Last night I decided I needed to read something trashy. I’ve been reading lots of non-fiction lately and needed something fun to clear my head. So I purchased Ready Player One because a) it seemed mindless, b) I like the 80s, and c) a lot of people seem to like the book. After reading the first paragraph I knew I had a decision to make: I can either put the book away and never open it again or I can embrace the book and have some fun with it.
I decided on the latter.
Ready Player One is the 40-year-old male alternative to Twilight. Instead of vampires and a ratio of four flowery adjectives to every out-of-place noun it has Atari and one stilted adjective for every insanely nerdy noun. Now, I know what’s going to happen - I’m going to end up loving this book. I can feel it already. You’re talking about the guy who fell in love with Terra Nova and Cane and 24. I hate trashy things…until I force myself to watch or read them. Self-imposed Stockholm Syndrome, that’s my MO.
But, this time, I want to do a multi-part, maybe even chapter-by-chapter review of something that I know I’m going to love despite my every inclination to hate.
But, for now, just look at this opening paragraph:
“Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest. I was sitting in my hideout watching cartoons when the news bulletin broke in on my video feed, announcing that James Halliday had died during the night.”
In two sentences you get: 1) the cliched “everyone my age remembers…,” 2) the mention of a mysterious contest, 3) a hideout, 4) the main characters watching cartoons in said hideout like NO BIG DEAL, 5) a “news bulletin,” 6) a “video feed,” and 7) an introduction to James Halliday. Who’s James Halliday?
In the book, James Halliday is the most famous video game designer the world has ever known.
Let me repeat that sentence, so that you have to read it again: In the book, James Halliday is the most famous video game designer the world has ever known.
Now, this is a book that NPR showered praise upon. Please keep that in mind as I write about this book in the days and weeks to come.
So I keep telling myself, “Give it a shot…give it a shot,” and I continue on. James Halliday is a video game designer who made billions of dollars and had no heirs. He decided to hide his ridiculously large fortune in a video game as an Easter Egg (and we’re treated to the history of video game Easter Eggs, BTW) and whoever finds it can keep it. He announces this over a video which “become[s] the most scrutinized piece of film in history, surpassing even the Zapruder film in the amount of painstaking frame-by-frame analysis devoted to it.”
So the protagonist begins to describe the video and I come across this sentence: “He’s surrounded by teenagers whose clothing, hairstyles, and dance moves all indicate that the time period is the late 1980s.*”
That asterisk is actually in the text. It appears as a link on my Kindle Fire. So I click on it and see…”Careful analysis of this scene reveals that all of the teenagers behind Halliday are actually extras from various John Hughes teen films who have been digitally cut-and-pasted into the video.”
The book is annotated. The second annotation talks about the movie Heathers. Some annotations talk about different computer systems from the 80s and Dungeons & Dragons artwork.
And it was at that moment that I knew this book, this piece of Young Adult fiction written for 40-year-old males, would become my bible. I must spread the word.