Ready Player One or the literary equivalent to mainlining liquid sugar

Spoilers ahead for Ready Player One.



No, seriously, if you’re into reading this book or really want to read it, I will spoil it for you.

I read books, write short stories, and run this blog. I’m not a literary critic.  So...if you’re looking for a high-brow thinkpiece on it, this won’t be the place.

Here’s a place that has one that doesn’t massage my confirmation bias.

Here’s a place that does.

This is more a response to the fact that this book will soon be made into a movie directed by Steven goddamn Spielberg and scored by John Williams. Spielberg’s the only man with enough money to afford the IP lawyers needed to pull this off, I understand that. What I don’t understand is STEVEN SPIELBERG directing a wish fulfillment book.

Here’s the wiki:

In the year 2044, the world is gripped by an energy crisis and global warming, causing widespread social problems and economic stagnation. The primary escape for most people is a virtual universe called the OASIS, which is accessed with a visor and haptic gloves. It functions both as an MMORPG and as a virtual society, with its currency being the most stable currency in the world. It was created by James Halliday, who has recently died. His will left a series of clues towards an Easter Egg within the OASIS that would grant whoever found it both his fortune and control of the OASIS itself. This has led to an intense interest in all aspects of 80s pop culture, which Halliday made clear would be essential to finding his egg.

What do you think? Sounds pretty bland. It’s not, but that’s not entirely a good thing. I think it falls under the trying too hard spectrum. A thrill ride, sure, but one that ends quickly. It’s empty calories: fun, but insubstantial.

And here’s why I hated it the most:

Wade Watts, the main character, is a Gary Stu. His love interest? Might as well be a Mary Sue.

I don’t like those things. I hate those things. Why? Because I used to write fanfiction and that’s one of the things that I hated reading and I even hated writing. And the entire plot, the 80s obsession, it’s all part of author Ernie Cline’s penchant for the 80s.

Don’t get me wrong, I love nostalgia. I’ve written about it. There’s a lot of it in this book. DeLoreans and WarGames and Joust just dripping throughout the book. And I wonder, maybe it’s because I’m a 1987 kid and missed out on these things, I wasn’t really enjoying the book? Or maybe it was the fact that I grew up in Mexico and didn’t experience the tail end of the zany 80s in the United States. In either case, I didn’t like it. It’s well-written, but the pacing moves too fast and it depends entirely on fanservice to move the story along. Which, you know, since what’s retro is cool, I guess works for some people?

The worldbuilding was interesting. It’s like Tom Clancy’s NetForce meets Second Life and described as much. If you’ve never played Second Life, it’s basically a game where you get to do exactly what this guy is doing. Just add a little bit of Dark Souls (one of the challenges he has to go through is memorizing the entire script to WarGames) and Sword Art: Online and you’ve got Ready Player One.

Unrelated, I just figured since we’re talking about digital worlds…


But there’s nothing new. The love interest is cringy. The kindly old man might as well be a Clive Cussler-esque deus ex machina. It’s not interesting. Not to me, anyway.

And I’m not being a contrarian asshole because this book is popular. I don’t play that game. (HAHA GET IT BECAUSE IT’S A GAME EL OH EL!)

But...John frigging Williams.

Either everyone is into some shit I’m not, or Cline’s got pictures of Spielberg wearing sandals with socks on or something equally terrifying.

The main guy, is Holden Caufield-grade unlikeable.

I’m going to quote the geekmountain review on Wade. Also I recommend wearing a neckbrace because you’re going to cringe very hard.

Early in the book he humilliates a “poseur” in front of a crowd of people because he doesn’t know as much about a videogame as Wade does … Large chunks of this book are wade listing how much he knows on various subjects and nothing is ever a surprise to him so there’s no character growth whatsoever. One clue is about Rush but luckily he’s memorised every song, every lyric, every live performance, every album’s cover art. He faces a challenge that involves competing in the classic video game Joust which, of course, he’s mastered and he has no trouble beating the AI on the first try.

It gets worse:

Two of the main characters, Daito and Shoto, are Japanese and cannot have a conversation without saying that someone has or lacks honour.

Steven Spielberg is directing a movie about this book.

This isn’t sour grapes. I’ve stated that EL James and Stephenie Meyer are very successful writers. Their books are misogynistic and boring and one of those started out as a fanfiction of the OTHER series. But Meyer makes $340,000 a day. If you’re going to tell me that I’l be a hack writer but have a net worth like James’ (80 million), I’ll take being a hack writer any day of the week.

I don’t begrudge Cline his success...I am however, annoyed at wasting my time on the book.

I wonder if it’s projection. Like, I see myself writing something like that in middle school. See, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wish fulfillment or going into these fantasies where you’re Mr. Cool, better than everyone yet still an outcast, always gunning for that girl that was just out of reach. I think every teenager goes through that.

But that’s the thing: teenagers.

I grew out of that shit because I knew in my heart of hearts no one was going to read it and because I feel like as I grew I didn’t like that part of me. I didn’t like that I was acting like a straight up NiceGuyTM on many occasions.

So those fanfictions and original fictions are lost to digital hell.  I don’t pine for what I had in high school because I know I’m in a better place now. I mean, I do have a few regrets, but who doesn’t? I like how I turned out and I understand I can still do a lot better.

But I moved on.

I don’t think Mr. Cline did.