This is the OASIS. We exist as nothing but raw personality in here.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
The last science fiction title I read was Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Like Ender’s Game, Ready Player One features a young male protagonist, who trains and fights in a virtual battlefield against other youth, all in the hopes of being the best in his field.
Of course, the similarities end there. Ready Player One is a lighthearted, quick read, bursting with references to classic video games and 80s pop culture. Growing up with a father who often exposed me to 80s pop culture phenomenons, I immediately understood most of the 80s references, although some of the video game references were lost on me. However, if the references are necessary to understanding the plot, the narration is quick to give the reader a quick but thorough overview – although this can become irritating further into the book.
Ready Player One itself reads like a video game, as the protagonist, Wade Watts/Parzival, completes quests, gains levels, and proceeds to the next challenge. As a sci fi/dystopian book, Ready Player One flirts with some interesting themes like identity and anonymity in relation to the Internet, isolation, and censorship. However, these themes are all lightly touched upon but not seriously addressed. I didn’t have high expectations for this book other than the engaging plot, and I was right to not expect too much. The characters, including Wade, are largely cookie-cutter, with little to no character development. Other than the character of Aech, all characters are exactly what they appear to be, other than slight differences between their online personas and their real life selves.
Although I enjoyed the book immensely, I found the characters of Daito and Shoto incredibly problematic. Daito and Shoto are Japanese gunters (those who seek James Halliday’s Easter Egg) who are Parzival’s rivals and accomplices. Although they are just as one-dimensional as the other characters, I simply couldn’t get over the borderline racist portrayal of these characters. They are interchangeable. They spout words like “honour”, bow when greeting other characters despite being obviously familiar with Western culture, and refer to suicide as “seppuku” even when it does not involve ritual disembowelment. And Shoto, who is described as being equally fluent in English and Japanese, refers to Wade as “Wade-san”, in addition to exhibiting the stereotypical Japanese behavior above. I have no idea why Cline decided to even include these characters, who are superfluous at best, and why he decided to portray them in this flat, offensive manner.
YES OR NO?: YES. Realistic expectations are key. Don’t go into Ready Player One expecting a thorough, thought-provoking discussion on technology’s impact on humanity. Expect a light, simple read (racist stereotypes notwithstanding).