OKAY! Back to the blogging! I recently read, and am reviewing, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Hopefully it’ll kick off more reviews over the next few weeks: I’ve read a a lot of good stuff and I look forward to ranting about it. Anyway:
So Ready Player One is set in a future that isn’t quite apocalyptic or dystopian, but is well on its way. (That in itself was unnerving as hell: it just seemed about 5 years away, and it’s really the only novel I can think of that was that plausible. Shiver.) Society is slipping into “hellish” territory, and everyone escapes from that by jacking into a virtual reality game called the OASIS. The OASIS is, as far as I can tell, a virtual universe full of more or less every fantasy, sci-fi or video game universe imaginable. The plot centers around the death of the inventor of the OASIS. For some unimaginable but probably stupid reason, he decided to will his entire (megabillion-dollar) fortune to whoever solved this massive, 80s-themed nerd puzzle in the OASIS. This is the story of one sixteen-year-old’s quest to complete that puzzle.
Things I liked about this book were many: the characters didn’t suck, the 80s pop culture was fun, and there were times when I literally could not put the book down. Also, like I said, it’s one of the only sic-fi novels in my brain at the moment (there are probably others) that feels like it could literally happen in a month, given the right push. The main antagonist, a corporation desperate to gain control over the OASIS (another prize for solving the puzzle), also seems vaguely linked to net neutrality. Because I really, really hate to blog about politics (I see the value, but I just don’t know what I’m talking about), I’m passing over the issue as much as I can, but it did feel like it could happen.
That said: who taught this guy to plot a story? He’ll just leave his character weak after a major event and then jump back in, a few months later, with the character explaining how he spent the last few months developing his avatar. We understand that you want your character powerful without the intermediate (another Spider-Man origin story, anyone?), and we understand why he has to start out weak, but you can’t just jump us out of his life. It’s a conundrum: the explanation is boring, but the lack of one would confuse the hell out of the readers. It wasn’t great. Also, Ernest Cline, like the rest of the world, can’t inject suspense into a description of an 80s video game. Valiant effort, Mr. Cline, but no go.
James and Brendan Dwyer read this book and were mad because it was in the 80s instead of the 90s. The result, Cult Fiction, which I reviewed elsewhere, isn’t quite as good as this. But I’d read it first: if you can survive those characters and that writing (all the same problems, but chose easier-to-dramatize video games), you can deal with this.
Okay, that was really long. Arrivederci!