I’m a gamer. I’m also a product of the 80s and 90s. So, whenever there’s anything nostalgic I go crazy like the good geek I am. Hell, I’ll argue to the death that the best Grand Theft Auto game is Vice City. Ready Player One By Ernest Cline is one of those that do appeal to people like me: It’s a book that takes place in a video game and has 80s pop culture all over it.
Sadly, nostalgia is all it has going for it.
In the year 2044 the world has gone down the toilet. Unemployment is at its highest ever, everything’s super expensive and most people live in motor homes that are stacked one atop each other. So people spent most of their time in an online world called the Oasis. When the inventor of Oasis died, he set out a quest for people to find an Easter egg in the Oasis. Whoever finds it inherits his company. Wade, an out of shape kid who is one of many people who love the 80s, stumbles upon a way to figure out where the Easter egg is. On his way, he comes into contact with other treasure hunters and corporate drones trying to find it.
This story really isn’t anything new. Hell, the idea of someone doing adventures inside of video games has been around for decades (Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, Sword Art Online and Log Horizon come to mind,) but, still, it’s an interesting premise. The problem is Cline has this habit of showing off his 80s knowledge. It wouldn’t be bad if he did it once in a while, but he does it every other page. It gets to the point where he halts the story just to exposit some 80s knowledge.
Hell, he even exposits everything. Even things he told about before. He will tell the same thing you already learned just a few pages later.
In fact, telling instead of showing is one the biggest sins of this book. The pros are bland beyond anything. You’ll find yourself skimming after the first 50 pages. Other problems with the story are the characters are cliched and unlikable. Just because the characters act like the typical know-it-all asshole gamer doesn’t mean that’s good character creation.
Hell, the characters don’t develop AT ALL! Wade is the same bland character throughout. In fact, let’s talk about Wade. He’s the typical cliche overweight loser geek who has all this geeky knowledge at his disposable. Basically, he’s EVERY GEEK/NERD CHARACTER FROM EVERYTHING IMAGINABLE!
Not to mention he conveniently has the right geeky knowledge when he needs it. This is what us writers call deus ex machina. It’s so badly done and overused that you lose all tension as to whether he will win in the end (SPOILERS: He does.) Hey Cline, do you know who else knows a lot about 80s pop culture? Every geek over 30.
Speaking of the 80s and gaming, did you know that there was a video game crash in the 80s because there were too many bad games coming out? Also, not every 80s movie was good (see every Friday the 13th movie after A New Beginning and almost every sci-fi/ fantasy movie.)
Ready Player One had the potential to be something geeks would love. Bad writing, bland characters and amateurish writing make this book about as interesting as playing Pac-Man for the Atari 2600.