Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One has been on my want-to-read list for some time, given its theme (video game as narrative device) and plenty of solid reviews and recommendations of various friends. In fact, I almost bought it at the store three or four times in the past year or so, and then didn’t. I finally got it out of the library.
I won’t say I was disappointed by the story. It was fine. But I could not help but shake the feeling that Cline was writing this novel in hopes of it turning into a Matrix-like movie. (And of course, it is now becoming a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg).
I am having trouble pinning down what has kept me feeling as if there could have been more to the story. For, in many ways, Cline did an admirable job as a first-time novelist in creating a future and character that are believable enough, within the fictional universe of Ready Player One, and the narrative device of finding Easter Eggs in a huge, immersive game world kept the plot moving along, as did many of the action scenes. And Cline humanized the story, with his protagonist — Wade Watts — making connections with other players offline and online, and the book even ends on a very positive, human note.
So why didn’t I love this book? I should have loved this book. Maybe it was the hype or level of expectation on my own end. Maybe it was the one-too-many references to the 1980s (although some I did enjoy and many of the cultural references resonated with my own childhood). Maybe it was the cinematic feel that didn’t translate well to the page for me. I can see the story on the screen in my mind. Maybe I don’t like that.
Maybe it’s just me. Give it a read and see what you think. Do it before the movie comes out and reshapes the story.