Thursday, March 29, 2018

Book Review: "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A real page-turner but ultimately unsatisfying.

It’s taken me two months to write this review because I didn’t know how to articulate my basic reservation about Ready Player One. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I did grow up kinda geeky in the 1980's so many of the recursive pop culture references were nostalgic fun, but I’ve never been much of a gamer (I’ve got books to read!) so I didn’t quite resonate with the main thrust of Ready Player One which is digital living in a gamer’s dreamworld on steroids (think TRON meets Avatar meets War Games meets Minecraft meets...you get the picture). RP1 did, however, keep me turning pages–the mark of a good yarn. I wanted to find out what happened to Parzival, Ache, and Art3mis, and I wasn’t ever sure how it was going to turn out (another sign of good storytelling).

I enjoyed Ernest Cline’s creative dystopian world-building and thrilling plot-twists, but I hated the incessant crassness and crudeness. Do people really talk like that? Just because of the interminable foulness, I couldn’t recommend it to any of the young people in my life who might be a natural target audience.

But that wasn’t my biggest beef. I couldn’t figure out how to say what I disliked the most about Ready Player One until I read Alissa Wilkinson's Vox review of the new movie version of RP1. She says:

Ready Player One presents itself as a story about a gang of brave, scrappy heroes who are motivated to save the world — but only the virtual world, the one that keeps them from engaging with what’s really going on in the physical world.

And the movie applauds this. It very obviously wants us to cheer for our heroes as they try to save the OASIS from destruction. I sat watching this all unfold, disturbed by the implication here: that we out in the audience are supposed to be on the side of escape. In fact, we are on its side, engaging in a movie that functions as an escapist fantasy itself.

It’s a little hard not to feel like the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

By the end of the film, the only concession to this weird dissonance comes in a sort-of statement that it’s probably good to take off the headset and actually interact with the real world now and then. Not to think about how the in-world injustices might map onto real-world injustices, or to fix problems.” Read the whole thing.
Yes, that’s it! The movie must capture the book in this regard. Everybody in this dystopian future admits that their world is terrible and that there isn’t that much to do about it, but what is really really important is to save virtual reality and videos games. Umm. No.

In 2018, I’ve committed to getting offline more, reading more paper books, going for more hikes in nature, remembering that I’m an embodied creature on purpose, and relating to people eye-to-eye and face-to-face. I haven’t given up on the digital world (I’m posting this online, after all), but I know that the mediated world is mediated and secondary. So, I don’t mind escaping for a bit into an engaging story about escaping, but making escaping the whole point of life leaves me empty and unsatisfied. As Stein said, “There is no there there.” If you read RP1, strap in for a ride, but also prepare to think critically about what the author and his characters believe are the best things in life.


View all my Goodreads reviews.

1 comments:

Click zmovie watch movies online free. Ready Player One (Warner Bros.) - $ 581.5 million *: Fiction based on the same literary masterpiece directed by Steven Spielberg fans heart. Owning the advanced piece of equipment, Ready Player One is like a game in the virtual world, as well as an infinite array of details related to popular culture, movies, comics ... Critically acclaimed. The film is based on a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

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