Friday, December 30, 2011

Books Like Whoa: Ready Player One by Ernest Kline (2011 Book Countdown)

This is it. The last 2011 countdown book. Tears!

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

Procured from 

Procured in November 2011

Finished in December 2011 

Format: Audio, with superb narration from that time honored favorite, Wil Wheaton

Summary: The worst has happened: the energy crisis has reached a boiling point and the fall out is a pretty bleak world where even a job at your local fast food joint is a welcomed blessing. To escape from the dystopia, Americans increasingly retreat into the hyper realistic virtual reality world called The Oasis. The Oasis creator kicked it a few years back and his will stipulates that the lucky fellow who figures out the clues planted in the Oasis will inherit the whole shebang... we're talking billions of dollars and control over the main source of entertainment and commerce for the world. Will our plucky high school hero be the one to do it?!

Thoughts: This book is so much about the plot that I don't want to give very much away. One of the strengths of the story is that Cline builds a world that exists plausibly within the parameters that he's set for the dystopian milieu. He also has created the quintessential geek hero: an overweight, ubergamer named Wade Watts, whose main strength is his obsessive knowledge of 80's pop culture and video games.

And have we talked about the 80's references in this thing? Wow. As someone who was born in the 80's but didn't grow up in the decade, this might have left me out in the cold; however, I've watched enough VH1 I Love the 80's so that I was hip to most of the allusions and references. If you get them, this is a delightful smorgasbord of pop culture candy. From movies to TV to video games, there are shout-outs in every other line, layered in like nuggets in chocolate.

I was also impressed that for a book that is essentially about a video game and that as a non-gamer (seriously, a non-gamer... you should see me trying to play Mario Kart... yikes) I was able to enjoy the story and go along with the ride. In terms of plot, this is a mystery and treasure hunt, so it transcends the genre trappings that might put off some readings.

In terms of actual writing, though, this has some pretty rough patches. The dialogue is particularly creaky in some places. Cline is lucky that Wil Wheaton is such a good narrator and is almost able to pull those clunkers off, but even he can't make some exchanges play. Also, when these bad patches pop up, you are pulled out of the story enough to notice how implausible the story really is within the confines of the story (really? this high school kid is the only one who has the right gaming skills and knowledge to find the first clue?).

That aside, this is a highly enjoyable romp that I think most people would get a kick out of. And I highly recommend the audio route - Wil Wheaton is a great narrator and like I said, he makes some of the rougher prose work without too much distraction. 


4 - I enjoyed it... a solid offering

What do you think about this kind of dystopian literature? Do you dig or do you hate?

That does it for 2011... see you in 2012, for another great year of books!

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