Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ready Player One

I crashed my motor scooter Monday, requiring some emergency dental surgery (I broke a tooth) and lots of rest. I did need the rest, but I was also in no rush to go back to school and have my students make fun of my split lip. So I slept for a couple days, got the tooth fixed, and now it's Thursday and here I go.

I also read a ton while I was lying around. That was the only good thing about this experience, frankly. No--I'm sure my sunny self could find other good things, like the awesome guy at United Fire, Health and Safety, the business I crashed in front of, who took me and my scooter in and took care of us. Etcetera. But anyway--the reading part was great too. I finished A Better Angel on Monday, Flip on Tuesday, and read all of Ready Player One yesterday. Maybe I started it Tuesday night--it's long--but yeah.

This is not the kind of book I'm usually into--I guess it might be called "hard sci-fi." Last year I read all of Pat Murphy's books--this was akin to those, I suppose. Except different. Written in 2011, feeling very written in 2011, and about a multibillionaire who was a teenager in the 1980's. It feels as though it's by someone of my generation but a couple years older--and yes, it was. I googled him--Cline was born in 1972. I was born in 1976. So this explains how his view of the 1980's is more firmly set in the earlier part of the decade, before I discovered pop radio in middle school in 1987. My 1980's were more about George Michael and Madonna than Oingo Boingo and The Alan Parsons Project (I forgot about this awesome blog, that features The Book Notes series, where writers create and discuss music playlists that relate in some way to their books). Also, video games were barely on my radar. I remember occasionally playing with someone's Nintendo at a slumber party, but I never had a Nintendo or anything of that sort, and I didn't care so much. I might have played a video game once or twice at a bowling alley or something, but eh. And this book is maybe 55% about video games? Maybe 65%? Anyway, Cline is reading on December 17 at Ground Kontrol, which I have grown to love thanks to my obsession with pinball, but I don't play many video games there, except with Sierra and Miles--watching them playing the driving games is almost more fun than pinball, and the PacMan cocktail table game (lingo I have added to my vocabulary thanks to Ready Player One) with them is a blast.

Many of the same movies were important to me as figure largely in Ready Player One: the John Hughes oeuvre specifically. And Ghostbusters. Though Ghostbusters was more important to one of the characters in this novel than it ever was to me. And many of the same writers: Vonnegut specifically, Douglas Adams, Bradbury, Tolkien. Plus lots of more sci-fi and fantasy writers I was never into: Neal Stephenson, Terry Brooks, Heinlein...

Anyway, the book was so much fun. It's basically about a future (2044) that is even grimmer and poorer than today. James Halliday, a very rich guy--one of the designers of OASIS, basically the next generation of the internet--dies and leaves his entire fortune to the person who can solve the series of puzzles he's left behind. Our hero, Wade, who lives in a stack of trailers twenty-two trailers high (gas got too unreasonable, so people "desperate for work, food, electricity, and reliable OASIS access--had fled their dying small towns and had used the last of their gasoline ... to haul their families, RVs, and trailer homes to the nearest metropolis"), is one of the "gunters" obsessed with solving James Halliday's puzzles.

It's a good story. Even if you're not into sci-fi and/or video games, it's compelling and fast-moving and well-told. The one thing that annoys me is when Wade finds out that another gunter, also one of the leaders in the contest, and someone who's been a close friend of his for a long time in OASIS, although they've never met in real life, is different from how he's presented himself online. When Wade learns this, the reader is told that he "loved her as a dear friend. None of that had changed, or could be changed by anything as inconsequential as her gender, or skin color, or sexual orientation." I just don't buy that. I'd like to, but I'm not sure I can.

But this huge revelation is never any kind of issue ever. Not sure how much it would fit into the narrative if it was, but still.

Otherwise an awesome, fun book. Highly recommended.

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