I have always liked sic-fi as a genre. Right from my childhood, I was inrtoduced to the instrumental Professor Shonku, a fictional character created by Satyajit Ray, also one of the first sci-fi story series in Bengali. Being a genius that he was, Shonku, instantly became my favorite. And the journey has continued. But, in recent years, I got a little detached from the sci-fi genre, reading more of thrillers, classics and non-fictions. But thankfully for The Martian, it got me reinterested in the genre. And after that I had ordered three more sci-fi novels, Ready Player One being one of them.
Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a book filled with references to video games, virtual reality, ’80s pop-culture trivia, geek heroes like E. Gary Gygax, and funny-sounding cult items like Frobozz and Raaka-Tu. Yet it works for people who like books without pictures too.
My first thought before starting to read such a lengthy book, was that of fear. Though the book had fetched good ratings on Goodreads, but I had seen lengthy books stagnate towards the end. But Ready Player One, went straight against my expectations, and turned out to be a page turner till the very end.
Ready Player One lends itself easily to mash-up comparisons, since in its more complicated passages, it amounts to long strings of cultural references pumped through well-worn story arcs. The adventure comedy of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy meets South Park’s Imaginationland with a dash of Willy Wonka, except all of the cynicism has been replaced by sheer geeky love.
The book’s narrator is a school kid named Wade Watts, whose parents at least had the foresight to give him the alliterative name of a superhero. But Wade’s real circumstances are not exciting. He lives in a tall block of stacked mobile homes and escapes to an abandoned van to adopt his online persona. He goes to school because he has to; his video console and virtual-reality visor will be taken away if he flunks out. But his school avatar is often seen slumped at its desk, sleeping. That’s because Wade is busy being an alter ego called Parzival. And that alter ego, is the one that does all the intresting stuff, throughout the book.
Now, from what I hear, rights of Ready Player One has been bought for a movie version. It’ll be interesting to see how Ready Player One becomes a movie based on a book about songs, TV shows, games and movies. And when lines like “Continue your quest by taking the test” are said out loud.
I’m going with 3½ out of 5 stars for Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. If you’re looking for that one book to give you the edge, you should surely go for this one.