My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 stars, really.
Before elaborating, I’m going to quote from two other reviews here on Goodreads because I think they summarize my opinion quite well.
Flannery: “This book is nostalgia porn.”
William Cline: “Ready Player One doesn’t draw from 1980s popular culture; it just name-drops it all over the place.”
First things first: I liked Ready Player One, it’s a solid first book, and I’m curious of what else Ernest Cline can come up with. But it’s deeply, deeply flawed.
On the world: I was a kid during the ’80s, so I have a very fond memory of them. I nodded knowingly at most of the references the author dropped here and there. But the idea, presented in the introduction, of a world that (at least inside OASIS) had reverted to the 1980s never really came true. Sure, there’s a lot of name checking, and virtual items, and rewatches, and trivia contests, but let’s be honest: you can find most of that stuff now, in Second Life, and there isn’t even a grand prize attached. The influence of the ’80s only really seems to extend to the Gunters.
Also, specifically because of Anorak’s quest, most of that is museum nostalgia. Knowing details to perfection, memorizing lines from movies, and so on. There’s little, if anything, of new: no mashups, no fanfiction, revised versions, and so on. Non-creative fans are a bit sad.
The cast of characters is very restricted and, while some of them have very interesting facets (Aech in particular) some of them come off as little more than cardboard cutouts, like Shoto.
The big bad corporation, also, doesn’t seem to have any other motivation for their actions beyond being a big, bad corporation. Monetizing is bad, mmkay?
Maybe the biggest flaw was the last dash in search of the Egg, because there wasn’t much tension in it. (view spoiler)One part of it (replaying the movie (hide spoiler)) is inherently slow, and Sorrento was off screen most of the time, so there wasn’t a real feel of the race-against-the-clock element. The denouement is basically non-existing.
Now, I’m told that Eric Cline is a script writer first and foremost, and I think it shows: this definitely looks like it would work much better on the big screen, where namecalled objects (like the DeLorean) become things you can see and gawp at, and do not mind if they disappear after two minues and are never mentioned again. But, in a novel, it leaves something to be desired.