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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Ernest Cline

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,993531910 (4.22)3 / 555
Title:Ready Player One
Authors:Ernest Cline
Info:Arrow (2012), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read in 2013, cyberpunk, dystopia, online, Internet, virtual reality, games, 1980s, geek

Work details

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)

  1. 212
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2seven)
  2. 140
    Neuromancer by William Gibson (jbgryphon)
    jbgryphon: Gibson's Matrix and Stephenson's Metaverse are as much the basis for OASIS as any of the geek universes that are included in it.
  3. 140
    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (jbgryphon)
    jbgryphon: RPO's OASIS owes it's existence as much to Neil Stephenson's Metaverse as to the miriad of geek universes that are included in it.
  4. 92
    Scott Pilgrim vs. The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley (quenstalof)
    quenstalof: Both show classic video game inspiration
  5. 60
    Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Anonymous user)
  6. 40
    Halting State by Charles Stross (ahstrick)
  7. 52
    Kiln People by David Brin (freddlerabbit)
  8. 20
    Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black (quenstalof)
  9. 20
    City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams (infjsarah)
  10. 20
    Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson (TomWaitsTables)
  11. 10
    Wyrm by Mark Fabi (slagolas, slagolas)
  12. 65
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (sturlington)
    sturlington: Ready Player One reminded me of a grown-up version of this classic.
  13. 21
    Daemon by Daniel Suarez (bikeracer4487)
  14. 22
    Redshirts by John Scalzi (ryvre)
    ryvre: Fans of pop culture nostalgia will love both of these books!
  15. 00
    Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil (bluepolicebox)
  16. 00
    You by Austin Grossman (Anonymous user)
  17. 00
    Press Start to Play by Daniel H. Wilson (erikrebooted)
    erikrebooted: Similar subject matter -- where video games are more than they seem.
  18. 33
    The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks (GD2020)
  19. 00
    The Blackouts by Robert Brockway (TomWaitsTables)
  20. 11
    The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (freddlerabbit)

(see all 26 recommendations)


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English (520)  Finnish (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (527)
Showing 1-5 of 520 (next | show all)
Loved everything about this book. One of the most fun and playful books I've ever read and the 80s nostalgia doesn't hurt either. ( )
  angiestahl | Nov 26, 2015 |
Love the audiobook. It is as if the book was written with his voice in mind. I was an awesome story about video games and 80's nostalgia. ( )
  LacyLK | Nov 21, 2015 |
Fantastic book! Fun, nostalgic, edgy! Just skyrocketed to one of my favorites of all time... ( )
  AR_bookbird | Nov 20, 2015 |
Very entertaining but kinda heavy handed. It was fun, but it would have been more fun if every 80s joke wasn't explained so much. ( )
  Jackie_Sassa | Nov 20, 2015 |

[Cross-posted to Knite Writes]


In a near-apocalyptic future, where humanity is suffering the effects of a global energy crisis, everyone has become addicted to the OASIS, a massive and ever-expanding immersive virtual environment. It contains renditions of every fictional world imaginable, as well as schools, shopping malls, and all the luxuries of life that people can no longer enjoy in the real world.

When Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, dies, he bequeaths his fortune not to a biological heir (he has none) but instead to the first person who finds an “Easter Egg” he hid somewhere in the OASIS. Finding the egg requires a person to locate three special keys that go to three special gates and win every challenge thrown at them by the keys/gates.

The whole world basically goes berserk trying to find the Egg, but after five years of fruitless searching, the world starts to grow cynical about the contest, and the “gunters” (Egg hunters), who dutifully learn all they can about Halliday and never stop searching for the egg, become ridiculed social outcasts.

Enter Wade Watts — a teenager who’s grown up in the “stacks” outside Oklahoma City. The stacks are literal stacks of trailers (that is, vertical trailer parks) where the poor congregate in the crapsack world they live in. Wade is a dedicated gunter, but due to his persistent lack of money, he hasn’t been able to advance his avatar in the OASIS — thus, he’s on the fringe of the gunter world, too.

And then, one day, he gets lucky: he realizes where the first key, the Copper Key, is hidden in the OASIS, and beats the challenge: a virtual game of Joust against an NPC. After collecting the key and immediately solving riddle for the location of the first gate, Wade runs into his longtime crush, the gunter blogger Art3mis, who found the key location before Wade but has struggled to win the Joust challenge.

Once Art3mis realizes Wade has won the key, she rushes in to try and win it herself while Wade heads to the location of the first gate. To pass the gate, he has to play through a virtual rendition of WarGames, where he acts out the part of the protagonist as if he’s actually in the movie. Upon completing the challenge, Wade is given a clue to the location of the second key.

Unfortunately for Wade, his victories don’t go unnoticed. The global media has a collective freakout, which only gets worse when Art3mis quickly catches up to Wade’s successes by winning the key and passing the first gate herself. To make matters much, much worse, the IOI, an evil mega-corporation that has been trying to take over the OASIS for years and monetize it, thus destroying the lives of billions of people who rely on it every day, track down Wade in the real world and threaten him.

When Wade refuses to help the IOI, they blow up his Aunt’s trailer, thinking Wade is inside. He only escapes because he was holed up in a special hideaway. Once Wade gets a load of the fiery wreckage of his Aunt’s trailer, he goes on the run, assumes a fake identity, and moves to Columbus using endorsement money he got from companies who want to feature his Avatar on various products.

At one point, Wade helps his longtime, Aech, find the key (and gate), thus moving Aech to third place in the official contest Scoreboard ranking. Following Aech’s success, a Japanese duo, Daito and Shoto, catch up to the group as well. And, of course, the IOI’s “Oology” division, spearheaded by the cruel and calculating Nolan Sorrento, use their endless resources to catch up as well.

This puts everyone back on the same playing field for several months. Months during which Wade neglects his egg hunting duties and falls head over heels in love with Art3mis. They appear to be dating (through the OASIS) for quite a while. Until Wade makes the terrible mistake of telling Art3mis he’s in love with her during a birthday party hosted by Ogden Morrow, Halliday’s longtime friend and business partner. After the party is attacked by the IOI’s “Sixers” (gunters), who are quickly dispatched by Morrow’s all-powerful avatar, Art3mis cuts off all contact with Wade, saying they can’t have a relationship if they haven’t actually met.

Wade falls into depression. For too long. While he’s moping, Art3mis manages to solve the riddle for the Jade Key and pass the gate. Wade finally tries his best guess for the location of the key, only to come up almost empty-handed. Almost. During his hunt, he plays a perfect game of Pac-Man in a Halliday-related museum and wins a quarter that appears to do nothing.

Thankfully, Aech, who’s just caught up to Art3mis, decides to return Wade’s earlier favor and tells him the location of the key. Wade quickly heads to the OASIS planet where the key is hidden, Frobozz, and plays through a virtual game or Zork; after he completes the game, he gains the Jade Key.

Wade narrowly escapes from the IOI as he flees Frobozz, and, as he watches the Scoreboard, he sees Shoto win the key. But Daito’s avatar is unfortunately killed by IOI forces. Wade later finds out, through Shoto, that it wasn’t just Daito’s avatar that died — Daito himself was murdered in real life in the middle of the fight on Frobozz. The IOI invaded his apartment and threw him over his balcony to make his death look like a suicide.

After Sorrento wins the Jade Key, he uses his vast resources to find the second gate and put himself at the top of the Scoreboard. And, to make things infinitely worse, he finds the Crystal Key, too, thus putting himself far, far ahead of the gunters and bringing the IOI horrifically close to winning the Egg and taking control of the OASIS.

After freaking out a bit, Wade manages to figure out the riddle for the Jade Key, pass the second gate, and obtain the Crystal Key in a short period of time. Along the way, he also uncovers another riddle about the final gate, which he knows that Sorrento missed — else the IOI would have won already. Turns out you need three people to open the final gate.

Because Castle Anorak, where the final gate is hidden, has been barricaded by the IOI, Wade knows there’s no way he can win on his own or even with the help of his friends. So he concocts what is, quite frankly, an ingenious plan. After giving his friends all the intel they need to find the Crystal Key, Wade infiltrates the IOI by setting himself up to be “indentured” through fake debt, and, once inside, he breaks into the company’s intranet, collects every scrap of incriminating data he can to prove the company’s crimes, and then busts out.

He gathers his friends together and sends out an OASIS-wide call to action, where he releases the videos of Sorrento blowing up his Aunt’s apartment and threatening to kill him, as well as the video of the IOI murdering Daito. Wade asks everybody in the OASIS to come help them fight the IOI at Castle Anorak at a certain time on a certain day — that is, start an all-out war.

Meanwhile, Wade, Shoto, Art3mis, and Aech meet in Aech’s private chat room, and Wade tells them everything he knows about the final gate’s three-person secret. While they try to figure out how to keep themselves safe from the IOI, Ogden Morrow himself appears in the chatroom and offers them safe harbor at his mansion in order to keep the integrity of the contest intact, as he promised Halliday he would.

The gang is flown to Morrow’s mansion via private jet, during which time Aech and Wade finally meet in real life. Wade is thrown for a loop at the revelation that Aech, whose avatar is a white man, is actually 1) black, 2) female, and 3) a lesbian. Wade gets over this quickly, however, as soon as they start talking and he realizes that despite the facade, Aech is still the same friend he’s had for years.

Once at Morrow’s, everyone jumps back into the OASIS, and they become the virtual generals of a massive army poised to attack the IOI minions as soon as the magic shield falls. It does, thanks to one of Wade’s clever tricks during his time at the IOI building, and the war begins. Aech and Art3mis manage to get inside Anorak’s Castle, but Shoto falls in combat with Sorrento. Furious, Wade finally has a second showdown with the man and kills his avatar.

Wade, Aech, and Art3mis reach the gate and insert their keys. It opens. They step inside and –

The IOI sets off the Catalyst, a legendary artifact in the OASIS that wipes out all avatar life in an entire sector. Everyone — the IOI minions, the gunters, and the hero gang — is killed instantly. All is lost!

But then: it turns out that the quarter Wade won in that perfect game of Pac-Man is actually an extra life, something the OASIS isn’t supposed to have. The quarter resurrects Wade’s avatar, and he’s able to beat more oncoming IOI forces to the gate. Once inside, he completes a series of three tasks, and finally, finally, finally, receives the Egg as his prize.

A virtual Halliday appears to Wade at the end and congratulates him, hands over super-user access to the OASIS, and gives him about 240 billion dollars. Using his newfound powers, Wade vaporizes the IOI forces and resurrects his friend’s avatars.

Wade finally disconnects from the OASIS, having completed his life goal, and, for the first time, meets Art3mis face to face. They reconcile and decide to get to know each other in real life, now that they’re billionaires — because Wade splits the money with his friends, of course — and the IOI is being dragged through the dirt for allegations of murder and attempted kidnapping.

Wade and Art3mis, real name Samantha, discuss their plans to use the money to help save the failing world.

All is well with the heroes.

The End.


My Take

Okay, so this book is basically a young (male) geek’s ultimate dream — from the smart, down-on-his-luck orphan protagonist to the kickass gamer girl who’s really only there to be a love interest to the impossible quests the protagonist somehow keeps winning despite all odds. Premise-wise, there is very little about this book that strays outside of today’s common “boy hero” tropes, and if it wasn’t for the incredible world-building and downright zany plot, Ready Player One would have fallen flatter than a pancake for me.

As it stands, I found this a pretty fun (but sometimes tedious) read.

Firstly, you need to be aware that this book contains more pop culture references than any other book you will ever read in your life. Video games. TV. Movies. Anime. Books. You name it, it’s in this story — and all of it is focused on the 80s. So, if you were born later than that, prepare to be lost on many occasions when the story goes off on a tangent regarding some piece of 80s trivia you are completely unaware of. Don’t worry, though, because most of the time the nature of the trivia in question is explained in detail.

Which brings me to my biggest criticism of the book — I think it’s best I get this out of the way early: this story suffers from a horrific amount of info-dumping. In my opinion, an unacceptable amount of info-dumping. Dumping that goes on for pages and pages and pages, to the point where it’s often easy to lose track of what’s actually happening with the plot because said plot has come to a virtual standstill. There are info-dumps as filler, info-dumps in the middle of action scenes, info-dumps at pivotal moments. Info-dumps. Info-dumps. Info-dumps. Everywhere!

And every last one is an in-depth explanation about an element of 80s pop culture the average person has no desire to know.

You’ve been warned.

If that doesn’t throw you off attempting this book, though, then let’s move on.

Despite the info-dumpy nature of the narrative, it actually proves to be a fairly fun read as time goes on. The OASIS contains so many elements from so many shows, movies, books, anime, etc. all combined into one, massive world that you’ll have a hard time not smiling at the abundance of references strewn about as the plot progresses. Reading some of the battle scenes made my day — because, more often than not, the battles involved objects from a variety of fiction I was familiar with. Picturing such vastly different things being involved in the same fights amused me to no end.

The OASIS in this book is basically a simultaneous crossover of every single piece of fiction (across all mediums) ever created. It’s pretty fascinating. And makes for a great setting for the majority of the book.

The characters, on the other hand, were a little lacking in the originality department. I didn’t like how Art3mis ended up relegated to love interest more and more as the book went on. I didn’t like how shallow and underdeveloped most of the major characters were. The bad guys were the fairly generic “evil corporation” types often present in cyberpunk and other futuristic sci-fi; there wasn’t anything particularly special about Sorrento or his vast, anonymous army of Sixers.

That being said, however, I did think the main characters made for an interesting gang of heroes (even with their lack of development), and the final showdown against the antagonists is pretty spectacular (even with their generic nature).

Overall, I found this book a mixed bag — in the end, it was an enjoyable read, but there were a lot of parts (i.e., the info-dumps) I found tedious to get through, to the point where I occasionally ended up skimming a few passages here and there. The plot fulfills the premise in an unfortunately straightforward way and doesn’t deviate at all from some pretty tired tropes about boy heroes and rags-to-riches stories; despite this issue, though, it still builds a fairly interesting and engaging narrative. Lastly, the characters are lacking in a lot of ways, but, thanks largely to the amazing setting, are able to hold interest throughout the story.

A decent read, in my opinion, but nothing to write home about.


Is It Worth Reading?

Depends. If you’re a pop culture lover, dedicated gamer, or big on fandom in general, you’ll probably find a lot to like in this book. If you’re none of those things and/or have an intense dislike of info-dumps, you’ll probably struggle with this one a bit. It’s not what I would call an “easy read.”



3.5/5 ( )
  ClaraCoulson | Nov 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 520 (next | show all)
Ready Player One borrows liberally from the same Joseph Campbell plot requirements as all the beloved franchises it references, but in such a loving, deferential way that it becomes endearing. There’s a high learning curve to all of the little details Wade throws out about the world, and for anyone who doesn’t understand or love the same sect of pop culture Halliday enjoyed, Ready Player One is a tough read. But for readers in line with Cline’s obsessions, this is a guaranteed pleasure.
The breadth and cleverness of Mr. Cline’s imagination gets this daydream pretty far. But there comes a point when it’s clear that Wade lacks at least one dimension, and that gaming has overwhelmed everything else about this book.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Aug 14, 2011)

» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cline, Ernestprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brand, ChristopherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fowler, RalphDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Massey, JimCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rothfuss, PatrickIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wheaton, WilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wheaton, WilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Susan and Libby
Because there is no map for where we are going
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Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.
Like most gunters, I voted to reelect Cory Doctorow and Wil Wheaton (again). There were no term limits, and those two geezers had been doing a kick-ass job of protecting user rights for over a decade.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut — part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera.

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS — a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly, the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

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"Ready Player One takes place in the not-so-distant future--the world has turned into a very bleak place, but luckily there is OASIS, a virtual reality world that is a vast online utopia. People can plug into OASIS to play, go to school, earn money, and even meet other people (or at least they can meet their avatars), and for protagonist Wade Watts it certainly beats passing the time in his grim, poverty-stricken real life. Along with millions of other world-wide citizens, Wade dreams of finding three keys left behind by James Halliday, the now-deceased creator of OASIS and the richest man to have ever lived. The keys are rumored to be hidden inside OASIS, and whoever finds them will inherit Halliday's fortune. But Halliday has not made it easy. And there are real dangers in this virtual world. Stuffed to the gills with action, puzzles, nerdy romance, and 80s nostalgia, this high energy cyber-quest will make geeks everywhere feel like they were separated at birth from author Ernest Cline."--Chris Schluep, Amazon Best Book of the Month.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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