Ready Player One or The 80’s Were Amazing and I am Old

I know I am a little late to the party, but I just finished the book and I wanted to give The Doom Retrospective a tiny break. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a book review and I think Ready Player One is a worthy work to break my critic’s drought.

Published in 2011 by Ernest Cline, the book has developed into sort of a geek cult sensation. Honestly, as a huge nerd that grew up in the 80’s, I felt this book was written specifically for me. It’s not hard to understand that feeling when you consider that Mr. Cline is only five years older than me. It was also his first novel, which he published at the age of 39. The bastard. My window to match his feat is rapidly closing.

021915_ReadyPlayerOne_Cover

Climbing up towers of double-wides would make me avoid reality as well.

As you can probably guess, I really enjoyed this book. It is set in a not-too-far off dystopian future (2044), where global warming, wars, an energy crisis, and a stumbling economy have contributed to a world that is hardly habitable. Our main character, Wade Watts, lives in a mega trailer park and spends all his time in the OASIS, a virtual reality video game that is so revolutionary that it has supplanted the real world. People shop there, fall in love there, get married there, and even go to school there. It’s creator, James Halliday, is Willy Wonka, holding a contest inside the OASIS to determine his successor after his death.

The book really strikes the proper chord of nostalgia and forward thinking. Wade is obsessed with technology and the past. Throughout the book, he goes to great lengths to avoid the real world and the present time. As the book progresses, however, he starts to realize that the outside world still does hold some value (friends! love interest!). There is a political agenda here too, aside from the aforementioned worldly ills, race and sexual orientation are mentioned in the book, but they seem sort of just tacked one, like Cline wanted to call attention without really exploring the issues. Did I mention that a completely amoral corporation is the villain? Or other hunters of the prize team up to take down said evil corporation? All the boxes are checked here.

As for the writing, most of the time I didn’t notice it, which is a pretty high compliment. For a novel that is steeped in fanboyish obsession, the story could have been laughable, but Cline’s prose gets out of the damn way and lets the story flow. It’s not Steinbeck, but the book is well written.

The real draw of the book is just how much fun Cline obviously had writing it. Any major cultural touchstone from the 70’s and 80’s is fair game. Movies, comics, Dungeons and Dragons, music, and video games. It’s all in here. And they aren’t just mentioned. There is a page of nothing but Monty Python and the Holy Grail dialogue. There are pages describing games like Zork, Black Dragon, and Tempest in detail. I owned Zork and I loved that game. So bonus points there.

Overall, nothing in Ready Player One is revolutionary. Willy Wonka. Evil corporations. Virtual reality vs. the real world. Contemporary ills that lead to dystopian future when ignored. Nerdy loner growing as a person. Every bit of this book is recognizably drawn from somewhere else, and can even be a bit tropey and clichéd, but the prose is steady and Cline’s enthusiasm jumps off the page. I don’t feel changed by the book, but I still loved it.

8/10 1UPs!

As usual, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below. You can also send your comments to thenonicheblog@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at John_S20. If you like what you read, subscribe!

The Legend of Korra – A Worthy Reward

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything to the site. ICLP is now in full swing and my life, for all intents and purposes, is dedicated to learning Mandarin. I wanted to fully immerse myself in Mandarin to speed up the learning process, but I could already feel that this would lead to burnout, or worse resentment toward the language. So instead, I decided to use breaking immersion as a reward for hard work and study.

So what did I choose for this reward? Well, as the title suggests, I have started watching The Legend of Korra. I never watched Avatar: The Last Airbender because it always struck me as a bit too kiddie. However, Korra has gotten really good buzz and so I decided to give it a shot. I always figured that a Chinese-inspired martial arts cartoon would be a nice reward but also keep me enthusiastic about advancing my Mandarin.

If this were an actual show, it would definitely be my reward, even over Legend of Korra. But alas, no such show exists.

If this were an actual show, it would definitely be my reward, even over Legend of Korra. But alas, no such show exists.

For those of you that are familiar with Avatar and Korra, then you know how deep and rich the world the creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, have built. For those who don’t know the nutshell synopsis of the setting is pretty simple. There is an East Asian inspired world where some people are born with an innate ability to control the classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The Avatar is the intermediary between the mortal world and spirit world and is able to wield all four elements. There is only one Avatar at a time and when they die, they are reincarnated into a new Avatar. While Avatar: The Last Airbender followed the hero’s journey of Aang, The Legend of Korra takes place seventy years later and follows the maturation of the new avatar, Korra.

I am about midway through season 3 and I have to say I think the show is amazing! The animation is spectacular. The writing is a bit cheesy and young at times, but overall, there is enough mature issues here, like divides of class and race and political intrigue, to keep me interested. The real draw of the show is the martial arts and magical bending. It’s a well put together magical system whose rules are straightforward.

I have a lot more to say about the show, but I am not caught up with the 4th season yet, so I will save my more in-depth thoughts for a later post. Stay tuned.

Do you have thoughts about The Legend of Korra or Avatar: The Last Airbender? Share them in the comments below. You can also send your comments to thenonicheblog@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at John_S20.