Saturday, March 29, 2014

New high score

Sometimes it's okay to judge a book by its cover. I picked up Ready Player One from a discount table at Barnes and Noble because a quote on the cover described the book as "Willy Wonka meets The Matrix" and in my world sometimes that's all you need to worm your way into my heart.

The plot is a little bit predictable, sometimes seems suspiciously convenient, and isn't really what the novel is about. The story is totally secondary not to the universe it takes place in but to the pop culture of that universe, which happens to be the same pop culture that overshadows my universe.

There isn't a single page in the book that doesn't bring up 80s sitcoms, cyberpunk novels, old-school videogames, roleplaying, movies that I adore, or kick-ass music. It's there everywhere, surrounded by a crazed extrapolation of the Internet, an economic dystopia, and scattered with bits and pieces of Arthurian lore for good measure.

Holy shit is Ernest Cline ever crazy, but it sure as hell is my kind of crazy.

The book bounces you along at a manic pace - if you're not already into things like Snow Crash or Blade Runner or D&D along with an entire library of arcade games, be prepared to feel a little lost. If you are into all of those things, be prepared to wish that you lived in Cline's future in spite of all the terrible things it holds because he makes those things awesome in the way we only wish they could be now.

I will say that the book as a whole feels a little more like an homage than a work of its own. It became pretty clear to me pretty quickly that I was familiar enough with enough of the source material that I felt a little like I'd been through the book before and it also felt like Cline is a little critical of the escapist geeks who make up his characters as well as his fan base.

That feeling was actually pretty unpleasant - I sort of felt like I was getting yelled at by the book that I was reading and I couldn't stop reading it because the author knew my tastes well enough to keep me hooked through my talking-to. Cline may be a geek himself but his message of "but none of this competes with the real world, and none of your emotions count unless you're living in the real world" is a bit of a dick move in a book that's so strongly geek-oriented.

But hell, I dunno. Maybe I read too much into it. It was a fun ride, at any rate.

     - Alli

Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. Broadway Books. New York: New York. 2011

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