Ready Player One
“This is his first novel.”
When I first read the back cover of Ready Player One, I felt skeptical. While many positive reviews have been written by critics, other descriptions failed to draw my attention. The synopsis misrepresented the plot as a survival story rather than a virtual puzzle hunt; and, the author description emphasized Cline’s screenwriting and spoken-word abilities rather than his skills as a novelist. Yet, the popular hype around the book encouraged me to read it anyway, and a few chapters in I was hooked.
Ready Player One is a novel with a fascinating, modern dystopian world. Readers are forced to feel the impoverished state of the Earth in the introductory chapters through well written imagery, as well as captivating descriptions of smells and temperatures. The world revolves around a virtual reality platform—the OASIS—which people use to play, learn, and work. This technological realm appears to be a well thought out reflection on human behavior online, as it feels real to see people invest loads of time and money into their virtual persona. The constant 80s references are a signature mark of Cline’s writing. Although they annoy some readers, they are written in a way that does not require prior knowledge of the decade, adding a geeky feeling to the setting.
While the first few chapters are gripping, the editorial vigor declines significantly as the plot unravels. Cline choses to write using the main protagonist—Wade—as a narrator, resulting in an overwhelming amount of sentences with “was” and “had”, instead of straightforward past tense. This leads to vague and unclear descriptions of action sequences. The weakest moment of the novel takes place at the end of chapter 18. In a scene describing a suddenly crashed interstellar birthday party, Wade witnesses another character use an “incredible display of power” to destroy a large number of enemy ships. The scene kills all enemies in a span of three short paragraphs, and exactly what the display of power entails is left mostly to the reader’s imagination.
Had the first few chapters not firmly caught my interest, I would have probably put the book down right there.
The novel also struggles with other common criticisms of the genre. Events happen at extremely convenient times; the romance feels simplistic and cheesy; the plot includes unnecessary events and digressions.
However, Ready Player One is certainly worth reading. Perhaps one more thorough, additional edit would have made the novel much better, but the world itself is enough to attract the attention of science fiction lovers. Be patient with Cline—after all “this is his first novel.”