Ernest Cline
Ready Player One
2011

Ernest Cline's debut novel Ready Player One has an interesting premise and an appeal to both current gamer culture and those who lived through the gaming culture of the Eighties. Yet as a novel it disappoints with an unengaging storyline that functions primarily to link together the different elements designed to delight the geeks. I am in the target demographic as this novel references the Eighties gamer culture I was part of as a teenager and I am a recovering addict from Second Life, the Massively Multiplayer Online environment that inspired the Oasis online world in which most of the novel plays out. I experienced a lot of nostalgia hits in reading the novel, but never felt drawn into the story.

The storyline is that the Second Life business plan worked in this version of history in that most of the planet turns to spending much of its time inside the online world. When James Halliday the creator and owner of the Oasis dies he leaves behind a contest hidden within the virtual world to find an Easter Egg and win control of his fortune and of Oasis. Five years later the first points are scored in the contest by the avatar Parzival, real name Wade Watts, who is the novel's teenage hero and narrator. His points bring him unwanted fame, a little fortune, and the attention of a commercial corporation determined to win the contest by means foul or fouler.

The novel is probably better for someone who has not used Second Life as the virtual world may appear to them an inventive creation of the author's mind. My reaction was that I already knew how Second Life operated and I felt that there was not enough value added in the creation of a story. Most of the plot occurs inside the Oasis and the scenes in the real world are among the least convincing parts of the novel. Ready Player One is fine for a nostalgia seeker or if you are a gamer who wants to see your world presented in a novel, but as a story, I found it made me want to log out.

© Mercia McMahon. All rights reserved

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