I had a lot of expectations for this book. I heard it is wonderful for pop culture junkies, which I consider myself to be, and the premise is really quite wonderful: Willy Wonka meets The Matrix. Unfortunately, as often happens with high expectations, the book didn't live up to them. So let's dive in.
Ready Player One follows Wade Watts as he engages in the greatest video game contest ever: Find Halliday's egg and inherit his multi-billion dollar company. Since the world has gone to shit - wars and famines and poverty, oh my! - this is the deal of a lifetime. As Wade plays, though, he comes to find that people will literally kill to win this video game.
I did like this book. It was a fun read for sure. There was excitement and definitely points where my heart was just pounding in my chest. The characters were, for the most part, good. In particular I really liked Aech and Shoto. My issue with it is it felt like two separate novels. One was great, one was not so great. Let's start with the latter, shall we?
The first half of the book is slow. I mean, ridiculously slow. It's mostly just setting up the world and describing all the video games and the nature of OASIS. A lot of it was really just Wade proving what a nerd he was. I mean, seriously. I didn't need a whole chapter just on how seriously he researched Halliday's life. There was so much in the first half that could have been trimmed and left out. Don't get me wrong, it was interesting stuff, but it felt like reading Wiki page after Wiki page. It was mostly dull and lacked the excitement I wanted from the story.
I also didn't particularly care for Wade in the first half. He came across rather Sue-ish to me. Not a full on Sue, but he was getting there. He seemed whiny and self-involved and that made it hard to root for him as a hero. He does get better, mainly in Level Three. I do like how his arc ended. He's not the worst protagonist I've ever encountered but he was not the best either. His drama with Art3mis also came across rather forced and thrown in. His relationship with her was important to the story and his character development but I wish it had been written less melodramatically.
Now, once the Jade key is found, the story gets drastically better.
While waiting for a friend to come over today, I figured I'd read a chapter or two and then put the book down. Once I got to the Jade key part, though, the story became so intense that I couldn't put it down even if I wanted to. In the second part there is actual danger and the stakes become infinitely higher. Wade becomes more than just a whiny couch potato and I found myself rooting hard for him and his friends.
The fight between the gunters and the Sixers was incredible. Just incredible. I wish there was more to it, in fact. That was the kind of story I wanted to read. It was complex and it was the kind of battle every good scifi fantasy story needs. Seriously, I loved that fight. It was simply incredible.
The ending of the story was also awesome. Wasn't a copout and it made sense. It also left just enough unsaid that you can use your imagination. It gives options but the rest of the story is yours to make up. It also wrapped up Wade's arc nicely and I was satisfied with the was things ended with him. So yeah, good ending.
There are elements throughout the novel that seemed a bit deus ex machina, mainly the parts with Og, but for the most part I could let that go. It was set up well enough that it was for the most part plausible. If you hate super convenient twists, though, parts of the book will probably irk you a bit. Just a warning.
Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's a good book but the first half really needed some work. Too much exposition.
Final thought: I think the movie adaptation coming out is going to be one of the cases where the movie is better than the book. It shouldn't have the issue of too much exposition since it can show us everything quickly and efficiently. At least that's what I hope. I'm looking forward to it.