AUTHOR: Ernest Cline
PUBLISHER: Broadway Books
NUMBER OF PAGES: 400
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2012
READING LEVEL: appropriate for teens and adults
GENRE: Science Fiction / Dystopian / Thriller & Suspense
BOOK SUMMARY: (From Goodreads) In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
OUR STAR RATING:
OUR GROUP REVIEW:
Almost everyone in our group loved reading Ready Player One, and especially loved remembering and reconnecting with so many cultural references from our childhoods. Almost all of us were born in the 80s or were kids in the 80s, so the huge variety of references to 80s music, games, movies, and trends was so fun for us to relive. Even those on the younger end of the group who can't remember much (or anything!) from the 80s still found it easy to connect with, and could find something to relate to, even if they didn't understand every single reference.
One of our members mentioned that part of what made this book such a successful read was the blending of past and future. It managed to capture everyone's interest, whether people typically read more historical fiction set in the past, or speculative fiction set in the future. Whatever someone's reading interests are, they are covered at some point in Ready Player One.
In one interesting passage in the book, Wade says that he has been lied to. Everything he's been taught to believe in -- from religion, to cultural myths like Santa and the Easter Bunny -- is a fairy tale, and he wishes that he had been told the truth. This led to a really interesting group discussion about the 'lies' we tell our children. How do we pass on our religious beliefs to our kids? How do we talk to our kids about Santa, or other traditions? How do they feel when they discover that something we have taught them about might not actually be true, and how do parents handle their feelings if children feel they have been lied to? One group member pointed out during our discussion that life is hard enough as it is, and it's a lovely thing to have a fairy tale to believe in.
In the book, real life is so bleak that almost everything chooses to spend all their time in the massive virtual universe called the OASIS. We spent a lot of time discussing the OASIS and the ways we already feel we are 'living' in it. In a way, we are already living in a sort of OASIS through our connection to social media. In the book, characters create avatars and can choose how they look and sound to others online -- much like we use Instagram and Facebook to present a beautiful, happy, mess-free version of our lives to others. Even through games like Pokemon Go and the SIMS, we can escape into a virtual world. Even our group love of books is a way of escaping from the real world!
We agreed that we also felt like we entered the OASIS with Wade as we read the book, and could feel a distinct change as the storyline moved from the real world into the OASIS. One of our group complaints about the book was that we wished there had been a bit more action and threat for Wade in the real world. There are brief moments of real life danger and suspense for Wade, but we wished we had seen a bit more of his life outside the game, and perhaps more tension in the real world to parallel what he experienced in the OASIS.
We also talked about the experience of meeting people in real life who we've only interacted with online, an experience that is getting more and more common with the rise of online dating and friendships made through blogging and social media. We had a wide range of experiences in the group, from members who felt disappointed that someone was completely different from what they had pictured in online chats, to members who met and made great real life friendships with online friends, or even fell in love and married someone they met online.
As a group, we almost always love the romance portions of the books we read and discuss. There wasn't much romance in this book, but we felt happy with the amount we got in this book, as it felt fitting for the plot.
We ended our discussion by asking if we would be interested in the OASIS, if it existed today. We unanimously agreed that the school and education opportunities presented in the OASIS sounded incredible, and we would love to experience that. But in our day-to-day life, most of us didn't think we'd spend much time there. However, if we lived in the book and the reality that existed there, then yes, we would definitely prefer to spend our time in the OASIS rather than the bleak world of the book.