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Ready Player One: A Novel

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline I am the target audience for this book -- on paper, at least. I am a geek and have been since before it was hip. My formative years were the 80's and, like any good geek, I grew up on the usual for the time: I consumed Monty Python in vast abundance, listened to Rush and ELP, could quote movies with my friends like there's no tomorrow. I'm talking about the usual stuff -- you know: Wrath of Khan, Dune, The Lord of The Rings (books, all generations of the movie adaptations, audio tapes, radio dramatizations), Star Trek (all varieties), The A-Team, Twin Peaks, Blade Runner, etc. -- as well as some "deep cuts" like Neighbors, Mr. Frost, The Goodies, Akira, They Live, The Reflecting Skin and stuff like that. I get it. I grew up with Atari 2600's, C64's, and Intellivisions. Yes, yes. I get the references. Please don't make me go on and prove it some more. I can but it will get embarrassing for both of us and you will quickly regret having challenged me.

I can sit in a room with my childhood nerd buddies and go on and on about nerd movies, nerd music, nerd comedy -- whatever -- for hours. And we roar with laughter and delight. It's a tribal thing. It makes us feel connected in ways that our odd personalities cannot otherwise. But when someone stumbles into our group with some of the same quirks...influences, if you will...we freeze up. We size 'em up and we feel kinda intruded upon. Who is this person treading upon OUR quotes, movies, trivia, and music?! Why is he quoting The Cheese Shop?! Our geek hackles are raised. We clam up. Screw this guy. He's a poser!

Enter this book. It's THAT guy. It makes all the references we know all too well and thumps them around like it's being original, "geeky", like it "understands" what it means to be a nerd. Maybe it does. I don't know and I guess it doesn't really matter whether it does or doesn't because I am not interested in its displays of nerdiness; I have my own. Give me a story to hang around it and drop your references tastefully and with purpose and maybe we've got something.

But this book doesn't. Every reference came across as obvious but more than that. It came across as forced. Like the author was given a random collection of nerd trivia and told to shoehorn as much of it into a book as possible. Or maybe he wracked his brain for months and collected every bit of trivia he could drain into a Moleskin notebook with a Space Pen. As a person who gets every reference contained in the book without a nanosecond of thought I was left wondering why I was bothering. What was the point? Especially when the author doesn't just make the reference. Oh no. He has to then beat you over the head with an explanation of each reference to add insult to injury. Maybe this geek reference "name dropping" works at office cocktail parties ("Here comes Billy. Man, he is so geeky and special. We love to just LISTEN to him go on about Star Trek!") but it doesn't do squat for me in book form. It just annoys me and makes me write mean book reviews on GoodReads.

As for other aspects of the book, the writing is flat, the story is not challenging, the narrative is ridiculous, the world itself is extraordinarily derivative, the characters are beyond cardboard, and the action is borderline laughable. For me it fails on every conceivable front. The audience I can see adoring this would be 10 - 15 year old kids who have steeped themselves (for whatever reason!) in a resurgence of retro 80's geek nostalgia and get a rush when they recognize a blatant reference to said culture. Blehhh. Whatever.

As with most books that 'everyone loves', don't believe the hype. Ignore the endless blurbs lining the cover and choking the first few pages. Very few popular things are ever any good (The Beatles being a notable exception) and this book just proves it. File this mislabeled Young Adult bullcrap right next to Twilight as far as I'm concerned.