Written by Ernest Cline
Published by Broadway Books, April 12, 2016
My star rating: 3 stars
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.
And then he sees the flying saucer.
Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.
No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it. It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar? (Goodreads)
I finished this one very late Saturday night and I’ve been trying to figure out how to word this review ever since. I really did enjoy this book, but how I explain my feelings may come off a little negative. I think that’s because this book went a little over my head at times and it’s easier for me to explain what I didn’t get more than what I did get.
So I read Ready Player One a couple years ago and fell in love. I went into it thinking I wouldn’t really like it and then it ended up making it on my all time favourites list! This book had the same fantastic writing style – full of humour, interesting characters, fantastic setting, and descriptive fighting scenes. There was even some nostalgia as he referenced many pop culture video games and movies ranging from the 70’s all the way to current day! But I think that this one went a little over my head and that’s why I didn’t enjoy this one as much.
First of all, let me talk about the characters. Zack was fantastic! He was a normal, true to life teenager. Wishing he was out of high school, completely obsessed with video games, has two best friends (who were hilarious) and is angry and broken. His father died in a tragic work related accident when he was only a few months old and it broke certain aspects of his life. He wanted to move on from the father he never knew but it was impossible – he looked just like him and he had the same love and skill with video games. He was angry, confused, scared, and in pain. His emotions and thoughts were so real which made him so easy to connect with. His mom was a constant loving presence in his life and that was really great. Hard working and always there for him (including to tell him to go to college when all he wanted to do was play video games) and able to be both the parent and a friend. He also had a “father figure” with Ray who was the owner of the video game store he worked at. I really enjoyed their relationship. A girl named Lex comes into the picture later on and I LOVED her! She was so smart, fearless, and mouthy!! I wished there was more of her throughout the story!
The thing Ernest Cline is most well known for is his use of popular culture throughout his novels. This book had a broad range of games and movies mentioned, starting in the 1970’s and went to current day. I enjoyed these references very much but, at the same time, I didn’t watch or play some of them so they went over my head. This is where some of my enjoyment was lost. Specific things that happened in these games and movies played a role in the plot itself and I didn’t have the knowledge or mental picture to appreciate those references completely. There was one line in the book that made me laugh for probably 10 minutes straight though. I literally couldn’t stop laughing and the fact that I was laughing so hard and long made me laugh even harder. Here’s the thing; I’ve never watched a Star Wars movie in it’s entirety. I know – shoot me! But I found Luke’s character to be so whiny and annoying I just couldn’t finish the first movie. This is what made me almost fall over:
“You’re a bold-faced liar like Obi-Wan, too!” I shot back. “That’s for sure.”
Ray’s smile vanished, and his eyes narrowed.
“And you’re being a whiny little bitch, just like Luke!”
I hope you’re laughing too, or else I seem like a fool! LOL! But you can also see here why references would go over a persons head if they hadn’t watched a movie. There was so much I just didn’t understand.
What I also struggled with was the fighting scenes. They were very well written, but it’s the amount of detail that bogged me down. The detail was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that I knew what everything looked like and every turn they made. It was easy to get a clear picture of the steps that were taken and who was doing what. But there was SO much detail sometimes that I got easily confused and stopped caring. I found that I could skip entire paragraphs and not really miss anything.
The other issues I had with it was the pace and predictability. It started off with a bang! The characters were amazing, the plot was pushing me to read as quick as I could, conspiracies, nostalgia and so much more. But then about half way though, things slowed down, and was mainly filled with overly descriptive fighting scenes. The predictability was also a BIG issue. All the things that you expected to happen did, no matter how outlandish they were. At first I thought it was funny – as if to say “of course this happened!” and then toward the end I was rolling my eyes still saying “of course this happened.”
Pace and predictability aside, I really did enjoy this book! It was fun and exciting, and played out like a movie in my head because of his descriptive writing. The characters were great and the twists and turns pushed me through. This was just a case where “It’s not you, it’s me” really fits! I don’t think I was the right type of person for this one!
Have you read this one? How do you think it compared to your enjoyment of Ready Player One?
Until next time, happy reading!