I’m a kid of the 80s. Born in ’74, grew up in the hay day of G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and the birth of console video games. I sit here at 43 and still love all of these things. My writing room is full of toys, I’ve got an X-Box One and Playstation 4 (though, full disclosure, I don’t use them much) and I am infatuated with the recent slate of comic book movies. Being an 80’s kid is pretty damn cool even in 2017.
I’d heard quite a bit about Ready Player One ever since its debut, but hadn’t taken the time to read it, mostly because I was trying to focus on books in my genre. I’m a believer that reading in the same genre as you write helps develop your writing techniques, so for a long time, I’ve been focused on thrillers. Ready Player One is not that.
But as preparation for a weekend trip to New Jersey, where I knew I’d be spending a ton of time in the car, I picked up the audio book and pounded through about 70% of it. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun…but it’s not the perfect epitome of 80’s pop culture that many are making it out to be.
Maybe it’s because my main fascination in the 80’s was action figures, and Ernest Kline is quite clearly more focused on video and computer games as the genesis of his story. That being said, the story is interesting and captivating, and it will clearly make for a great movie.
The idea of creating this “OASIS” virtual reality environment where the majority of the human population has gravitated towards to remove themselves from the harsh reality of the world is certainly intriguing, though it feels a bit heavy handed in Ready Player One. The dystopian world of 2044 has ravaged the planet and as a form of escape, the OASIS provides this “perfect world” outlet for people of all kinds to be the person they want to be.
Soon enough it spirals into this real-life video game of sorts where you have to upgrade your characters, acquire items and embark on a quest to find this mysterious Easter Egg left by the world’s developer. The connection between the real world and the artificial is very seamless as the book goes on, though I’ll admit I didn’t feel like there were very serious stakes. Yes, avatars in the OASIS can “die” but at its core, it still felt like a video game. Kline isn’t necessarily the best writer, but the story he tells is captivating and the character evolution over time gives them some nice depth, and he has a talent for messaging, though I could see some of his messages not being very appreciated by all the readers of his work.
I’m not finished yet, though I think I’ll be done within the next week or two, and I find myself pretty eager to watch the film. This is one of those rare cases where I almost feel like the film might play better than the novel did. As I’ve been getting further along, I’ve also started seeing some cool parallels between the virtual universe in Ready Player One and my own world in the War of the Three Planets series. A lighter take on science fiction where you don’t necessarily establish very strict rules of physics, language, or mythology, you just kind of create a world and have some fun with it. I could see fans of Ready Player One enjoying the tales of Brie Northstar as well, but maybe I’m wrong.
Anyway…I’m a firm believer that to evolve your author career, you need to be a belligerent reader, and although this particular novel falls outside my normal genre, I’m glad I’ve been reading it, I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly and look forward to seeing it on the big screen, especially with Spielberg at the helm.