Ready Player One
I just finished Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One. If you don’t know the story, it’s about a post-apocolyptic future in which the earth is an overcrowded hellhole and everyone escapes by playing an immersive online video game/virtual reality, which is sort of like Second Life meets WoW. The creator of this world, called OASIS, has left an Easter Egg hidden in the world that will grant whoever finds it ownership of OASIS and his entire fortune. Our hero is a gunter named Wade/Parzival, gunter being the name for the online treasure hunters. The catch is all of the riddles that lead to the easter egg are based on 80s pop culture. There is a level based after a D&D module, one based on WarGames, and references to Joust, Schoolhouse Rock!, Pac-Man, and Japanese anime and monster movies.
The book got a lot of praise when it came out. People loved the world Cline created, and most people enjoyed the 80s references. The only knock on the book I saw was from people who got bored of the references or found them distracting.
I enjoyed the world as well, and I sped through the book because I enjoyed the story so much. The wonderful thing about setting a story in virtual reality is that you can do whatever you want, and create all sorts of magical items. The book does have one glaring flaw, however: the writing. It is terribly written. Really. The writing is simplistic, as if it is geared towards a young adult audience. There is wayyyy too much exposition of everything, and nothing is allowed to happen organically. Everything is spelled out and explained. Some of this might be so that non-gamers can get all the video game references, but it is still done clumsily. And the dialogue is often really lame. I’m not a huge book snob, but I was surprised at the writing, since the book got so many rave reviews. I almost stopped reading it several times because of the endless explanations about what every term meant. The story is fun, and in the end I enjoyed reading it, but I wish it were better.