Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline's debut novel Ready Player One borrows its premise from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, its plot from TRON, and its conclusion from The Wizard of Oz, but that's actually okay: people are buying this novel to wallow in all the geek-oriented nostalgia, not marvel at the author's originality.

Set a few decades in the future, the majority of Cline's novel takes place inside OASIS, a massive virtual utopia that most of humanity logs into daily. When OASIS creator James Halliday dies, he leaves behind a video announcing that the first person to find and solve a series of puzzles hidden inside OASIS will inherit both his massive fortune and control of his online world. His bequest kicks off a world-wide treasure hunt—but it's more than two years before 18-year-old Wade Watts, a lonely, awkward kid with an encyclopedic knowledge of Halliday's passion for late-20th-century geek culture, manages to find the first clue...

Ready Player One is exuberant and imaginative, violent and sentimental. I enjoyed reading it, but in the same way I enjoy good historical romance novels or vampire movies: as a fresh take on comfortingly formulaic material. Cline's novel isn't really science fiction—it's a YA adventure story set in a geek-friendly Wonderland, written for 38-year-old men. There's nothing wrong with that, but I couldn't help but wonder if a comparable novel about female-oriented entertainment from the same time period would have received the same amount of critical attention and lavish praise. I mean, I'd like to think a well-written story about, oh, a virtual reality tour of River Heights, Ponyville, and wherever She-Ra lives would be an international best-seller, but something tells me it would have trouble finding a publisher at all.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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