While video games are my chosen hobby there are times when I somehow (between being a dad, a gamer, full time employee, and a writer for the site) find a way to sit down with a good book. Unlike video games reading is one of the greatest escapes and the graphics are powered by imagination where the budget is limitless and the possibilities boundless. Recently I got a chance to read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and I was pleasantly surprised. Usually I read nothing outside of fantasy or a good Star Wars book (which is fantasy in space), but I received Ready Player One as a gift and am pleased to say the book is a genre busting success that delves deeply into nostalgia while also being witty and original.

 The book is set in the year 2044 and the world is in bad shape. Overpopulation, war, poverty and human laziness (all rampant in our society now) has made our planet a grim place to live. Wade Watts, our protagonist, escapes his fate like most of the world by being jacked into the OASIS: a digital world where just about anything goes. Within the OASIS children go to school, parents work, and the worlds are based on everything from Bladerunner to Harry Potter. A sprawling utopia where you can fight, fall in love, or kill time; It’s the ultimate escape and the ultimate video game.

It’s creator, James Halliday, upon his death communicated to every player a video that told them of a magnificent prize set somewhere within the OASIS that if found would bestow upon the lucky person a fortune as well as control of the OASIS and all the companies that create and keep it. Halliday was obsessed with the 80’s and clues could be hidden in anything from a game of Pac-Man to his favorite movie. For years millions of players have struggled to find the prize until most decided it didn’t exist, just a cruel prank by an odd dying recluse, until Wade stumbles upon the first challenge in a series of fiendish puzzles and manages to bring public attention back to the search.

Of course with that kind of money comes power; power that many would kill for. As Wade makes his way through the clues and attempts to free himself from the dregs of his reality, he must dodge danger in both a real and virtual world.  Our protagonist himself is what one would call the penultimate nerd, an overweight kid that isn’t outrageously handsome, but clever and obsessed with finding the clues to the puzzle, and thus obsessed with all things 80’s.

The characters within the book are well crafted and believable and the plot moves along at a breakneck pace. I found it almost impossible to put the book down once I started and gleaned no end of smiles from constant nods to the time period I was born and grew up in. Even without a vast pop culture knowledge of the 80’s the book is instantly accessible and endlessly entertaining with an underlying message on our constant reliance to shy away from real human contact in a day and age where one has more Facebook friends then he/she does real ones.

It’s a rip roaring good time and a fantastic read that will just as often find wizards fighting giant Japanese robots as it does the main character, and ourselves, exploring the possibilities of a world outside of the OASIS. I’ve not been more satisfied reading a book in a long time and I believe if most of you give it a shot you’ll walk away happily surprised as well.

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  • bleachorange
    April 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the review! I’ll be sure to pick this up, it sounds excellent. In return, I’ll nominate Pandora’s Star and it’s sequel Judas unchained by Peter F. Hamilton. I rate them high on my charts, below Dune and Ender’s Game, but above most of the space fantasy you normally see.

  • bleachorange
    April 23, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Yes, but I tend to shy from some pre-IV novels.Though Deception, Labyrinth of Evil, and Commando novels are exceptions.

    a note on the novels I mentioned – they are long, and jump between characters in the beginning, but after you meet all the characters, it’s not hard to follow.

    Oh, and I have to check – you’ve read the Dragonriders of Pern, right?

    No problem

    • Daniel Flatt
      April 23, 2012 at 11:30 am

      I’ve read almost all of the Dragonriders series except for the newest stuff. I really enjoy the novels either set far in the past or the ones about new characters. I’m not as into the ones about pre-established characters or the ones stuffed in between the trilogy (although of course I love all the Thrawn stuff).

      Drew Karpshyn is probably my favorite though, which is the author who does the Bane series. He excels at character driven storylines which I enjoy greatly.

      • bleachorange
        April 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm

        Drew does good stuff. Traviss and Stackpole are my favorites. I like the novels that cover the military units and conflicts moreso than the whole jedi-sith thing. (Commando/X-Wing) An I don’t think there’s an EU fan who doesn’t like Zahn’s stuff, though he does really focus on his Thrawn and Jade characters, but that’s to his credit, he created them, and they excellent because of him.

        • Daniel Flatt
          April 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm

          I’m the opposite, I’ve always enjoyed Jedi/Sith more, but I also like reading about the other side occassionally. I’ve of course read all the XWing series by Stackpole and pretty much everything Traviss has written outside of the last Commando novel, mostly because I was just too disappointed after her announcement to go through with it.

  • hariseldon
    April 23, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I love me some sci-fi (Asimov and Philip K. Dick being two of my favourite authors), allthough never been one for fantasy- I did try LOTR but couldn’t get into it. Having said that I was quite young when I tried reading it so maybe I wasn’t ready for it. I did read through the Game of Thrones series recently; that is semi-fantasy and they were incredibly addictive, so perhaps the time is right for me to get into fantasy a bit more.

    Although the two genres don’t really mix- I do love the Penguin classics: Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo is my favourite book of all time), Dickens, Tolstoy etc. So well written and a pleasure to read imo.

    It’s funny- I always see the book and videogames as being two of the best entertainment mediums in terms of getting value for money. Reading a book can give you probably 20 hours (at least) of enjoyment and a decent SP game can give you an equivalent amount.

    Also @ bleachorange: I adore the Republic Commando series and it was a tragedy that they retconned the little segment of the SW universe that Karen Traviss had carved out for herself. She posted some of her thoughts on her website about how she would have ended the series but it would have been awesome to see her write a proper conclusion 🙁

    • Daniel Flatt
      April 23, 2012 at 11:33 am

      I’ve not always liked the thinking man’s fantasy (Tolkien, Martin), as much as I have the more pulpy stuff like RA Salvatore’s stuff. I will say though that I love the entire Tolkien fiction and I really think you should give it another shot. Some people are turned off by the extra descriptive tone he uses though.

      I too was disappointed at the way they retconned Karen’s worked, but as a Star Wars fan of the novels I pretty much have to take things as they come. Her debacle was just another in a long string of retcons that I will never understand. If you already have a pre-established piece of the world why just write over it?

  • bleachorange
    April 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I’m disappointed they ended the series altogether. I can’t believe the Commando novels didn’t sell enough units to warrant additional sequels, as popular as they were. And as far as I’m concerned, the work isn’t retconned. It is too useful to the existing storyline of Fett getting his cure for the nanovirus, along with the whole clone aging thing he went through in Legacy and Fate. About the only thing retcon is actually useful for is names and dates…

    • Daniel Flatt
      April 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      When I say retcon, I mean with the Clone Wars cartoon Lucas essentially destroyed much of Karen’s work. Fett no longer has the past she was writing for him, mandalorians altogether are mostly different and the culture they grew up in was completly destroyed as well during the course of the cartoon.

      Unfortunately in the scheme of things, as far as official canon goes, much of Karen’s books couldn’t/didn’t take place.

      • bleachorange
        April 23, 2012 at 10:32 pm

        yes, well, there’s a reason I don’t watch the cartoons. I’m fine with the animations, but I could never watch an episode without getting that sense of horror (at some point) associated with jarjar even though he isn’t in most of them.

        I understand that it’s target audience is geared toward younger viewers. usually, however, that’s exactly the content that gets retconned in favor of the more complex plotlines you find in adult media. I guess Lucas veered the other way on this one, though.

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