The fourth audiobook I borrowed from the library for my Aspen road trip was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I started it at the very tail-end of the hours driving and listened to the majority of it after I got home.
In the year 2044, the world’s economy has collapsed under the weight of corporate greed, leaving untold millions in poverty. The main respite for humanity is a complex, elaborate virtual-reality video game/internet world called the OASIS, much of which is inspired by 1980s pop culture because the eccentric billionaire creator of the game was a teen in the 80s and loved that era. Wade Watts is a loser—an overweight, cynical 18-year-old obsessed with spending virtually (ha) all of his time hooked into the OASIS—but an endearing one who is willing to fight for his friends and try to make things right in his world… however virtual it may be. One day, the OASIS creator dies, and in his will bequeaths his entire fortune to the person who can complete an epic quest he designed to retrieve the silver easter egg, hidden deep inside the OASIS.
I had a lot of fun listening to Ready Player One on audio, read by Wil Wheaton. He had great inflection and even did some different voices—a sinister snarl for the villain, an upbeat tone for Wade’s friend Aech (who was my favorite character by far), etc. He made the characters very fleshed-out and memorable. I’m not sure that I would have kept on with Ready Player One as a paper book. A lot of cyber-nerd culture is lost on me (not a gamer or techy-inclined, not a huge sci-fi or fantasy reader) and there are many run-on informational, explanatory sections, but Wil Wheaton was a perfect narrator and kept the pace up nicely. Ready Player One follows a familiar plotline—guy goes on quest, guy finds girl, guy is derailed by evil forces, save-the-world sort of thing, and so on. But still, it was enjoyable and the 80s nostalgia clicked with me. I was a child of the 80s, not a teen, but I had supercool older cousins and I do remember a lot of the music and movies of that decade 🙂
There was one big element in the book that struck me as odd or ironic, though. While I can be totally down with corporate capitalism being the “bad guy,” it was interesting that Wade’s beloved OASIS was itself a multibillion-dollar corporate monopoly. Oh well! And once in a while, something was just a little too unbelievable—a character would be like, “Oh I just remembered I downloaded this secret password code earlier and it works on this door!” Okay… that’s convenient, I guess. Not being an avid sci-fi fan, I’m not sure how this stacks up in the genre, but I was able to suspend my disbelief and lose myself in Wade’s adventure through the OASIS. Lots of action, adventure, mystery, friendship, and a little bit of romance.
Ready Player One was my selection for “action/adventure” on the 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae at book’d out, and my sixth read of twelve books total for the challenge. Halfway done!
Listened to audiobook from June 23 to July 3, 2013.