I first noticed Ready Player One in the bookstores a few years ago. Good title, cool cover, but I didn't feel like picking it up. Then I started to hear of it more and more, in obscure ways that are hard to recall. A whisper of Will Wheaton, maybe. I guess it moved around the internet through word of mouth. Then all at once, it jumped the virtual fence. In the space of a week, two of my friends recommended it to me. One of them said that if I liked Ender's Game (which I do), then I'd like Ready Player One as well.
Based on that comparison, I finally picked it up. I read the first 15 pages and was pretty hooked, but it went downhill from there.
I don't really want to go into all the reasons why I did not care of Ready Player One, but if I must, I'd say it lacked emotional and intellectual depth, trading on a currency of not even nerd references, but 80's pop culture trivia. I got bored reciting lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the sixth grade. The author, Ernest Cline, envisions a future where not only does it never get boring, but you'll be rewarded for it? I agree, we'll always fetishize the past to some extent, but the way Cline imagines that future never rang true to me, nor did I find it entertaining or all that much fun.
What was really at stake for the main character (whose name I don't even care enough about to look up)? If he lost the competition, he'd be in exactly the same position as he was when he started. He's never tempted to give in or give up. There's not enough character there to even be at risk of corruption. A total Mary-Sue. Cline adds an evil corporation for conflict; an organization that threatens to kill the main character, but it's all a lot of hammy B-movie posturing.
I like science fiction because it's escapist. Ready Player One instead had me watch someone more or less play a video game, and not even one of the modern varieties which have developed story lines and characters. This was like watching a kid play the equivalent of Donkey Kong for three hundred pages. Check out the amazon.com one-star reviews and they'll summarize my feelings more succinctly than I ever could. (Do you do that? Check Amazon's one-star reviews to make sure you're not crazy?)
Look, it's not just Ready Player One that I think is grossly overrated. I'm going to submit an unpopular opinion: Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, is also garbage. What started out as the coolest first chapter of any science fiction novel I've ever read, quickly devolved into a bogus mashup of computer programming and ancient religions. On top of the weak thematic ideology, we get flat, meaningless characters with marginal goals and motives, which makes it practically impossible for the reader to inhabit anyone in the story and experience it more deeply and with more at stake through their eyes. Stephenson should have left the first chapter of Snow Crash as a short story.
Want me to go on? Hyperion was terribly uneven. The Scholar's and Priest's Tales were excellent, but the Detective's Tale seemed completely out of tone and place with the rest. The Consul's tale was pretentious and silly. And any story that uses the word "buttocks" is probably not so good.
We all know how I feel about the Lord of the Rings.
Science fiction, like any other genre, has it's own cannon, but can we never revisit it...and maybe kick someone out? What makes up good literature will be a matter of opinion, but I'd at least like to have that discussion someplace other than Amazon's one-star reviews.
Why is Ready Player One worth reading? Convince me, because I'm almost positive it was written in a shameless grab for movie rights.
Writer, editor, scientist.