A few months back, I purchased Ready Player One by Ernest Cline through Audible. This book has over 9,000 reviews on Amazon and an average 4.6 stars rating. I’m a fan of video games and Mr. Awesome loved this book, so I felt inclined to give it a try. I didn’t have much time for reading, so I chose to try the audiobook version while I worked. Before I get into my review, here is the official synopsis from Amazon:
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.
But 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.
I really wanted to love this audiobook. It had some of my favorite topics – mankind’s bleak future, MMOs, RPGs, pop culture references, and a man with a mysterious background giving away all his wealth (kind of like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). When Cline was describing the MMO’s interface, I was taken back to the thousands of hours I spent playing MMOs. But it just wasn’t enough to keep me invested. I only made it about halfway through before I stopped listening. There’s no better way to explain it than I got bored. I experienced the 80s, like many others, and I enjoy being taken back there with references to movies, songs, games, etc.; however, the references in Ready Player One were an info dump dotted by occasional action. Considering this is a Young Adult book, I can’t help but wonder if Cline felt the need to school youngsters on his favorite decade rather than just letting them experience it. I don’t miss the 80s enough to sit through all the extra exposition.
Information was also repeated a lot, like Cline didn’t quite trust his readers to follow along from chapter to chapter. I’ll admit, there were times where the exposition would go on in greater and greater detail until I just zoned out on something else. If I wasn’t listening to the audiobook, where all the work is done for me, I probably would have quit sooner.
The narration is performed by Whil Wheaton of Star Trek fame. I fully respect Wheaton’s role as one of the King of the Geeks (I put him in the same ranks as Nathan Fillion from “Firefly” and “Castle”), but I had the hardest time listening to him. Through his performance, Wade, the main character, came off arrogant and a bit annoying. I had flashbacks to that one know-it-all kid in high school, who would never stop talking because he loved to hear his own voice and would drag on class discussions until they went completely off-topic and the rest of the class wanted to smack him.
Part of me wonders if I would have had the same reaction if I was reading the book and not listening to it. After all, there are a lot of 4-star/5-star reviews. But I didn’t and I think I’ll have to leave the rest of Ernest Cline’s books to Mr. Awesome to read. I recommend the Ready Player One audiobook to anyone who really, really misses the 80s.