Saturday, 25 July 2015

Book Review - Ready Player One

“You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Kodan Armada.”

The perfect score on Pac-Man is 3333360

There’s a way to get infinite lives on Tempest...

Does any of this this mean anything to you?

If not, this book might not be quite as good for you as it was for me...

I imagine it’s a difficult thing to write a book with a teenage protagonist and aim the book at those in the forty to fifty age range, but in Ready Player One, Ernest Cline has done exactly that.  The book centres around the idea that the whole world is jacked in and spends most of its time in a virtual world called The Oasis, rather than actually living in the real world.  One day, James Halliday, the creator of the Oasis dies and with his death, calls into play the greatest competition in the world.

Those who solve his riddle and find the key will inherit the entire Oasis...

It’s the equivalent of Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs, and Obama all handing over their power to the person who solves the riddle, and Wade Watts, a young man who grew up in the Oasis, wants to solve that Riddle...

The story is set in 2044, and at the beginning of the story, Wade is in his late Teens but he’s spent a long time studying games and the history of games, playing on old games and generally hanging out in the Oasis.  When the competition is announced, Wade manages to piece together the clues before anyone else does to get a headstart, and the story spirals from there.  He gathers together a party of other like minded adventurers, all different races and creeds, all drawn from the ranks of the Oasis users he knows and trusts and they battle against the combined ranks of the Sixers, a corporation who are trying to get the power for themselves and have far more resources than the kids.

There’s a lot of references to things that occurred around the time of my childhood, Xur and the Kodan armada are the bad guys in the film The Last Starfighter, a film I greatly enjoyed when I was a kid, but not one that stood the test of time well.  References to other films like Wargames and original D&D Modules like The Tomb of Horrors were similarly well received and it was easy to draw some sort of kinship with the author as a person who liked similar things to me, which in turn made it easier to like the main character as they came up with the same things. 

The story needs suspension of disbelief on a number of levels. The information needed to win the various challenges isn’t hidden, and if a single person was up against a powerful corporation, it’s a sure bet that that corporation would hire a number of geeks to give up the answers.  But that said, it’s an enjoyable run, Wade, Art3mis, Aech and the others are likeable characters and they often act like kids, rather than being utterly focussed on the win, they take time out to do other things and they’re very human in their outlook.

If you’re a geek and you remember the 80’s well, this book will be a pleasant run down memory lane with a reasonable story to boot.  If you’re neither of the above, you may still like the book, but it won’t have the resonance that it did for me.