Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Today, I’d like to share my fascination with books that become movies. Those who read books regularly often claim the book is better than the movie. In this case, I will be covering the book, Ready Player One, which became a hit movie earlier this year. As everyone who saw the movie knows, Ready Player One featured a lot of references to pop culture, nerd culture, and video games. Since my site covers much of those topics, I figured it was appropriate to cover this book. I will try to answer if the book or movie is better, but this is mostly a review of the book and its qualities.

For the most part, the premise is the same. In the not too distant future, the world is a wreck. There is massive unemployment, the environment is ruined, and the only solace is a ridiculously popular virtual reality game called the OASIS. This game is so large and massive that anyone can do or be anything. The OASIS is also filled with pop culture from the 80’s and early 90’s. The book starts with the death of one of the creator’s of the OASIS, James Halliday, who in his will set up a contest over his massive fortune, as well as majority share of the company that owns the OASIS. To win, a player has to find an Easter egg hidden in the massive world of the OASIS.

The main character, Wade Watts, is obsessed with finding the egg, but so is the world’s largest internet service provider, IOI, as well as most of the people playing in the OASIS. If IOI finds it first, then they will over monetize the OASIS, and have too much control over the world. And that is where most of the similarities between book and movie end. Sure, the characters are the same, and the world is mostly the same, but just about every event unfolds in a different way.

This book is far more bleak about this sort of future, and is brutally candid about the state of reality. What impressed me the most was the level of accuracy concerning how video games work, including those of the past, present, and possible future. Additionally, the pop culture references are more obscure in the book. In fact, I didn’t recognize a fair number of them, and may have to look up a few of them to be sure of what these characters look like. More of the references in the book are from the 80’s, while those in the movie are more recent, and are more widely known.

Also of note, there are some short sections of the book that are not appropriate for a younger audience. If you saw the movie with your kids, you may want to hold off on giving them the book to read until they are a little bit older (assuming they even want to read books in this day and age).

It was interesting to see what portions of the book were different. While enough of the important plot points were the same, they were executed better in the book. How the rest played out was very different. Each challenge towards the egg featured different content, some of it more recognizable in a pop culture sense than others, though in general less recognizable than what was in the movie.

Perhaps the most terrifying thing about this book is how real and possible this future could be. Corporate greed lead to a wrecked world, high unemployment, unstable environment, hungry masses, and an unhealthy, worldwide obsession with a single video game. Some of these social ills are in the process of becoming a reality, and video games are getting sophisticated enough that some people are getting hooked on them in an almost addictive manner. Ready Player One paints a sorrowful picture of a possible future, and like most good sci-fi, it shows us a warning of things to come, and perhaps a way forward.

Let’s now look at the Pro’s and Con’s of this book:

Pro’s:

  • A well written portrayal of a future gone wrong, partially due to video games.
  • Full of 80’s pop/nerd culture, with all of them being a pleasant surprise. These provide a fun contrast to the depressing world shown.
  • An awareness of how games work from all current eras is appreciated.
  • Where the book and movie overlap, the book does it a little better.

Con’s:

  • Some of the pop culture references are too obscure, I didn’t recognize some of them.
  • Some content is very bleak. If you are looking for something upbeat or optimistic, you will not find it here. This is only a possible issue, based on personal preference.

So what is the verdict?

8.8/10 A Great written work, both as a showing of a harsh, possible future, and a fun mash-up of pop culture.

Now to answer the big question, is the book better than the movie? I feel that you get different things out of each option. The book is better written, especially where the the book and movie overlap. If you want a lot of pop culture, you could enjoy either one about as well. The book is much more frank about the state of the world, while the movie offers more visual delights, and is more optimistic. The two are different enough that they are almost unrecognizable. It is almost unfair to compare the two, though the movie does expand on some of the book’s content. I feel if you want to view both, you may enjoy them both for different reasons. It might be hard for book purists who read the book first to completely appreciate the movie, but viewing the movie first then reading the book was quite satisfying in my case.


And that covers my review of the book Ready Player one. Did you read the book or watch the movie? Which did you prefer if you experienced both, and why? Did you notice any plot holes in either? What pop culture references did you notice that others may not have? Let me know all this in the comments below!

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