Ready?

When a student asked me to recommend a nice American TV show under the sci-fi genre, I didn’t hesitate to say Firefly, because well, the reason is quite obvious. It’s a short series, so it’s not as tedious to watch as nearly all the other sci-fi shows that run for several seasons (not that it would be tedious if there were more episodes of it out there), and it’s brilliant. Surely, people who were interested in the sci-fi genre would like it. And said student did. In fact, he liked it so much that he felt the need to recommend something back to me. Not another sci-fi TV series though, but a book, that he figured I would appreciate because I’ve apparently been referencing a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/geeky-related stuff during our lessons (unconsciously, I have to admit). And it’s really too geeky for me, but he was right in thinking that I would appreciate it. Because I did. Maybe I even more than appreciated it. I became a little bit obsessed, and finished it in 1 week. Now, maybe that’s not an impressive feat for you bibliophiles out there, but considering it took me several months to finish reading Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, which was written for teens, by my standards, finishing a book in 1 week is really pretty fast.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

And here’s the reason why:

It’s an sci-fi/action/adventure/suspense book, but littered with hundreds of pop culture references. Most of them have to do with video games, but there are also movie, music, and TV show references as well. And though the decade it references is the 80’s, and that’s a time when I was too young to remember things in detail, I still recognized some words here and there, making me not that much of a stranger to the level of obsession the characters had for the icons of that decade.

So the story goes like this: A billionaire game designer dies with no living heirs. So he leaves his fortune, to the first person to find the “easter egg” he hid within his video game. An easy enough concept, except the scale of his video game is colossal, having thousands of planets and sectors. Without a clue where to start looking, the millions of people who tried first failed. Until of course, like most underdog stories, the first real clue was found by a teenage boy. And therein begins the adventure.

What I loved about this book is its attention to detail. And not just for the video game it describes, but also for the world outside it. The year is 2044 and our Earth is in a depressing state. It’s polluted, overpopulated, and the future is very bleak. To escape this ugly reality, people “played” a videogame. I say “played” because it wasn’t really like playing, what they did in the “game”. It was like Sim City, I guess, but way more realistic. I mean, as realistic as it could be inside the fictitious world of the book. Anyway, the details were great, without being too tedious. Every bit of information was relevant to the story, and it didn’t feel like reading a bunch of random things the author just wanted to tell everyone about, which is the kind of information you want to read in a fiction book.

What I didn’t like about it though, was the love story. Why yes, like most stories, there’s a “romance” within this book, and as much as I love the romance genre, I have to say that it really does not go all that well with science fiction/adventure/fantasy. Maybe sometimes it does, like in Firefly and Robotech: The Macross Saga, but in this case… Reading all those parts about how the lead character Parzival got so distracted with his quest because of the girl Art3mis, and her character is again, yet again, one of those “perfect girls” (which I talk more about in detail in this entry) who geeky guys put on a pedestal… It took some effort to get through. And it really becomes quite corny when suddenly what motivates the main character to do what he does is “love”. I mean, this would be fine if you were reading a romance novel, but when you’re reading a sci-fi action adventure novel, all that romance just gets in the way. Of course, I’m sure that this was actually the point of why there was a romance in the first place–to be a distraction to the main character and create more conflict, but…

Anyway, it was overall a very exciting book and I’m happy to have been recommended it. Despite the “romance rant”, I’m recommending it to anyone who likes geeking out, to the 80’s especially.

BTW, the photo of the book cover is in black and white because I read it on my Kindle and therefore it was in black and white when I saw it. And BTW, my Kindle is just the best thing ever!

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6 thoughts on “Ready?

  1. Thanks for the review. I was curious to read this book. Speaking of geeky books with sci-fi and pop culture references, have you read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz? If you haven’t, check it out. I think it fits in this same category.

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