"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

READY PLAYER ONE (audiobook) by Ernest Cline

Published in 2011 by Random House Audio.
Read by Wil Wheaton.
Duration: 15 hours, 46 minutes

Ready Player One is a dystopian novel set in 2044 America. Things are not going well - there is an energy crisis, mega-corporations run everything and most of the country lives in poverty. Cities aren't particularly safe and the countryside between the cities resembles Mad Max more than Green Acres. The only relief comes in the form of The OASIS - a free virtual world that allows its users to avoid their depressing real lives and be part of something bright, shiny and new. You can become who you want to be and people of relatively modest means in the real world can become someone quite important online.

The book revolves around Wade Watts and his online persona Parzival. He, along with millions of others, is in the midst of an online treasure hunt for clues to a fortune. He is a "gunter", which is a contraction of "egg hunter", as in the Easter Eggs -hidden references to other movies or pop culture that are sometimes hidden within a movie. 

The creator of The OASIS was a Howard Hughes-type billionaire - brilliant but extremely eccentric. He has promised that the person who found found three keys and successfully opened three gates will win his real-life fortune and his shares in the massive video game corporation that administers The OASIS.

He loved the 1980s and geek culture. It is widely assumed that the keys are hidden in places that combine both. So, these "gunters" study the 1980s with an all-consuming passion. They know all of the movies, the video games, the music and especially role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons.

Wade Watts is a true "gunter" - he knows that his only real chance of making it out of the desperate poverty of his real life is to find these keys. If only he can find a clue...

...and then one day he finds a clue and everything changes, both in The OASIS and in the real world.

The reader, Wil Wheaton.
Photo by Genevieve.
Wil Wheaton read this homage to All Things Eighties and did a great job of creating different voices and pacing for characters. There is a lot of description and narration (as opposed to dialogue) in this book and he kept it lively and interesting.

At first, I loved this book as it was a trip down memory lane for me. The references to John Hughes movies, Monty Python, the music, the video game arcades and Dungeons and Dragons reminded me of my own teen years.

But, it was also depressing. It was sad seeing that the culture of the 2040s was consumed by its fascination with the 1980s and had no cultural innovations of their own - just technological innovations that enable people to experience The OASIS better. Everything was an homage to the 1980s or to The OASIS. 

Was this a great story? No, but it was fun and I was certainly entertained for nearly 16 hours listening to it so I can't complain.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: READY PLAYER ONE.

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