I wrote this post six weeks ago about how I got a Kindle and was going to start READING. I am happy to report that since then I’ve read TWO books.
The first was Tim Urban’s What’s Our Problem?, who I’ve been a fan of since college, and the second was Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, a sci-fi novel recommended on this very blog by Sam G. I said I’d write a post about Ready Player One which I’ll very briefly do after this post.
What’s Our Problem?, which talks about today’s societal and political landscape, required a bit more brain power to go through. There were more pauses, rereads, and time spent thinking as opposed to reading, so it took me 4-5 weeks to get through. That type of book is more what I typically go for, and although long, it was overall a very worthy read.
Ready Player One is a novel about a poor kid in the 2040s who spends most his time in an altered reality (think Metaverse) solving puzzles and fighting things to win a grand prize. Had you asked me five years ago I would have said novels are stupid and not worth reading. I used to read the description above and think “what can I possibly gain from reading something that fucking stupid“.
Now a polished reader, I’ve changed my tune a bit. Do I think I “gained” much from the book? I think that’s the wrong way of looking at it. I read ~380 pages in less than a week. I have never read a book that long that fast. Something about falling into the story was comforting. I didn’t even love the book, but it was just nice to sit and read it.
I’m now onto Sapiens, which I’ve been meaning to read for years now, but the long and short of it is that this Kindle has transformed me. I might read 10 books year. I feel it. Who knows, maybe being more of a reader will make me be a better writer too. For everyone’s sake I hope so.
BONUS: READY PLAYER ONE BOOK REVIEW
Hi Sam, thanks for the rec! Let’s get to it, just rambling below.
The futuristic setting had it’s pros and cons. I thought Cline could’ve done more on the cool technology end. There really wasn’t too much in this 2040s world that didn’t already exist in the today’s world (for all we know that may end up being the case), but I thought there could’ve been more creativity there.
The contest was a good idea to base the book around, and Wade’s journey from poor to fame was fun. The build of him becoming a legend was mostly believable and Cline did a good job demonstrating what comes with that, be it the added perks in OASIS or just the fame itself.
The love interest of Atr3mis, though kind of generic, was enough to keep me interested. Their relationship took the arc you’d expect but in the context of the contest and all I found it entertaining.
I didn’t mind how over-the-top it 80s theme was. It did get a little silly when he’d say “oh this movie was one of his favorites and I watched it 750 times” or “this obscure comic book was also his favorite and I read it 50 times plus every additional book and index based on the series“. I know five years is a lot of time to devote to one thing, but that was excessive at parts.
The YA (young adult for the uneducated) aspect revealed itself in certain parts. The dialogue between Aech and Wade was cringey at times. Most notably though, whatever you were hoping to happen, happened. He always escaped just before dying. He always beat the game with his last life. It felt slightly childish (not necessarily in a bad way) at times, but it wasn’t too hard getting past it.
My biggest gripes with the book came in two places.
The first and by far the biggest was the IOI – the insanely well funded, unfairly equipped corporation also vying for the egg. It was wildly unrealistic that they wouldn’t have solved the puzzle. I’m sorry, I’m not buying it. Wade, Aech, and Art3mis like to joke “well they’re idiots, of course they couldn’t figure it out!“, give me a break. There are a bajillion experts on the 1980s who, in that economic climate, would be willing to work for the IOI and easily solve the puzzles given the resources. The High Five were not some amazingly bright bunch where only they could figure it out.
The second gripe is the lack of AI in the book. Saying things like “designed coded planet after planet by hand” looks silly in 2023. The AI we currently have can do some of the things that the book makes seem difficult, imagine another 20 years worth of development. The only AI in the book were self driving cabs and his housemate Max, who was basically a better version of Amazon Alexa. I know this was written in 2011, so it’s easy for me to say now, but this felt like a pretty glaring miss.
Lastly the ending was a bit disappointing. There was a lot of build up to Wade meeting Art3mis in real life and they couldn’t make her say one comment about his actual appearance?! I know there are sequels, so their future can happen there, but the actual meeting to close the book felt pretty lame.
Overall, good book, easy read, and a fun story. I can’t rate it out of 10 because I’ve only read one novel in the last ~10 years so that doesn’t feel fair.