Tag Archives: book reviews

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I loved Ready Player One! It gave me a massive nerdgasm, which is always nice thing to have.

Here’s the plot. Wade Watts is an 18 year who lives in a trailer stack in the year 2044. Essentially it’s a trailer park that has gone vertical due to poverty and planet-wide lack of resources. The world has turned to shite. Fortunately virtual reality is awesome and pretty much everyone spends all their time on an online game called OASIS. OASIS is almost as convincing as real life except that is much more fun and doesn’t smell. It’s basically a massively multiplayer online experience. Think Warcraft mixed with Second Life in virtual reality. There are practical applications for this – such as people can go to school there – but it is mostly a huge game.

The game consists of tons of planets each with a different theme that players can fly between (if they can afford it). So there are planets like Dungeons & Dragons, futuristic planets, cyberpunk worlds, social planets, shopping planets, futuristic warzones and so forth. The fact that there is so much variety, that the virtual world is as realistic as the real world, and that the world is gripped by poverty, means the game is played by billions. I know I would play it and my life is pretty awesome. The guy who invented the game is a multi-billionaire genius called James Halliday.

When Halliday dies a video is released. His entire fortune is up for grabs if people can find it. Somewhere in OASIS is a series of clues (known as easter eggs which are found in most games and lots of DVDs). These clues lead to tests and then keys that eventually lead to his treasure and fortune. An epic worldwide hunt is on.

The joy of Ready Player One is that it is such a great idea. Anything can happen. One minute the character is on an orbiting space station, the next he is fighting orcs in a dungeon, the next he is fighting in a huge battle on an alien planet. The whole concept is one that makes me genuinely sad that it isn’t a reality yet.

As I said, I loved Ready Player Onebut I am not 100% sure that everyone will. Most of the clues and a lot of the discussions relating to the hunt are based on Halliday’s obsession with nerdy things from when he grew up. His birthday in the book is given as being mid-June 1972. My birthday is the end of May 1972. I am a bit of scifi/games fan (you may have guessed by my superb website). All the things that Halliday was obsessed with are identical to myself.

This is why I loved it. For example he lists some of his favourite OASIS worlds –Arrakis Middle Earth, Vulcan, PernMagrathea, Midworld, Riverworld, Ringworld. If you are unfamiliar with any of these worlds, some of the references may pass you buy. To be honest, for me, they are just entry level Geek. Nerd 101. Later on he references authors: Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Neal Stephenson, Terry Brooks, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, etc. Holy trinities: Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Mad Max, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Star Wars. He even loves old Twilight Zone and anything by Monty Python. Basically, if I was going to write a book filled with all my nerdiest obsessions from childhood (and beyond), they are listed here.

Then of course are the games. Not only was he a huge fan of old school D&D (on paper and spoken – the classic RPG) he also loved computer games. All the ones I did. I grew up in Hong Kong and spent a huge chunk of my childhood years in games arcades playing Gauntlet, Pac Man, Rampage, Star Wars, Galaxian, Defender and so on. Another huge chunk was spend on various games consoles and pc games that required a small pile of floppy discs just to play.

Adventure on the Atari

The main console in my life from about 7-13, was my beloved Atari 2600. In Ready Player One the whole idea for Halliday’s ‘egg hunt’ is from a game on this very console. A game called ‘Adventure’. I played that game so often that my mum still remembers it just from walking past me. It was basically a very crude fantasy game that had dragons and keys and mazes. One of the greatest days of my young life came when I found a secret room after literally months of play. Atari never allowed game makers to put their name on their work but one programmer hid a room deep in a maze in ‘Adventure’ that was unbelievably hard to find and had the game designer’s name in it. It was a minor sensation in the geek community and only a few of us ever found it. (Probably loads now but this was pre-internet.)

 

The hidden room in ‘Adventure’ was what gave Halliday the idea to hide his fortune in OASIS in the first place.

If you found any of the above boring or didn’t get any of the references to authors, games, planets, etc., you will miss a lot of references in Ready Player One.

The big question (if you have made it this far,) is: can I still enjoy it if I’m not someone as clearly obsessed with this shit as Scifiward or Ernest Cline or the fictional characters in the book? Will you still like it if you aren’t almost 40, having spent a life obsessed with Science Fiction, (plus games, comics, manga, RPGs, etc, etc)? The answer is yes. The book is a fun adventure in its own right. It isn’t all about games. There are also real life action, narrow escapes, romance and bad guys that blow shit up. Pretty much all you need really.

As you can tell, I fucking loved this story. Apparently it is rumoured to be a film soon. I can’t wait.
Ready Player One Paperback
Ready Player One Kindle edition

Nerd out.

Happy New Year Sci Fi fans!

Cheers everyone!

I hope all you wonderful Science Fiction fans had a superb 2011 and will have an even more superb 2012. I won’t do a write up of what has happened over the past year because it was all pretty miserable and I have already done that on my other website here. I prefer to look to the future.

I’m talking about the future of science fiction obviously, not the future of humanity. When I was little I thought the year 2000 was far off and imagined myself possibly living on the moon – the year 2011 seemed impossibly far away but here we are at its end. No flying cars, some unconvincing robots, no colonies on the moon, even jetpacks are the same as the 70s. It is all a bit disappointing really. We do have cool gadgets though, and games are pretty awesome. Thanks to things like my iPad, I can now watch ‘The Walking Dead’ on the toilet. That’s a big step forward.

This will be in fashion in 2012. Hopefully.

What will next year bring? As a society, I’m hoping shiny spandex will finally come into fashion. Mmmmm… Spandex… I haven’t though much beyond that, to be honest. Otherwise I am just going to be excited about upcoming movies and even better gadgets. Over the next few weeks I will look at a ton of new Science Fiction movies that are due to come out and will patiently explain why they could be awesome but could also possibly be crap. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? There’s certainly a lot to get our hopes up: The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spiderman, John Carter, The Avengers, Battleship, Prometheus, The Hobbit, Dredd, World War Z, Total Recall. There are even some weird ones that might prove brilliant too like the Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas, or two independent movies: Iron Sky is a finnish movie about Nazis on the moon, and El Cosmonauta is about a Russian cosmonaut who comes back to Earth to find everyone has buggered off and he’s all alone.

World War Z

As always there are bound to be awesome books to review and enjoy. I’m currently reading The Forge of God by Greg Bear and finishing World War Z by Max Brooks. Both of which are great. I will probably read Kraken by China Mieville after that, or The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Or even Terry Pratchett, if I feel like a laugh and want to play it safe with something I know I will like. Ahhh, so many books…

Game-wise there are a few things to get excited about too. I recently beta-tested Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic MMOG and it was damn good fun. It’s actually just come out, so I will give that a go at some point. There is also Mass Effect 3 (which has to be awesome), Final Fantasy XIII-2 (might be good, I still miss the genius of VII and XII was fun), there’s a new Resident Evil (better be good). And, well, tons more.

I intend to read more comics this coming year (I got the Ballad of Halo Jones for Christmas) and will generally be slightly more cool and revel in Scifi goodness than in 2011. It is going to be an great year. As well as all the above I also intend to write more fiction on Kindle. I have just released a trilogy of short Science Fiction stories (in case you missed it) called The Uneven Passage of Time by Jason Ward (that’s me). I suggest you buy it so I can write more, review more, and just generally enhance this site. It’s win win and you may even like the stories. Consider it a donation to the arts. The blurb and links are here or click above on My Books.

Anyway, I am off to the pub for New Year drinks. I hope you are all as excited as I am. Have a great 2012! Scifi Ward out.

This should be the new 'hello' for 2012. It would be more fun.