This blog post is a story – a story of how “mainstream reviewers” can fail you and of how the most raved about book might not be for you. Yup – boohoo and all that. The book here is “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.
I’d heard so much about “Ready Player One” that I was ready to read/listen to it like now. The other book I’d heard so touted, had been Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” which I loved; it remains one of my favorite books. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with “Ready Player One” either. The library had a waiting list (of course) and so I waited, until I could put on my headphones and Wil Wheaton’s voice would deliver to them a story I’d love, love, love. Well, my turn came. I checked out the book. And listened. And am so not moved. Ah, disillusionment!
RPO is a treasure hunt of the future (2044 to be precise), a dystopian future where our intrepid young high-schooler hero, one Wade Watts, lives in the “stacks” – the vertical trailer parks of the future. The internet has spawned a virtual world, the OASIS, where one can immerse oneself, for hours on end, completely free of charge. The creator of the OASIS, an ubergeek named James Halliday, is dead and has left behind a great puzzle for the world to solve. The prize to this puzzle is Halliday’s massive fortune. Wade, along with scores of other treasure hunters (called gunters) have devoted their lives to treasure hunting for Halliday’s famed “easter egg”.
Sounds interesting enough, right? I thought so too. So what went wrong? Firstly, this is probably a Young Adult novel, written in a very YA fashion. The language isn’t too sophisticated, but I don’t think I would care about that as much if the characters had been interesting and not so annoyingly infantile. So, yes you say, the hero is a high schooler – what did you expect? Valid point, I rebut, but could he have been a little less cloddish?
Wade is your average bombastic, braggart-ish young man and I found him aggravatingly puerile. He’s an underdog, no parents, lives with his nasty aunt and is dirt poor – I want to root for him, I really do. But I can’t. His attitude puts me off. Wade and his friends are a bunch of nerds (great) who may not take kindly to you if you express disinterest in their geekfest (not great). They are not grown-up, considerate, tolerant people (like all brainy geeks should be), but shallow and a little mean-spirited. The fact that they bandy about juvenile-sounding insults like “suck”, “shit”, “f*ck” doesn’t endear them to me either.
Then there is a female gunter, Art3mis, for whom Wade has feelings. But, she, smart and self-deprecating, is described from the male point of view as “hot”, “all curves” etc. (you know, because the gaming industry doesn’t objectify women enough). Within seconds of meeting her (in a virtual world), Wade wants to propose marriage. Indeed.
The writing is clunky and there is a whole lot of “telling” (not showing) going on in this book, as Cline fills us in on Halliday’s treasure hunt. I had to give up on this book, after about 4 hours of listening, when I realized I didn’t care about Wade anymore.
I’m going to chalk this one up to lad-lit. And really, lad-lit is so much worse than chick-lit.