Ready Player One was a cultural phenomenon for a little bit there. Everyone was talking about the book and Spielberg made a movie about it. Now, it doesn’t seem to have the same kind of appeal or interest. That’s in large part because Ready Player One sucks.
We’re oversaturated with nostalgia bait, but even before we were, it still sucked.
Because that’s really all this book is. It’s a poorly written mess that relies on nostalgia for its popularity.
Fair warning, guys. This is a spoiler talk. It’s not a joke. Click through here and there be spoilers.
If not? Let’s start spoiling some plot points.
Wade is a Know-It-All Asshole
No one likes a know-it-all, but our main character is one we’re supposed to love.
Apparently he studied 80s culture hard. Way harder than any of you scrubs. While other people were wasting their time having fun and studying real life courses, he studied the
blade 80s. Wade isn’t someone who likes his classmates, but he never feels like someone we should empathize with. He’s down on his luck and poor, but his nose is stuck straight up in the air.
The way that he copes with poverty is by acting like he’s better than the people who have more wealth. That’s fine, that’s a coping mechanism, but there’s no examination. Wade’s just a dick. He’s a poor dick, but a dick nonetheless.
And the worst part? He’s not just condescending to the other people in the book, but he’s condescending to us, the readers. The amount of lectures that were crammed into this book were insufferable.
I don’t need to be reminded how great the 80s are all the time. I get it, you love them. You’re doing this too much and it’s turning me off them.
The Setting and Premise are wasted
I touched on this in my review of Ready Player One, but there is an incredible setting in this book. The world is entirely wasted, we live in the equivalent of garbage piles. There are so few resources left, period. There is a fascinating world of virtual reality and interconnectivity that we should be exploring.
There’s a crazy economy of both in game currency and outside the game currency, there’s a power struggle between corporations, and the rest of the world. This is amazing, hard-hitting dystopian stuff that is abandoned.
The reason we don’t focus on it is to just re-enact 80s movies, I guess. It’s like getting an amazing toy and just staring at the box for a few hundred pages.
Even inside the Oasis there isn’t the world building I would want. It touches on it just enough to keep the plot moving forward and the 80s references coming.
No really, Wade sucks
Part of the reason that we connect to characters in books is because of the struggles that they go through. While Wade has some problems thrown his way, he never has to grow or learn anything. He already has all the knowledge that he needs and he just has to figure out which knowledge to use.
It’s not fun when there’s no real stakes to it. Is Wade going to remember everything from this 80s movie? Of course he is, no sweat. While the book tells us that things are difficult, Wade never actually seems to struggle.
Think about all the guys who bitched about how Rey from the new Star Wars movies is overpowered, but she’s got nothing on Wade. There’s nothing that doesn’t come naturally to him, it seems. There’s nothing that he can’t do on his own.
If the book had just made him rely more on teamwork (aside from that BS ending), then I could have accepted it more. Instead, Wade is someone who is only stumped for where to start the treasure hunt. Once he’s got that piece, it feels like there’s no real problem getting to the next problem and solving it. Ready Player One sucks at making you feel like there are stakes.
The way women are treated is f**ked up
One of the big reason that Ready Player One sucks is because of how it treats women. While there are feeble attempts to make Art3mis more of a person and there’s the random reveal at the end that Aech was a girl the entire time, they ring hollow. Let’s be honest, the second that you saw Art3mis it was obvious she was going to be the love interest.
The fact that her issue is that she has a scar that she thinks makes her not attractive any more is fine. It’s kind of “not like the other girls”-y, but it’s fine. The problem is the way that’s fixed is by a boy finding her attractive any way.
Ready Player One sucks hard when it comes to women. There’s a subtext of being better than the conventionally attractive women because she’s not all about her looks.
And she just doesn’t have real goals of her own. Sure, she wants to be the one to solve the OASIS riddles, but that’s not enough to give her a personality. She’s a cardboard cutout who was given a backstory, but is written to be for Wade rather than being her own person.
There’s a subtext about women in the novel that says if they don’t fit a certain mold, they’re not good enough. They’re also secondary to what the males in the world want.
This subtext becomes even more cringey when you find out that the author, Ernest Cline, wrote poetry about nerd porn. Porn poetry that’s actively misogynistic while not meaning to be too.
That entire part about masturbation
Speaking about weird nerd porn, there’s that part where it speaks about masturbation in the book. Aside from feeling gross and out of place, what it’s saying is laughable.
Wade, in a funk from being dumped by Art3mis tries to get over her by buying a sex robot and humping it.
“Driven by loneliness, curiosity, and raging teen hormones, I’d purchased a midrange ACHD, the Shaptic ÜberBetty, a few weeks after Art3mis stopped speaking to me. After spending several highly unproductive days inside a stand-alone brothel simulation called the Pleasuredome, I’d gotten rid of the doll, out of a combination of shame and self-preservation.This is literally in Ready Player One
He follows this up by saying he went back to spanking the monkey the old fashioned way as if that’s any better.
There’s then a whole paragraph where it’s argued that masturbation is a human gift that allows us to unlock our hidden genius.
What? What the everloving heck, dude?!
Are asexuals just morons then? There’s this grimy undertone of sex that the novel takes on for these few pages which feel entirely at odds with how sanitized it is otherwise.
It’s one of those things that we didn’t need spoken about. Just like we don’t talk about shitting or go into detail about how the toilet systems work in the future, we didn’t need to bring up the sex robots. If there was a reason for it beyond pointing them out, then sure.
Otherwise this is just the author giving you his thoughts on masturbation.
I’m not going to go into it more, but you can read the full quotes outlined by Ready Gamer One here.
Ready Player One sucks because it can’t exist without nostalgia
Take away the references and what have you got? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Without 80s references, the book can’t exist and the characters can’t stand on their own. The novel is threadbare on its own, but without any 80s references it just collapses under its own weight.
There’s nothing solid to latch onto here. It’s just references. Hey, do you know this thing? Here’s that thing. It’s important. I’m telling you it’s important.
Hey, what about this 80s thing? It’s important too.
These are kids who are living in 2045 and who have an entirely realistic online universe, but believe that 80s things are the best thing ever. Not just the references, but the actual media. Anything that happened after that? It’s just not worth your time, apparently.
I’d say that it’s just a conceit of the book, but we can’t forget that the other book that Cline wrote was also chock full of 80s references for no reason. It’s pretty apparent that he just loves 80s things and wants us to love them too. Without the nostalgia bait, is there anything about this story that would grab you?
I want to say right off the bat, that I don’t think Ready Player One is pro-gamergate… exactly. It does come across as anti-feminist, but that makes sense because so does the author.
Honestly, we can’t ignore the fact that GamerGate was a thing. The whole premise of the book is that if you don’t know the right answers to this nerd treasure hunt, you’re not worthy. That’s also a nice way to sum up GamerGate. It was an attempt to keep games to the “real” gamers and to threaten/harrass people who spoke out against this gate keeping.
While I am vastly oversimplifying, there’s no denying that Ready Player One reads like the most entitled toxic nerd culture that’s possible. While you can look past it to the adventure, it’s hard to ignore. As twitter user @whyangelinawhy pointed out:
Our main character is one who builds his entire self-worth on how much he knows about nerd culture. In the world of Ready Player One, that will get him rich. But that gate keeping attitude when brought out into the real world can often turn ugly, leaning into keeping non-desirables out by force if necessary.
In a world where we’ve discovered entire subcultures like Incels and MGTOW, who aren’t phased by the rape of women or their abuse…
The connotations of being a gatekeeping gamer just isn’t cute any more.
What’s the verdict?
I don’t think I can say it enough. Ready Player One sucks.
It’s a poorly written, poorly plotted, poorly paced mess that coasts on name appeal more than anything else. There is nothing original about it and I don’t recommend reading it. Go read Shine. I complained about it, but at least it tried something different.
This is a nerd fantasy taken to an extreme level, but without anything redeeming. I know some people can lose themselves in it. The fact that it’s rated so highly on Goodreads proves that, but I can’t. It’s just so terrible and I think people give it passes it doesn’t deserve because of nostalgia.
Believe me, that masturbation stuff would have been called out a lot more if we weren’t blinded by 80s references.
Do you have any suggestions or are there things you think I’ve missed? Leave a comment below. Or if you want more posts like this? Sign up today and never miss a post!