Ready Player One: Or, "Shall we play a game?"

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

I'm going to be one of those weird nerds that didn't adore this book. I know. I'm sorry. But hear me out. I have a theory, and it goes something like this...


This book is so full of 80s nerd and pop culture references it has been aptly labeled as nostalgia porn. I know numerous people who have read this book and been completely sucked in and charmed by the world Cline has built. Which is awesome. I'm super happy about that. However, none of those people were mega-nerds in the 80s. Most of them hadn't been born yet, and a few of them were adults doing serious adult things, and thus too busy to take much notice of nerd culture at the time. The result for these folks was that they knew enough to catch references, so they felt included, but not so much that it was old hat.


So where does that leave the people who lived this period of time and subculture? The answer: kind of bored. You would think this book would be written precisely for folks like me, who are at the magic age where they grew up in the 80s and were big movie/music/videogame/RPG nerds. This is the category I assume Cline himself fall into, as do several of my friends. The problem is, at least for me and a few friends I've talked to about this, is that the book becomes tedious. I found myself saying, "yes, yes, I know!" and skimming through sections where Cline laboriously explained what an RPG was, or what the opening scene in a movie was, or how old computers worked. Those things are vital for the readers who didn't live it, but become tiresome for those who know all of that background inside and out. Imagine, if you will, a book taking three pages to explain to you how driving a car works, and how frustrating you would find that after a while. That was how this book felt for me.


I find it important at this point to say this is just my personal experience (and that of a small sampling of others). Your milage may vary. This book is certainly doing something I haven't seen before by placing this particular time and culture at center stage. The characters and plot are all fairly standard, neither stand-out nor egregiously lacking. The pages turn quickly and things move at a good clip. It doesn't particularly matter if you know where things are going, because the charm of the book isn't the story (and the book is completely aware of this). The charm is uncovering what facet of 80s life will be explored next, and for a lot of people this going to be really fun. Exploring places you've heard about, and always wanted to visit, is one of the neat things about books and media. Unfortunately, for at least me, this was a place I've visited many many times, and I didn't need a tour guide.