If you grew up in the 1980s and resided anywhere on the nerd-geek spectrum, all it takes is the right Rush or Genesis song to bring you back to the video arcade...Those arcade games, and those fond memories, are the subject of Ernest Cline's unapologetically nerdy debut novel … Ready Player One is ridiculously fun and large-hearted, and you don't have to remember the Reagan administration to love it … I never thought I could be on the edge of my seat while reading about a session of the arcade game Joust, but the author's energetic, deeply felt narrative makes it almost impossible to stop turning the pages. Cline is that rare writer who can translate his own dorky enthusiasms into prose that's both hilarious and compassionate.
Few novels set up an engaging plot as fast as this one. In the first three pages, Cline cleverly lures readers into the crux of the story … In its charmingly odd manner, this is Willy Wonka meets The Matrix. Wade Watts, a nerdy computer-wiz high-schooler living in Oklahoma City's ‘stacks’ (ghettos), is the story's narrator and unlikely hero determined to win Halliday's contest...As the contest's front-runner, he gains instant global respect, new friends and deadly enemies … OASIS brims with '80s references, icons, trivia and nostalgia — Pac-man, WarGames, Zork, Duran Duran, AC/DC, Rush, Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner, Dungeons & Dragons, anime. So does the entire novel, which in its quirky way is fun.
With its Pac-Man-style cover graphics and vintage Atari mind-set Ready Player One certainly looks like a genre item. But Mr. Cline is able to incorporate his favorite toys and games into a perfectly accessible narrative … Real life on an impoverished, resource-depleted Earth has grown increasingly grim. So the characters in Ready Player One spend their time as avatars bewitched by online role playing. They live as shut-ins and don’t know one another in the flesh … The breadth and cleverness of Mr. Cline’s imagination gets this daydream pretty far. But there comes a point when it’s clear that Wade lacks at least one dimension, and that gaming has overwhelmed everything else about this book.
It's the year 2044, and the world is a dystopic hell riven by starvation and disease. The impoverished populace spend their time in OASIS, which started as a multiplayer online game and has evolved into a global virtual reality. Wade Watts is one of these unfortunates, an endearingly nerdy and socially maladjusted youth who dreams of discovering the lottery ticket embedded, Willy Wonka-style, in OASIS by its billionaire tycoon creator … The strength of Cline's first novel, other than its geeky referencing of 1980s pop culture, is the characterisation of the Candide-like Wade and his redemptive quest in both VR and the real world.
Ernie’s crafted one of the first truly significant works of art about the ’80s generation and their refusal to let go of their childhood, and what value there is in shared cultural experience … Cline’s science-fiction world is ours with just a few jumps in technology, which makes sense considering the entire world has slowed to a crawl thanks to the economic collapse. The distance between the haves and the have-nots has grown even more pronounced than it is now, and the desperate undertone to the hunt for Halliday’s treasure is sad and sincere … Cline’s got a strong, clear voice, a great story to tell, and he is brimming over with geek love of a particular time and place.
In this first novel, I love his elaborate virtual scenarios, from an '80s dance party on a cyberpunk-themed world called Neonoir to the climactic battle at the gate of Castle Anorak. I loved his shout-outs to favorite science fiction authors and his hidden citations of some of my favorite books … This novel's large dose of 1980s trivia is a delight, although I probably missed at least a quarter of the references. Buckaroo Banzai, flying DeLoreans and the Tyrell Building from Blade Runner all have parts to play, and the story is stuffed with lines like ‘The next ten minutes played out like the climax of a John Woo movie’ … Even readers who need Google to identify Commodore 64 or Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, will enjoy this memorabilian feast.
Ready Player One lends itself easily to mash-up comparisons, since in its more complicated passages, it amounts to long strings of cultural references pumped through well-worn story arcs. The adventure comedy of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy meets South Park’s Imaginationland with a dash of Willy Wonka, except all of the cynicism has been replaced by sheer geeky love … There’s a high learning curve to all of the little details Wade throws out about the world, and for anyone who doesn’t understand or love the same sect of pop culture Halliday enjoyed, Ready Player One is a tough read. But for readers in line with Cline’s obsessions, this is a guaranteed pleasure.
The ‘earth is dying’ and most people either live in ‘stacks’ – Lego-like high-rises of trailers soldered together – or are ‘starving and homeless.’ To escape this dismal reality, everyone jacks into the virtual world of OASIS, a utopian universe ‘where anything was possible’ … He becomes the reader's avatar, navigating us through the novel's ‘multilevel labyrinth’ of settings, leading us across the virtual planets in his spaceship, Vonnegut, solving riddles and playing games on the quest for Halliday's egg … One of my favorite parts of this book is the astonishing amount of detail that Cline has constructed in the OASIS...I grinned at the sheer audacity of Cline's imagination when he'd weave a nerdy detail or clever geeky reference into this super-sized story.
Cline narrates this sci-fi adventure as much with nostalgia as with words, using pop culture shorthand to trigger memories and emotions embedded in the psyche of a generation … This is about a future that disappears amid the glorification of the past … And so our hero, a poor, lonely high school kid named Wade (a.k.a. Parzival, his online handle named after an Arthurian knight who sought the Holy Grail), studies these geek texts the way a monk studies scripture … Give Cline credit for crafting a fresh and imaginative world from our old toy box, and finding significance in there among the collectibles.
The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? … Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist … line’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement … Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.