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ready player one by ernest cline

Ready Player One was okay but also awful! And I kind of have a WHOLE BUNCH to say about it! Spoilers!

A Brief Not So Brief List of Things I Hated About Ready Player One:

– Listing pop culture references (movie titles, directors, bands, books, tv shows) is boring and useless. It doesn’t add anything of value to the story and, though it is attempting to show how much research Wade has done, it doesn’t work. It would only work that way if there were pages and pages and pages of it, list after list of his research materials. Instead, it reads like Wade trying to prove his geek cred. It sucks.

atari tolkien

– Regurgitating pop culture entities in detail is boring and useless. It’s page-chewing detritus. It’s unimaginative and lazy. The precept of the book is that the reader already knows about Wade and his successful quest for Halliday’s egg because he wants to “set the record straight,” so there is no reason to repeatedly explain references with which they are likely at least loosely familiar with because of the pervasiveness of the hunt. Every synopsis amounts to nothing but white noise.

– Women are pedestaled in weird, eye-rolly ways. Wade has a “fetish” for “cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukuleles” and every woman we get to know is a “quintessential geek girl.” There’s appreciation of “Rubenesque” (read: acceptably fat) female bodies and shaming of the “absurdly thin yet wildly popular supermodel frame” or the “top-heavy, wasp-waisted porn starlet physique” with absolutely no consideration for the fact that pop culture is in part responsible for the popularity of those body types. (Why wouldn’t you make your avatar look like that? It’s what we’ve been socialized to think of as desirable! While also being trained to believe that being desirable is why we exist. Wonderful.) Wade repeatedly attempts to contact Art3mis after she’s brought an end to their interactions, even going so far as to hang out around the world her avatar calls home. This book’s relationship with women is gross.

kevin smith

– Wade Watts is, perhaps not one of the boorish dickheads who pop up in comments all over the internet to challenge women who ask for greater representation in gaming and who speak out against the misogyny in games and the gaming community (Refreshing!) but I have no doubt that, were Reddit a thing available in the OASIS, Wade would be a loyal and active Redditor. Wade’s a guy who posts to Reddit and asks “how to get chicks to talk” to him. I can feel it in my bones.

– He doesn’t spend nearly enough time addressing the hows and whys of the collapse of the United States. It’s not that the world he describes is all that hard to believe or that it could not have developed quickly without a major driving force, it’s just that it doesn’t seem to understand that the book is being read in 2011/12/13. It takes place in 2044, not 2144 and if corporations are now allowed to kidnap and indenture people who’ve defaulted on their payments, I need to better understand how we got there in thirty years.

– The unexplored and unresolved weight of the giant off button that Halliday left to the winner is exceptionally irritating and it was the first thing I screamed at my girlfriend about after I finished the book. Why, oh god why, would you introduce a giant literal off switch for the entire virtual reality of the world your characters live in and then not explore it at all? Wade barely seems to acknowledge its existence let alone deals with what it could mean to turn the OASIS off. It barely gets a hand-wavy brush-off. Your characters spend almost all of their time in a reality simulation, you give one of them the power to turn it off, and you’re not even going to discuss that power and potential? Lazy bullshit.

– The entire book just felt unresolved by the end. Not because of the egg itself, obviously, that’s handled sufficiently, but all of these Things that have been brought up over the course of the story — Wade’s space station, Art3mis’ desire to “save the world,” the off button, IOI being literally responsible for who knows how many deaths — all just get sort of vaguely brushed off. The lead Sixer gets arrested by the FBI. That’s… it? Seriously? I left the book feeling like it just desperately needed an epilogue or something.

ready_player_one_covers

Seven points has got to be enough, right? I don’t want to think about this book anymore, let alone write about it. I know I mostly sound like I’m being a hateful, persnickety dick — and that’s because I am a hateful, persnickety dick — but I still had a good enough time reading this?

I mean, I don’t care about the pop culture references — if you are over the age of fifteen and using references in the way that the characters in this book are… maybe… take a communications class or something — and I think Wade’s a douche and I don’t have a lot of charitable feelings toward Ernest Cline, but the heart of the story — aka the central plot — is actually pretty great. It’s, essentially, a virtual scavenger hunt for a Willy Wonka-status prize and Cline does a pretty decent job at those parts. It’s exciting and engaging and the sort of mythical-digital nature of the clues is really fun. But — and this is a really, really big but, like I thought about making a 650w x 500h graphic of the word just to emphasize what a big but this is — everything else about this book is just the worst.

I liked Aech kind of a lot once I better understood who she was — particularly because she’s the only character with any real understanding of the social implications of not having to look like who you are in real life, even literally saying the OASIS is the best thing to ever happen to women and people of color because they can pass as white men and be treated like equal human beings but also because she aggressively identifies herself as a “fat black chick” in the face of Wade’s inability to imagine that someone as badass as she’s been in the OASIS could be exactly that — and I wish she’s been more present for the duration of the book. She’s also our only non-straight character and we don’t learn that until we learn her real gender and race as well.

I wish Cline had dealt with disability — though the haptic rigs he describes aren’t exactly accessible as is, I can’t imagine that adaptive tech wouldn’t exist — because, like Aech’s point about women and people of color, the OASIS would probably be an immense relief for people who are barred from participation in a world that has only grown more inaccessible with each wave of economic recession. Don’t even get me started on how nice it would’ve been to see a genderqueer or trans* character! And really, I wish desperately he’d acknowledged anything significant about women, people of color, or sexuality anytime before the last fifty pages of the book.

But, you know, at least now I know the entire plot of the Dungeons & Dragons Tomb of Horrors expansion pack.

  • ASH I read this book last summer and you summed up far more eloquently than I could at the time why I was able to read through it and enjoy it but find it incredibly shallow and also THE WORST. Good gracious, so much of it was so awful, and yet the Quest part of it was well executed enough that I tore through the damned thing.

    • ash

      yesssss I AM SO GLAD I AM NOT ALONE!! i kept seeing so much praise for it and was starting to think my brain was broken or something, but if you had similar feeling then i am DEFINITELY OKAY.