Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Read by Wil Wheaton
Genre: Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: Easily one of my favorite listening experiences of the year, Ready Player One was an exciting adventure tale, as well as a trip through the icons of my teenage years. Be prepared for an utterly fanboyish review.
I was never much of a geek. I grew up in a household where my entertainment choices were highly monitored. So, I probably was more of a wannabe geek. I would have loved to hang out with the geekiest among my school mates, playing Dungeons & Dragons and quoting lines from cheesy movies. The problem was Dungeons & Dragons was a tool to get children into Satanic Cults, and any movie over PG and not vetted by an responsible adult was totally not allowed. Yet, still I was a child of the 80’s, born in 1974. The first real news event I remember was the Reagan Assassination attempt. I spent much of my afternoons watching Transformers, GI Joe and my all time favorite Star Blazers. I read approved Books like The Chronicles of Narnia multiple times, and experience my first big screen moments with movies like ET, Superman and The Empire Strikes Back. My first game system was an Atari 2600 and my first computer was a Commodore 64. So, despite my limited Geek cred, I still fell right into the perfect target audience for Ernest Clines, genre bending Geek epic Ready Player One. Ready Player One is a quest tale that takes place in a highly sophisticated virtual reality program called OASIS. Wade, a young geek, living in a community of stacked trailer homes, sees his only way out of poverty is completing the complex contest set up by James Halliday, the OASIS founder in lieu of a will. The winner of the quest will inherit the vast fortune of the 80’s obsessed recluse programmer, as well control of OASIS.
I loved every minute of Ready Player One. It would be easy for me to simply state this was one of my favorite audiobooks of the year, yet, in my opinion this is selling the experience short. From the opening moments of the books, when Halliday presented his funeral using clips from the movie Heathers, I knew that I would love the book. In many ways, listening to the book, I felt like I was walking through a museum of my own memories of my teenage years, pointing at the iconic images as they appeared within the book with an excited reverence. Yet, there is a problem with this as well. As a reviewer, I cannot remove myself from my own connection with this book enough to give an objective take on the novel for those who don’t share my love of 80’s pop culture. Yes, there is adventure, romance, awesome fight scenes, tragic dystopian images of our future, and an evil corporation to hate, but would this overall plot work for someone who doesn’t remember the days when joystick controllers only had one button. Personally, I think it works no matter what era the reader comes from, but I also know it could be wishful thinking. So, now that I gave that bit of a disclaimer, could I reiterate that… I frakkin’ loved this book. I think that Ready Player One has the potential to be more than just a great book, but a true cultural Icon. Ready Player One is the Stranger in a Strange Land of the Atari generation, the Hitchhikers Guide for those who wished the Keatons were their family. And for everyone else, it was a whole lot of fun.
To make matters even better, uber-Geek extraordinaire Wil Wheaton narrated Ready Player One. You could tell through the listening of this book that Wheaton was having a hell of a time reading it. What I really enjoyed about his reading was that he didn’t overdo it. With such an outrageous premise, some narrators may have brought an over the top reading style to the project. Wheaton instead allowed the world to come to life on its own, without any needs to push it. Wheaton’s knowledge of 80’s pop culture served him well, allowing him to capture the rhythms and cadence of Monty Python, as well as imitate precisely the beeps and whistles of 80’s arcade games. Ready Player One allowed me to finally live out some of my desired geek status and reached out and awakened my inner fanboy.