I received Ready Player One in a box of monthly subscription items for geeks. Even before I received it, the book had been highly recommended by several friends. I took its arrival in a box of monthly geek goodies as a sign that I had run out of excuses not to read the book.
It is difficult to determine the age group this book is written for. The writing style is most certainly for young adults. The heroes of the book are high school age. However, many of the references to games and pop culture are from the 1980s, making me wonder how well the references land with young adults. References to the original Star Wars, War Games and the band Rush would seem to be better suited for millennials and older.
The themes of the book are appropriate for all ages. Ideas of over-dependence on technology, the addiction to online spaces, the nature of relationships existing purely online, and the subsequent decay of the world and the environment because of these developments are all a part of the book’s world.
One of the best aspects of the book is the world building, which Cline describes, at great length, to a fault. He spends several chapters describing the world the character is living in while the character barely walks from his trailer to his hideout. This inevitably slows the pace of the book to a crawl. And while this may be acceptable at the beginning of the book, it hampers the overall pace of the book because Cline describes the world, at length, every few chapters.
He even takes the time to explain the pop culture references in the book, making it nearly unbearable for some adults, like me, who are well-versed with the references. I imagine this is how Cline deals with the possibility that adults and young adults may not get his pop culture references. However, I found that it detracted from the book. After all, if you base your entire book on pop culture references, then proceed to explain those references in order to accommodate everyone who may not understand them, the entire prospect can become long winded and tiresome.
Reading the book is like being stuck next to a person while watching a Quentin Tarantino movie, who insists on explaining every single piece of witty dialogue with a reference, while simultaneously employing the Pause button, to ensure they have your attention.
That being said, Ready Player One would be a great read for adults and young adults looking for adventure. The premise is a great one and is entertaining. The book’s exploration of themes, like the growing disinterest in the real world in favor of the digital world, is interesting. And if one can overcome Cline’s long winded explanations about the world and its references, the characters and the story can become a page turner.
Many readers have enjoyed the book and rave about it at length. I understand I am judging the book based on my knowledge and experience, and although I disliked it, I am glad I read it. My goal is to provide an alternative opinion about the book. My recommendations would be classics like Neuromancer by William Gibson, The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke and Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett. Cline’s new book, Armada is also available if you’re looking for more of Cline’s work.