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Bibliomaniac Scarlet

I came here to keep in touch with all my friends who left GR after the censorship debacle. I read a little of every genre. I co-blog at Musings of a Bibliomaniac.

Currently reading

Burial Rites
Hannah Kent
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Ana Juan, Catherynne M. Valente
Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

Unpopular Opinion: Too flawed to be fun

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

The only thing about Ready Player One that I can even remotely appreciate is the nostalgia it might stir up in readers who grew up in 80s America. Cline, in his debut offering, uses his love and knowledge about yesteryear pop culture to cleverly mask its many technical shortcomings. He lays out a plot that guarantees fun - an elaborate 80s-themed treasure hunt in a futuristic virtual world. And judging by the high average rating on GR, he seems to have gotten away with it.


How "fun" this book is depends on how much you know, or want to know, about the movies and video-games and music of the 80s. Forget the west, I hardly know anything about Bollywood movies from that era. So reading this book was like being stuck in a fangirl/fanboy convention without a clue about what the gush-fest was for. My initial curiosity kept me entertained and Cline's long explanations made sure I could keep up but that lasted only for the first 30 percent. The onslaught of pop culture was so relentless that fun turned to exhaustion pretty quickly. My patience finally ran out around page 300 

I hate hate HATE action scenes involving giant robots.

(show spoiler)

and I skipped straight to the rather-obvious end.


Let's keep the pop-culture aside and look at the rest.


Characters? Flatter than cardboard. One-dimensional. Painfully contrived.


Writing? I won't call it terrible, but it's not something worth appreciating either. Mediocre at best, annoyingly juvenile at worst. I've come across better sentence construction in fanfiction.


Plot? It is one long sequence of duex ex machinas. Crazy coincidences. Stumbling across lifesavers by chance. Inane plans that work out. Every. Single. Time.
My eye-balls hurt from all the eye-rolling.


World-building? If you're going to give me amazing virtual reality, you must first make me believe in a real world where such a thing can be thought of as feasible. But as detailed as the OASIS is, Cline's real world is just as vague. All I know is that it's 2044 and the Earth is ugly because there's climate change and energy crisis and starvation and all that. So everyone escapes by logging into the OASIS - something that requires a special console, haptic gloves and virtual-reality visors.
Yeah right.


What frustrates me most is the lost potential in the tale. We're talking about people who are so fully attuned to their virtual selves that they have no life outside the OASIS. There is so much to explore here - the psychology of these characters, the clash of identities, the perception versus reality debate. But Cline takes all that potential and throws it out the window. No wait, he mentions a lot of deep things and then leaves them be. Because how can thought-provoking and fun exist at the same time, no?


There is nothing wrong with fun. But there is also nothing spectacular about fun. Which is why I'm more than a little surprised with all the gushing reviews and high ratings. I expect this to be the most unpopular of all my unpopular opinions, but I believe Ready Player One is one of the most overrated books I've ever read.