Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A mix of writing style that seems to be aimed more at tweens, but a setting that would appeal more to thirty-somethings. Both groups are likely to be happy with the result, however.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Century
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846059377

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A short while ago, I stumbled across a highly enjoyable film called Fanboys, about a bunch of Star Wars fans trying to break into George Lucas' mansion to get a sneak preview of the new film. I didn't pay much attention to the name of the writer until I came across Ernest Cline's author bio in Ready Player One and realised it was written by the same person. This immediately gave me high hopes.

James Halliday, the creator of Oasis, the ultimate in virtual reality multi-player online games, has died. Leaving no heirs, he hides the rights to his fortune within his creation, which can only be found by solving clues set within his farewell video and within the Oasis itself and then beating whatever challenges these lead to. Everyone wants Halliday's fortune, which includes ownership of the Oasis, from individuals like Wade Watts to corporations who will want to charge for it and turn the Oasis to their own ends.

The aspect of the story that most caught my eye is that Halliday's era of growing up was the 1980s, so there are lots of references to the culture of that time; music, films and computer games. Given that my growing up occurred in the 1980s, this helped me feel completely at home with the novel. Although I never have been much of a computer game fan, I'm a music and film fan and there was so much that seemed familiar here that it was a very welcoming and comforting experience. Not since Bete de Jour by Stan Cattermole have I found a book that so closely mirrored my own life experience.

Perhaps the one thing that seemed slightly off-putting was the writing style. Many of the main characters appeared to be teenagers and the relentless style and much of the use of language seemed to suggest a book aimed for a tween or young adult audience. However, the 1980s setting could only be aimed at an audience in their 30s who would have lived through the decade. This provided a minor distraction as I tried to work out the target audience for the book.

Fortunately, however, the story is interesting enough that this is only a minor concern. Unlike in many such stories, the various sub-plots fit in naturally within the story and don't feel added on. The challenges and clues are not the kind that the reader could guess and wonder why the characters don't see the solutions, which annoys me in Dan Brown's writing, which also helps to keep the reader interested, as there's no point at which you feel you've gotten ahead of the characters.

Ultimately, I think Ready Player One is a book that could cross boundaries. It's got the action quotient and the subject matter that would appeal to the teen audience, but the 1980s retro feel that would appeal to 30 somethings looking to relive their youth. It may appeal slightly more to the former, but as a member of the latter group, I thoroughly recommend it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For other stories of games, read Spray by Harry Edge, or for other novels of computing on the edge, try Daemon by Daniel Suarez. You might also enjoy Without You by Saskia Sarginson and Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal.

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Buy Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at


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