I had heard so many good things about “Ready Player One” that I finally broke down, bought it and read it.
This book is ridiculously full of bits of pop-culture trivia going all the way back to the 1980s, and sometimes even further, as our hero, Parzival, attempts to win the internet, as the joke goes.
That’s basically what this book is about, by the way: it’s a huge contest put out by the inventor of a globally dominant game that, while not comprising the internet, per se, is the virtual world which humans, en mass, seem to want to inhabit over the crapped-out world in which they find themselves not too long from now.
From obscure video-game tidbits to classic 1980’s music, Cline leaves no cultural/geeky/nerdy detail unmined to craft an intricate treasure hunt even more obscure than “The DaVinci Code.” It is meticulously researched and put together, and Cline’s writing is both polished and entertaining.
The problem–for me, at least–is that by the time Cline has finished leading Parzival, and us, through the corridors his (and a lot of our) past, the whole thing, wound up feeling like an exercise in “look how clever I am.”
How many times can we be subjected to a minor programing bug in an otherwise unremarkable 8-bit video game, or an almost impossible leap of intuition to not simply find a target, but to do something that just “feels right” that winds up saving the day? Or be subjected to page after page of movie quotes that exist for no other reason than to simply point out how much time Cline had to transcribe them, all because he happened to like the movie in the first place?
Don’t get me wrong: I recognized a goodly portion of Cline’s references, but after an entire novel of them, even the somewhat more mainstream inclusion of Rush’s “2112” (my favorite band, by the way: see below), wasn’t enough to keep me from going “ugh.”
I realize that I am probably in the minority on this one, and that’s fine. I understand Steven Spielberg has optioned the book, so we can look forward to the film version, eventually.
When that happens, I hope he can extract some heart and depth of emotion from beneath the sedimentary layers of Cline’s endless, self-indulgent, romp through his childhood.