Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)

by Ernest Cline

4.19 of 5 stars 48 ratings • 22 reviews • 73 shelved
Book cover for Ready Player One

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Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)

by Ernest Cline

4.19 of 5 stars 48 ratings • 22 reviews • 73 shelved

“Enchanting . . . Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.”—USA Today • “As one adventure leads expertly to the next, time simply evaporates.”—Entertainment Weekly

A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the OASIS, a vast virtual world where most of humanity spends their days.

When the eccentric creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind a series of fiendish puzzles, based on his obsession with the pop culture of decades past. Whoever is first to solve them will inherit his vast fortune—and control of the OASIS itself. 

Then Wade cracks the first clue. Suddenly he’s beset by rivals who’ll kill to take this prize. The race is on—and the only way to survive is to win.

Numbered limited edition of the first UK Hardcover edition of Ready Player One. With exclusive dust jacket to match Ready Player Two, 4 colour endpapers, ribbon bookmark, and head and tail bands.

  • Publish Date 1 December 2020 (first published 1 January 2011)
  • Publish Status Unknown
  • Publish Country GB
  • Publisher Cornerstone
  • Imprint Century


Avatar for brokentune

brokentune 3 of 5 stars
This was interesting.

I'm not keen on arcade games and much of the 80s' obsession with them has passed me by. But, ... I do appreciate that Ernest Cline used them as a means to turn a nostalgic reference to them into a sci-fi story with a few good points about the possibilities and dangers of a society almost totally locked into a virtual reality.

There were parts of the book when I felt Cline was just listing references to games and music with little purpose to develop the plot. This did change at the end of the book, which I enjoyed immensely, but wasn't enough to make me love the book outright.

This was a fun read, but I'd prefer a re-visit of the film War Games the next time I'm in the mood for an 80s-themed geek-fest.

Avatar for clementine

clementine 1 of 5 stars
I will note that I am neither a gamer nor particularly into nerd culture. This undoubtedly influences my opinion on this book.

You know those people who use their extensive knowledge of pop culture as a substitute for a real personality? This is the literary equivalent of that. I'm not against a book whose primary function is spectacle over substance; sometimes you just want to be dazzled as a reader. It's like the cinema of attractions in book form. That's cool. It's just that this wasn't a spectacle that I particularly enjoyed.

First of all, the writing was clunky. Again, this book clearly isn't here to be a marvel of technical ability; the point isn't to immerse readers in beautiful prose but to entertain with a fast-paced story. But I want to be clear that the writing is far from spectacular. The dialogue was often stilted. The use of phrases like "L33t Hax0rz Warezhaus" was beyond cringey - that reads as dated in 2018; there's no way l33t sp34k will survive to 2045. I also got the idea that the author thought his readers were quite slow - surely nobody needs to be told that the abbreviation IOI is pronounced "eye-oh-eye". Sure, explanations of the more esoteric aspects of gaming culture are welcome - but I know how to read, you know? I'm an adult human. I can pronounce the letters of the alphabet.

But lack of incredible writing chops does not necessarily deter me from enjoying a book. A formulaic, predictable plot does, though. Watery social commentary that any half-sentient sixteen-year-old could come up with does. A novel that is packed full of pop culture references but completely lacking in any indication that the author has heard of a single woman in his life does. For the majority of the novel (barring a surprise reveal which I will get to in a moment), there is a singular female character who is not functionally differentiated from the male characters at all except for through some primitive stabs at feminist consciousness when she admits that she isn't taken seriously as a woman. (Oh really? Female gamers aren't taken seriously? That's some classified information!) Art3mis is afforded the wonderful plot of "Is she hot in real life and will she sleep with our protagonist?" She's a blatant male fantasy: chock full of all the requisite masculine nerd culture references but a curvy, pretty woman instead of a basement-dwelling man. Wonderful! Emailing Art3mis to warn of imminent danger, Wade charmingly adds "PS - I think you look even more beautiful in real life," because every intelligent, accomplished woman wants unsolicited, condescending affirmations about her appearance when she's being hunted down by an evil corporation.

As for the character of Aech, who turns out to be "a heavyset African American girl" - and a lesbian no less - I can't help but find the revelation of her true self underwhelming. The author almost gets at a sad truth when he writes that the OASIS "was the best thing that had ever happened to both women and people of color" because they could pretend to be white men in the world of VR. Of course, having to assimilate to the dominant culture to get ahead is not a good thing at all; it is a marker of our lack of progress. I want to give Cline the benefit of the doubt and say that he realizes this, that his future has purposefully stunted social progress. Maybe this is so. But then it's so easy for him to have Wade decide that race, gender, and sexuality don't matter at all when one is in the company of a true friend. This colourblind attitude is bizarre and at odds with what could otherwise be incisive social critique about the homogenizing dominance of white supremacist patriarchy. In the end, Cline can't get credit for one of his characters being a fat Black lesbian if she's presented as a white man for literally 85% of the novel, and when little regard is paid to the differences in her life experience as compared to our white male protagonist.

Ready Player One depicts a bleak future, but it doesn't draw any attention to one of its most disturbing elements: the lack of female influence on the cultural, social, and political landscape. This book is a celebration of a male-dominated nerd canon disguised as an adventure novel slash social critique. If you're into the male-dominated nerd canon, you might enjoy its spectacle. Clearly, I did not.

Avatar for pamela

pamela 4 of 5 stars
Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a tough book to rate.  Its characters are two-dimensional and generally either unlikeable or forgettable, the antagonists are like cartoonish caricatures of an evil corporation, everything that helps resolve the plot is just a little too convenient.  There are also some pretty glaring logical inconsistencies that had me shaking my head at times thinking, seriously?  But did any of that matter in the end?  Not even a bit, because this book is just so. Much. Damn. FUN!

Cline knows his audience well. The narrative of Ready Player One is so chock full of pop culture references that I’m surprised he managed to fit a plot in there at all.  From old arcade games, through to John Hughes films and more prog music references than you can poke a stick at (I’m looking at you, Rush!), there’s something in here for everyone who grew up or was born in the 80’s.  He manages to create a palpable sense of nostalgia which drives the plot forward and had me giggling with joy whenever he mentioned something that I was particularly fond of.  And there we have the appeal of this book.  The age of the Geek is now, but so many of us grew up at a time when being a gamer, reading science-fiction and fantasy and listening to prog rock until the early hours of the morning made us anything but cool.  A book like Ready Player One brings those things into the now and lets us enjoy them alongside a youth who don’t suffer the same stigma associated with those interests.

Ready Player One’s pacing is perfect.  It starts off with just the right amount of exposition, gets us interested in the world that Cline is building and then sets off running.  The search for the keys is exciting, and I found myself trying to solve the clues along with Wade to see how good my own 80’s pop-culture memory was.  The clues are cryptic enough to not be solved quickly, but make sense when they’re resolved without feeling forced.  There are moments of tension and intrigue, and the way the final battle was written was so well rendered that I could almost see it right in front of me.  With that said, however, there are lots of moments when things are a little too convenient.  Wade just happens to be good at everything the plot needs him to be good at, and characters just happen to find the right objects immediately before needing them.  But these conveniences did move the plot a long pretty quickly and only slightly detracted from the tension, and because I was enjoying the experience so much I was willing to forgive this much more readily than if the same had happened in any other book.

The biggest issue with Ready Player One is the characterisation.  As exciting as the narrative is, it’s carried along by the reader’s interest in the culture and the concept, and certainly not by the strength of its characters.  Wade is unlikeable, with the emotional range of a wet rag, Art3mis was pretty much the generic manic pixie dream girl, Aech was ‘token’ to say the least, and Daito and Shoto were nothing more than a stereotype of how the western media has portrayed all Asian gamers since there were Asian gamers.  There is a romance between Wade and Art3mis which was incredibly unromantic and completely unbelievable, so it’s a shame that the book ended with it as it was the weakest part of the narrative.  It made me feel a little disappointed at the end after having so thoroughly enjoyed myself for the rest of it.  The main antagonist, Sorrento, head of operations at IOI, the evil corporation who serve as the big bad of the narrative, is even worse.  He was like Dr Evil or Monty Burns, and it was hard to take his over-the-top threats seriously, especially since Wade seemed so completely unfazed by them!  Because Ready Player One was so full of action, I feel it would have been served by a more subtle antagonist who was undermining, rather than overbearing.

Ready Player One is far from a perfect book.  It has flaws, lots of them, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.  If the point of reading is to have fun, then Ernest Cline has achieved that.  This is the most fun I’ve had with a book in ages.

Read this review and more at I Blame Wizards.

Avatar for rinn

Rinn 5 of 5 stars
Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

This book. This book. I've never read anything so completely geeky, so packed full of pop culture references - whilst being so, so good.

As someone who relied on an online game, and the people I met on it, to get through a very tough two years, this book really resonated with me. Wade escapes into the OASIS because his real life is dreary, he lives in poverty - and the OASIS is the only way he can attend school. Even though he is poor and low-levelled in the game, life in there is better than life 'out there'. And with his great knowledge of 80's pop culture - an obsession of James Halliday's - he starts working out clues for the location of the keys.

Normally, I would get annoyed at the amount of pop culture references thrown at me in a book. But they are so fundamentally part of the story here, and it is amazing that, with the amount of references there actually are, very few feel just chucked in for the sake of it. Practically every single one has some sort of meaning. And I am incredibly impressed by the amount of research Cline must have done, and how clearly passionate he is about that period in time.

The first half of the book or so goes past without much major action, but the story still flows well and is - most importantly of all - just great fun. Whether it is the way Cline writes, or the references to games, films etc that many readers will know and love, the whole story just seems so vivid and easily imaginable. Trying to work the clues out was fun - and I was so proud of myself when I instantly guessed the meaning of the clue for the Jade Key (hint: it helps to love your sci-fi!) - ages before Wade worked it out. [if you really want to see the spoiler, then click here]

All the characters felt pretty well-rounded, and there were some nice character 'twists'. Wade starts out as a bit of sloppy, lazy boy, but develops into a determined young man, training himself both physically and mentally. Whilst he initially seems a bit of a wimp, he later proves to be a truly courageous in a moment of very risky espionage.

If you are a gamer, a fan of science fiction/fantasy, or 80s pop culture, then I cannot stress it enough: read this book. Unfortunately, what makes this book such a fantastic read for one group of people will most likely completely isolate it from non-gamers. But as a gamer myself, that doesn't apply to me - and for that, I am glad.

Review also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

Avatar for shelfleigh

Leigha 5 of 5 stars
A young man harnesses his inner geek for the ultimate 80's pop culture challenge in this novel.

I picked up Ready Player One on a complete and total whim. I wanted something to listen to during my commute and the cover caught my eye. Boy, I am so glad it did! The book is a character-driven novel with epic world-building and a cool premise. Wade Watts is a driven, smart, and crafty character. The relationships he builds with secondary characters, even the villain, is rewarding. He even meets the girl of his dreams! Along with interesting characters is a well-constructed setting. Cline creates two worlds flawlessly - the dystopian United States and the virtual reality of the Oasis. Cline's descriptions occasionally got repetitive, but the other elements more than make up for it.

Now some people may be less enamored with this book than I. It focuses on gaming culture and the 1980′s decade. If those two subjects bore you to tears, you will not enjoy this novel. If you are interested in reading it, check out the audiobook narrated by Will Wheaton. It is absolutely phenomenal!

tl;dr A phenomenal dystopian novel featuring a driven protagonist, 80's trivia, and gaming culture.

Avatar for cornerfolds

cornerfolds 3 of 5 stars
Read more of my reviews at!

Ready Player One is a book I have heard about EVERYWHERE forever. Since "soon to be a motion picture" got plastered on the cover, I feel like I can't look anywhere without seeing it. Even friends who don't usually care about hyped books have hyped this book to me! When I picked it up, I didn't know much about it except the synopsis for the hardcover, which is considerably more vague than the one I chose to include in this review. The description I read pretty much said the world sucks, everyone spends all their time in the OASIS, and there's a huge prize that everyone is trying to win, but it's dangerous. I went into this one pretty blind, but I fully expected to love it!

This story follows Wade, a down-on-his-luck teenager living in the year 2044, when the world has run out of energy so everyone lives most of their lives inside of virtual reality. Unlike a lot of teenagers, Wade has dedicated his life to learning 80s pop culture inside and out. That's pretty much all I can say about Wade because that's literally his entire life. For the majority of Ready Player One, Wade is totally alone, holed up in an apartment and playing inside the OASIS, throwing around 80s pop culture references. He does go to school every now and then and has a crush on a girl he's never met, but I can't say much about his character other than he's a geek who knows a lot of things about the 80s.

The OASIS itself was interesting, if problematic. (I'm not even going to get into how this thing runs in a world with such a huge energy problem.) As someone who has dabbled in a MMORPG or two, I could appreciate the vastness of the world, although it did seem a little too massive at times, at least in my opinion (having tons of copies of the same planet, for example). Still, it was really cool to see this author's take on virtual reality. I thought the idea of schools being inside of the OASIS was a really unique one and actually think it's something that we should even consider for ourselves in the future.

But let's jump into some of my bigger issues with this book, shall we? This book had so much potential to be an incredible treasure hunt set in virtual reality during a bleak, dystopian future, which was kind of what I was expecting. I knew that there would be 80s references - plenty of people warned me about that. What I was not expecting was the first 25% of the book being one huge infodump, which it was. Infodumps about the world, the creator(s) of the OASIS, their enemies, the game, and random other people, some who were not even important to the story. The infodumps almost made me give up on this book entirely.

Then there were the gratuitous references to 80s pop culture. I expected that the 80s would be a big part of this book, but the endless references were just too much. At times it seemed like Ernest Cline decided to write a book with as many 80s references as possible instead of writing an awesome dystopian novel with 80s references integrated into it. Many of them made sense within the story, but many did not. And many were so, so over-explained that I wanted to throw the book across the room. But I couldn't. Because I was listening to the audio.

The actual story beneath all the infodumps and 80s references was actually a really good one! During the times when Cline stopped throwing constant explanations of 80s bands, movies, and games at me and actually focused on the hunt for the prize, I was totally invested! I love the idea of one low level player going up against a massive corporation. I thought that some of Wade's plans were brilliant and I wanted more of THAT and less of the meaningless pop culture lessons.

I expected to love this book so much. Most people that I know loved this book. It has gotten rave reviews from pretty much everyone. Even Wil Wheaton loved this book enough to narrate it! I don't know what I'm missing. Maybe we're witnessing some kind of psychological phenomenon? In any case, I didn't totally hate it. I thought that the OASIS was a really cool concept and I actually did LOVE the actual story underneath it all. Unfortunately, the bad kind of outweighed the good for me on this one.

Actual rating: 2.5 stars

Avatar for clq

clq 5 of 5 stars
Ah yes! Fast-paced, entertaining, never-boring, just-clever-enough, geeky, video-game-related action!

Ready Player One takes place in an extremely bleak vision of the future, but it's a future in which almost everything takes place inside a virtual world anyway. So who really cares about how decrepit the real world has become? (Most of this book certainly doesn't.) In the virtual world one quest looms over all, a quest in which everyone can take part, a quest where the winner will be granted the highest reward imaginable. We follow a young hero who hopes to succeed in this quest, and he finds himself having to compete not only against his peers, but also against an extremely resourceful, extremely evil, faceless, caricatured, Evil Corp-esque organisation which will stop at nothing to finish the quest first. Throw in an extremely generous amount of references to video games and 80s music, and the scene is set for a whole lot of fun.

The book cannot be accused of diving too deeply into anything at all. A whole spectrum of waiting-to-be-explored themes are touched upon which all deserve more time and exploration than this book gives them. At some points it almost seems a little absurd how heavy social and moral issues are mostly grazed over and abandoned in order for the story to move on. Did I care? Not really, the story was too entertaining. The book pushes enough buttons just far enough to serve it's selfish purpose of moving the story forward. It's obvious that the book is very aware of this, and any shallowness comes across as very deliberate. There is a very interesting book to be written which spends more time on many of these issues, but this is not it, nor does it pretend to be. It's packed with an impressive number of geeky references with various levels of subtlety, and is clearly crafted very deliberately, hitting (for me) just the right balance between the nerdy, the bleak and the fun. It's pure enjoyment which really shouldn't be thought too hard about. And I enjoyed every page of it.

It doesn't quite knock Daemon off my top spot for this general genre, but it gets very close. It's one of those books which I'd recommend to anyone without reservation. Just make sure you don't start reading it if you have anything important you should be doing, because this is a hard one to put down.

Avatar for charlton

charlton 5 of 5 stars
I finished this book (yay!).Now it may be because I was pretty much a geek during the 80's and could really relate.
But I gave it such a high score because a giant evil company was trying to take over a particular gaming system
and a miniscule number was trying to prevent it.
It was like the Rebels against the Empire, if you will.
All and all it was a really fun ride.
I mean there are sad parts as well as uplifting parts.
Sometimes sadness will lift a person up to become better.