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on 27 August 2016
I loved this book! As a woman in her 40s, I'm definitely not the target market for this. It’s a young adult book, and scifi, both of which I don’t usually read. However, as a bit of a gamer geek and an 80s nut, this was recommended to me by friends, and I’m so glad I read it – it was just brilliant!

It’s set in a dystopian future in 2044 – oil has run out, the climate is a wreck, and most people escape reality by spending their lives inside an immense virtual reality video game called the OASIS (similar to Second Life, if you’ve ever played it). It has its own currency, and kids even go to school inside the game. The creator of the game, James Halliday, died years earlier, without an heir to his immense empire, but left a video will with clues/easter eggs to be tracked in the game. Whoever solves these will inherit the OASIS, and the immense wealth that goes with it, and it’s an international obsession. Halliday was a teenager in the 80s and remained fixated with the era, so this means that everyone who is trying to solve the puzzle is just as fanatical, leading to some wonderful references. Wade Watts, our protagonist, is one of the millions trying to crack this. He’s a teenager, stony broke, living with his aunt, and at the bottom of the OASIS food chain. Through a combination of luck and skill with 80s arcade games, Wade somehow manages to be the first solve the first clue, and that’s when everything changes.

I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but I can’t recommend this highly enough. Great characters, very nasty baddies, loaded with 80s references, and actually worryingly possible – it’s definitely worth a read. Oh, and Steven Spielberg bought the film rights – the movie will be released in 2018. I hope he does it justice.
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on 25 July 2017
Started this yesterday and it immediately sucked me in. I loved the premise - billionaire computer games developer dies and leaves a fortune to the first person to find an Easter egg hidden in the virtual world he created.

As we meet the principal protagonist we find that the world of the 2040s is in bad shape. The planet is beset with rampant global warming, economic collapse and the majority of its inhabitants living on government subsidies. So far, so, standard dystopian future! However the thing that moves this from a standard YA dystopia and into the realm of a bestseller are three key features; the hero Wade Watts, the world building and the massive amount of 80’s pop culture references.

Wade has real problems to struggle against; no mother or father, living on his own, no friends his own age and only the quest for the easter egg to keep him focused. A fat kid from the wrong side of town living on his wits and natural intelligence. With no friends or family he has to constantly fight for everything he possess.

The world building is excellent with the reader immediately able to visualise the world of deprivation, global warming and the end of oil. A world so terrible that most of the population has moved into the virtual world to get away from the grim reality of everyday life. The mechanics of the virtual world are also well detailed and thought out. As I was reading the book I kept thinking of a fully immersive version of Warcraft. The book is written from a first person perspective. The reader effectively lives inside Wade's head, which helps a lot with Wade being able to explain a lot of the 80's cultural references.

About half way through we meet the evil corporation trying to thwart our heroes plans. These "bad guys" are simple, one dimensional, greedy corporate goons. Having worked in the financial services sector for many years I recognised, their motivations and methods immediately. The bad guys are cheap and cheesy and a stark contrast with the heroes who are street punks living in a virtual world. The evil corporations motivation is greed and the heroes are motivated by fun, friendship, glory and the pursuit of the prize. Who you gonna root for — come on?

The final third of the book works well with our heroes facing bigger and more complex challenges. The finally is also well done and fun.

All in all an excellent, fun yarn. The book is well written, great entertainment with a blistering pace. If you are looking for a deeper meaning, or insight into nerd culture, this is probably not the book for you.
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on 17 August 2017
I wanted to read this before Spielberg had his wicked way with the book. I'm actually beginning to wonder whether it might be that rare case of a movie being better than the original book source material.

Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One" has an amazing reputation. I've heard a lot of people speak about it in hushed tones, completely in love with the story and the rapid-fire references yanked from 80s culture (and beyond). As a lifelong gamer, movie addict and music fan I expected this to hit me right in feels for the era I grew up in.

Sadly, the whole thing is just so badly written and clunky it barely hangs together. Tugging on threads of online multiplayer videogame culture, hooking up characters as virtual avatars in the vast sprawling Oasis, it sounds so promising on paper. Then it proceeds to wheel out characters that are cliched (though, props to Ernest Cline for not going down the route Spielberg probably will, making his heroes with flaws - they're overweight, they're socially inadequate, nerdy of course - but it's almost like he ticked off all the right inclusive creeds on the tips of his fingers as he was writing things up (we need a girl, a person of colour, someone from the far east but we'll make the main protagonist a while male of course!)

The references feel like they were hammered in with a tinkertoy hammer too. Some of the videogames I loved as a kid are given lip service, some of the movies I loved as a kid are too - but in a really infuriating and inconsequential way.

Without resorting too much to spoilers, the main quest (to save the massive corporation left as a legacy by a dead videogame supremo from evil corporate hands) is so disappointingly described that it just felt tacked in.

There's a romance in here too, delivered like the very worst self-published YA you've ever read with some truly dreadful dialogue between Art3mis and Parzival that made me cringe with each exchange.

I'm just about scraping together a 2 for this, based on some of the references really hitting the mark (Harry Tuttle - now that was nicely done). There was so much potential here to be clever with the reference material, go obscure with the references, tickle a few 80s and 90s games and movies that weren't just mainstream hits. All in all, the whole idea is sound but just so badly executed. Massively overrated, I hope the movie is better. Sorry if this is one of your favourite books, it really didn't do anything for this 80s kid.
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on 18 July 2017
I surprised myself by really loving this - I'm not really one of the target audience - I was in my thirties in the 1980s, and though I got a lot of the references, quite a few went right over my head. But that didn't really matter; Ernest Cline's enthusiasm for the decade shines through, and the plot is a real rollercoaster. You can see why Spielberg is directing and co-producing the film; it feeds into his inner child and fit well with his SF canon.

Having read some of the critical reviews of the book, I think they're missing the point - they compare it (often very unfavourably) with other, more highbrow authors' works. This isn't a highbrow book, it's simply a highly entertaining and imaginative romp, and on those terms it succeeds fully. I'm looking forward to further books by Cline. I'm waiting for his announced sequel Ready Player Two, and I've already downloaded Armada.
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on 16 September 2017
In some ways, I loved this - the narration by Wil Wheaton is pretty fun, there's lots of pop culture references for gamers and film buffs, and the plot keeps things moving at a great pace. However, I had a few issues with the book, and actually found the pop culture references massively annoying by about 20% of the way through the book - too darn many, and too show-off-y - and the main character is a real drag. I'd probably still recommend it for any SF, 80s or game fans out there to read before the film comes out, but it's standing on the shoulders of giants and really just made me want to play an Atari.
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on 23 August 2017
This rarely happens to me these days, but inlyerally didn't want to put this down. I was meant to be packing, but instead I was sitting in my bed reading "a few more pages". I found this utterly addictive, almost as though Cline was making a rather wonderful point about the OASIS being like being lost in a good book. There IS a bit of an infodump towards the start of the book, which might be particularly hard going if you're not an 80s kid, and I wonder if that might've put some readers off. I urge everyone to power through it, the story soon cranks into gear. I can't wait to see the movie, now. I hope they do it justice. Highly recommended.
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on 9 January 2018
A pop culture video game milkshake of a novel, Ready Player One is set in a grim future where a young nobody's only escape from a poverty stricken dystopia is a vast, multi player VR video game called the OASIS. But it's not just a video game: buried deep within is a huge fortune left by the game's maker (think Bill Gates + Elon Musk + Willy Wonker), behind a series of clues and riddles that only an intimate knowledge of 80's pop culture can unlock. What follows is an absurd, meta based adventure which still hits all the notes you might expect from a conventional teen coming of age adventure story, and it's a very enjoyable romp. The writing isn't its strongest point, but it gets the job done well enough. Recently, in a surreal life imitating art style twist, the book has been made into a film by 80's pop culture legend Steven Spielberg himself. The trailers look crazy, but if you can't wait that long, buy this.
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on 3 April 2018
I am disappointed with myself for not reading this sooner. Not because it was a life-changing read, but because I now look to be jumping on the bandwagon with the film coming out. I had planned to read this about 3 years ago, before I knew there was a film but never quite got round to it.
The book tells the story of an online world people enter to escape the disaster the real world has become, and shows them spending money they don't have on things they don't need (outfits for their avatar etc), but sadly doesn't take this too far (see Black Mirror for more of a doom-laden version of this world) and tracks the progress of the world's egg-hunters ("gunters") looking to solve epic puzzles and hope to win the ownership of this online world after its creator dies and bequeaths it to the victor.
There are a slew of 80s references in the early pages, and these are mostly enjoyable (unless like me you hate things like the breakfast club and haven't seen many of the films referenced) but thereafter the references are almost solely coin-op video games based, with occasional nods to movies and music. For me, you can get more enjoyable 80s references from one of those talking heads shows ("here, do you remember rubix cubes, what were they all about?!").
The solving of the puzzles (a fairly large part of the story) seemed a little clumsy to me, as if all of a sudden people would make a connection several years after working at it and then just bash on and solve it. This was none more present than in the very final puzzle, there was no logic as to why the solution was what it was. I kind of felt like Cline was desperate for the toilet when he was writing it, twitching on the edge of his seat and just quickly finished it off before he soiled himself.
There were a few twists and turns in the book, and they were mostly enjoyable though I felt there were a few missed tricks (the identity of "Aech" for example - I would put money on Cline planning this to be some Artificial Intelligence reincarnation of Halliday, the world's creator but he wussed out if it).
All in all, I enjoyed reading this, the prose flows quite nicely and easily, and the journey is enjoyable enough. I just felt there could have been more effort on the story and less on squeezing 80s references in ad nauseam.
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on 7 December 2017
The Matrix meets Tron, by way of Monty Python.

If you're in the 35-45 age bracket, this will bring a nostalgic tear to your eye with its countless pop culture references from the 80s/early 90s.

The references do sometimes feel a little forced, and can cause the action of the novel to become a little stilted, but thankfully that's a rare occurrence.

I understand that this was originally marketed as a young adult book, and the simplistic writing style would back that up. However, It also makes for a very quick, enjoyable read
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on 31 July 2015
The really bad thing about reviewing this book is the fact that if I am typing this down then I have finished the book, ugh, why did it have to end?

So this may give you a tiny clue that I loved Ready Player One, I was born in 1978 (yes I know I don't sound that old) so I am a child of all things eighties, I remember vividly all those crazy films from Back to the Future to War Games, I remember home video games systems becoming a big thing (I had an Atari, it was epic) and I also remember really bad cheesy rock bands with big fluffy hair.

Ready Player One embraces all of these things and really it is quite the walk down memory lane, it is of course not all about the eighties there are nods to popular fiction all the way up to the present time, it really my idea of a perfect read. Smart, funny, nerdy and exciting.

It is all about Wade a young man living in 2044, his home is a caravan in a stack of caravans, the world has gone to s*** and he is living with his aunt in Oklahoma City, he escapes the drudgery of every day life by logging in to the OASIS, a virtual universe of possibilities.

The OASIS is where Wade spends all his time, he goes to school there, he meets his friends there, he does absolutely everything there, it really is an incredible place where you can be someone else if you choose, you create your avatar and then you go explore.

The creator of OASIS was James Halliday, was because he is dead, his legacy is the OASIS and he is not leaving it to his nearest and dearest, the man was a socially awkward loner, he is leaving it to the inhabitants of the OASIS, well there is a tiny catch.

The catch is he has hidden an Easter egg within the OASIS, the vast, immense, incredible OASIS, an Easter egg that will, when found give the lucky finder all of Halliday's fortune. Luckily Halliday left some clues but man they are a little on the hard side.

Wade wants to be the one who finds the egg but with hundreds of thousands of other people in on the game does he have a chance?

Incredibly through having a vast knowledge of all things Halliday, Wade manages to find the first of three keys that will lead him to the egg, he is propelled to stardom (well his avatar Parzival is) along with his allies Art3mis and Aech he goes all out to find the next two.

If only it was that easy, Wade discovers a huge corporation who want their filthy hands on that egg and they will stop at nothing to get it, Wade and his friends need to be on the lookout.

Ready Player One is just incredible, I know this review has just been the tip of the iceberg about what goes on but hopefully it has been enough of a tease for you to go and read this book.

Ernest Cline has such a way with bringing retro and futuristic and melting them together, the OASIS sounds incredible if a little scary, to be able to spend all day pretending you are in a film from your youth or buying your own spaceship modelled on Serenity, it is plain crazy!

I am so looking forward to what Cline has up his sleeve next, I have already read Armada and it was fantastic, he is going to have to dream big to follow these two up!
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