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Daily Archives: September 13, 2011

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: Audiobook Review

Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Random House Audio, August 16, 2011

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Audible Audiobook: 15 hours, 46 minutes, read by Wil Wheaton

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Buy the Book/More Info: Audible | AmazonIndieBound | Goodreads | Book Page

I first found out about this book appropriately enough at Comic-Con. My husband attended the Speculative Fiction panel that included author Ernest Cline, and later told me about the book. Once I found out it was a dystopian that included 80s references galore I knew I had to read it. I had a blast listening to the audiobook of Ready Player One and loved getting lost in all the pop culture references from some of my favorite movies, music, games and TV shows of the 80s.

Ready Player One is set in a bleak future America in 2044 where real life has gotten so bad that most people spend all their time in the preferable virtual world of the OASIS. The 80s obsessed and eccentric billionaire James Halliday created this virtual reality and does not charge a service fee. When he dies, his will announces a worldwide contest to find the hidden Easter egg, and the winner will inherit the OASIS and his wealthy estate. The contestants must solve the clues that reference Halliday’s favorite games, movies, TV shows and music to find 3 keys to open the gates to fame and fortune. When years go by and no one gets close to solving the first puzzle, it’s beginning to look like a hopeless exercise.

Wade Watts, better known by his avatar name of Parzival, has obsessively been studying Halliday’s favorite pop culture icons to try to win the contest, and best the evil corporation that seeks to win at any cost. Wade is an orphan who lives in a stacked trailer park, and doesn’t have the online currency of his peers to roam the planets in search of clues. But, Wade is still the first to make some headway in the contest, although he soon has some company on the scoreboard.

The author does a good job with the world building and I had a good sense of the issues that led to this dystopian state. It is funny to imagine these teens of  2044 latching on to 80s pop culture in the hopes of gaining a brighter and richer future.

Beyond the dystopian elements, the book really shines with its nod to and obvious affection for the 80s. I could not include every reference found in the book, but suffice to say there are a ton of 80s references, from War Games to Heathers, Family Ties, Duran Duran, and Pac Man, Galaga, and more. It lost me a little bit with the Dungeons & Dragons and Monty Python, but for the most part the references were a fun trip down memory lane.

The book also touches on other themes that are relevant in today’s world, such as in person versus online relationships. The character Wade strikes up some friendships in the book via his Parzival avatar and it is interesting to see how the relationships develop. It is also interesting to see how the contestants plan to spend their potential fortune, and speculate what the world would be like if the evil corporate leader Sorrento won.

Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook, and I can’t imagine a more perfect choice. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the material shines through and his voice is just right for Wade. He even gets to name-check himself in the book which is hilarious. I got through this over 15-hour audiobook in just a few days, as I was addicted to the story and listened to it as often as I could. I can’t recommend the audiobook highly enough.

I think this entertaining and fun read will appeal to a wide audience, not just those with firsthand knowledge of the 80s. I’m ready for the movie and the soundtrack!

Other Reviews:

The Guilded Earlobe

The Readventurer

BermudaOnion

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