Sunday, March 23, 2014
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
by Ernest Cline
Published: Broadway Books
Genre: Fiction - Science Fiction/Cyberpunk
Source: personal copy
From the back cover "In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines – puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win – and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape."
So first off - squeeeeee - this book is totally geared to press the right buttons for a geek/nerd/child of the 80s (other than making me occasionally feel like an antique). The logical part of my says things like - if the world is in that bad of shape, Wade totally can't be the only kid stuck hanging around Ludus. There should have been packs of poor, disenfranchised kids wandering around Ludus unable to pay for travel (I should know, I was a poor, disenfranchised kid myself). There were also logical inconsistencies in the plot and the world building of both OASIS and the real world that could be a serious problem if you start thinking too much about them.
I actually found the idea that civilization's geek pop culture apparently hit its peak sometime in the mid-2000s and that it was a downhill ride from there rather depressing. Also - what happened to Dr. Who? One reference? Seriously - the 'classic series' ran from November 1963 – December 1989 and was shown in PBS in the States. Any true 80's geek familiar with Speed Racer and Voltron never mind anything rarer, would have been immersed in Dr. Who as well. The nostalgia stuff is really pretty hit or miss really, like hanging out with a mixed pack of high schoolers trying to be cool but mostly being slightly off. Over-explained and not really secret handshake grade. I could gloss over that by rationalizing that by 2044 things would have gotten mashed-up. Oh dear - the more I think about it, the timeline for Halliday makes less and less sense. Halliday was born in 1974? (I am not going to try to find it now but I think that is right) but his parents bought him an Atari 2600 for Christmas 1979 - when he was five? Really? See - I told you not to think about this too much.
I can also say that I never expected to see references to Misfits of Science in any book making the best-sellers list. I saw that show when it aired and while I remember liking it at the time (I was a kid), I am also almost completely sure that it would be painful to watch now - I really don't think it would age well - though if you could get it other than on a German DVD I might be willing to try, just to see.
Infocom games are awesome too - I was obsessed with them. That is more late 80s than the Atari obsession.
Oh gosh - what about Myst! That was totally a landmark in gaming! Where was Myst ? Seventh Guest ?
I better stop now. However - for the text game obsessed the BBC has the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Infocom game, written by Douglas Addams, available online as a part of the 30th Anniversary Celebration ! Now you too can die multiple times while a computer smarts off at you and waits for correct grammar.
Right - but if you can turn that critical part of your brain off, and pretend that PBS didn't exist, so that pop culture was filtered through some kind of odd perception filter - this book was a lot of fun. Snow Crash for YA? Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the book and will probably even re-read it at some point. Four claws for a nice bit of brain popcorn.