his best friend Aech and a Japanese player named Shoto to work together to ensure that Halliday’s fortune and, more importantly, The Oasis itself doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
It takes a little bit of time before the action of ‘Ready Player One’ gets fully underway. However, it is time that is an investment. The author goes on a lot in the earliest chapters to explain how this world works and the rules that govern it. The early exposition comes in handy once the real chase begins. Doing so much work to build the foundation early means fewer side explanations later that could derail the story as it unfolds.
‘Ready Player One’ is an avalanche of pop culture references, particularly from the 1980s. I was born in 1981 and while there were many that I understood quite well, there were some that went right past me. Thankfully, the references that made up the most critical elements of the story were explained in detail.
It would be unfair to call ‘Ready Player One’ nothing more than an explosion of pop culture references. In truth, there is depth to the story and lessons to be learned. One message, delivered by Halliday himself, will go over well with those who worry that virtual play is becoming a replacement for real interaction.


THE AUTHOR:

What Ernest Cline has done with ‘Ready Player One’ is absolutely amazing. You don’t need to be a hardcore gamer, surrounded entirely by geek culture or a 1980s historian to follow the story of ‘Ready Player One’. Indeed, people who fit into those groups will have a higher degree of fondness for Cline’s work but the structure he created ensures that the story can be accessible to anyone.


THE NARRATION:

Wil Wheaton gives an outstanding performance throughout ‘Ready Player One’. It helps when a narrator has obvious enthusiasm for the project they’re working on, and it’s clear that this wasn’t just another job for Wheaton. He was the right choice, both for his Science Fiction credibility and his well-known love of technology.
From scenes involving trash talk to those of frustration, heartbreak, excitement and caring, Wheaton always plays it the right way. This is the audiobook narration equivalent of a perfect game of Pac-Man.


THE PRODUCTION:

No music or background sound effects are used on the track. Chapter stops are where you’d expect them to be and the audio is free of glitches.


CONCLUSION:

The ‘Ready Player One’ audiobook is a winning presentation in all aspects. Cline has created something that can easily be appreciated by children of the 1980s and fans of geek culture but doesn’t completely go over the heads of everyone else. Then Wil Wheaton took that creation and his enthusiasm for it and played it all perfectly.
‘Ready Player One’ is a love letter to a certain segment of popular culture, but it is much more than that. It is also thoroughly engaging, wildly entertaining and sometimes even poignant.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Ready Player One Ernest cline Wil Wheaton Random House Audio Science Fiction 08/16/2011 15 hours, 41 minutes 9.75/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘READY PLAYER ONE’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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