by Ernest Cline. A re-read, as I wanted to remind myself of the story before reading Ready Player Two which has just been published. I like Ready Player One because it’s an exciting page-turner and touches on some themes that I find interesting.
It is set in a dystopian near future. Dystopian and apocalyptic stories are a favourite genre of mine. Weird, really, considering that we might be heading for a difficult future with climate change and that we are currently living in a kind of dystopian present with the Corona pandemic. But then I also like reading murder mysteries and other crime novels without wanting to have anything like that in my life. I like reading about travel without needing to do a lot of travel myself. So many situations that are fun, or interesting, or thrilling to read about, but would be horrible in real life.
It is about virtual reality. I also like stories about virtual realities. It would be great to log into a virtual reality like the Oasis for work or for school and for games. Interacting with one’s colleagues in a virtual reality would be a lot more fun than online calls. And virtual school could be fantastic – I liked the parts in Ready Player One about the schools in the Oasis. Of course, the real question, which is sometimes touched on in the novel, but not grappled with in detail, is how to balance virtual life with non-virtual life. I don’t want to contrast ‘virtual’ with ‘real’, because the virtual life would also be real, but I wouldn’t want to neglect the non-virtual life on which we all depend. We can’t live without nature, food, the planet. In Ready Player One people seen to hide from their dystopian natural world in the artificial Oasis world which doesn’t solve any problems. Virtual reality in Ready Player One can be like an addiction, like smartphone addition only worse.
I like the thrilling plot. It’s the usual fight against evil, where evil has all the advantages but good prevails. A good traditional plot well executed. I enjoy all the trivia about the 80s (although I can’t remember them once I’ve finished the book). I was a teenager in the 80s and missed all this computer and gaming stuff. I know a few of the movies and have read a few of the books that are mentioned, but that’s about it. The book doesn’t even trigger any nostalgia in me, as it is just not the life I lived.
I like the characters, Parzival, Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto (to call them by their Oasis names). I like their fight against the overwhelming numbers of Sixers who are their rivals in the search for the Easter egg (or the quest for the Holy Grail of the Oasis – even the hero’s name, Parzival, reminds one of the Grail myths). That they can only win by working together is a nice moral. Parzival, or Wade, is the point-of-view character and the one who is best realized. The others are not well developed, but the book seems to me to be more about the plot and the action and less about character development, so it’s OK.
I don’t like the romantic love between Wade/Parzival and Samantha/Art3mis. It’s fine that Wade falls in love with her, but after she breaks it off, he acts like a creepy stalker. Keeps trying to get her to change her mind in obnoxious ways in Oasis, hanging around her virtual home trying to get her to communicate with him again. And afterwards, at the end of the book, they easily pick up their romantic relationship again. I didn’t find that very believable. Still, it might be interesting to see how and if their relationship will continue in Ready Player Two.
So, Ready Player One is a fantastic, mostly light and fun read and I’m looking forward to Ready Player Two, which I going to start today.
Keep safe, world.