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Publisher's Summary

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut - part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of 10,000 planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune - and remarkable power - to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved - that of the late 20th century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt - among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life - and love - in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

©2011 Ernest Cline (P)2011 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Ready Player One is the ultimate lottery ticket." (New York Daily News)

“An exuberantly realized, exciting, and sweet-natured cyber-quest. Cline’s imaginative and rollicking coming-of-age geek saga has a smash-hit vibe.” (Booklist)

"This adrenaline shot of uncut geekdom, a quest through a virtual world, is loaded with enough 1980s nostalgia to please even the most devoted John Hughes fans... sweet, self-deprecating Wade, whose universe is an odd mix of the real past and the virtual present, is the perfect lovable/unlikely hero.” (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • 3 Stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I’m sorry I waited so long to read this book.

Somehow, every time I read a review, I got the idea that only young adult males who love to play video games would enjoy this book. Well, I am here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think anyone who is within ten years +/- my age (50-ish) would get a HUGE kick out of this book. There are so many references to things that are in our cohort’s DNA that everyone can get the “in” jokes. References to Indiana Jones (okay, I just found out that one of my coworkers WASN’T EVEN BORN YET when the original movie came out—ghahhhhh!!), PacMan, Monty Python . . . there were tons of things nearly anyone who wasn’t living under a rock will get. I am sure there are things I missed, but that hardly mattered because there was also a kick-ass plot to keep me interested.

For his plot, Cline used a formula that is becoming familiar from the gaming world: Give the protagonist a quest, and set up obstacles. If your protagonist is likable, then the reader will want him to succeed. He is, and we do. I wanted Wade Watts to succeed so badly that I found this book every bit as addicting as the best video games: I could barely put it down. I told everyone around me how much I was enjoying it. I am telling you to read it now!

[I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, who is just about the perfect choice, for so many reasons . . . not least of which is being a piece of 80’s trivia himself!!]

593 of 681 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Travis
  • Huffman, TX, United States
  • 09-22-11

ADD TO CART, POWER UP +10000

I don't even know how else to put this. THIS BOOK IS EPICALLY AWESOME. If you grew up geek in the coming-of-age of computers and video games... This is a no-brainer. I haven't been this satisfied with spending a credit since I downloaded Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in 2008. But back to this book, nostalgia cross-referencing every aspect of growing up between probably 1975-1995. If you want to know if you will enjoy this book ask yourself this: Are you a geek? One who enjoys sci-fi and video games? Like computers? 3 yes answers should have you buying this. Here's a short list of things the book references (from memory):

TRS-80 Tandy Computers/Color Computer 3
Amigas, Commodore 64s
Atari 2600 (Extensively)
Games like Pitfall, Kaboom, Dungeons of Daggorath
RPGs/Dungeon Crawls/FPSs
Ghostbusters
Knight Rider
WWF Wrestlers
Back To The Future
Star Trek
Star Wars
Indiana Jones
Voltron and Transformers
Hacker/Computer movies
Blade Runner
Family Ties
General Hacking and Computer culture
Text messaging, L33t Speak
Gamer culture
Dungeons and Dragons
Boom Boxes, Mohawks, Acid Washed Jeans
Rush, Def Leppard, Pat Benatar, Cindy Lauper (and a slew of others)
School House Rock
Japanese/American cross culture (Manga, Cartoons, Games)

The "setting" for the book takes place in a computer simulation that reminded me of the visuals from the Scott Pilgrim Movie, particularly where things look like the inside of a video game, music notes and light coming from instruments, VS subtitles underneath P2P Fights, Things pixelate into "bonus items" when they get destroyed.

Honestly... there's so much that it's hard to remember. Quit reading this and just go download it.

530 of 635 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amanda
  • Phoenix, AZ, United States
  • 07-06-12

Late to the Party, But SO Glad to Arrive

Ever since this book has come out, I’ve stubbornly held on to the belief that the novel was not for me. “That’s the video game book, right?” I asked people over and over again, whenever the story was mentioned. No matter how many times people tried to tell me that it was far more than a book about video games, I somehow didn’t hear them. I’d made my decision.

What a huge mistake.

If any of your formative years took place in the 80’s, this book is for you. It’s like a grand, wonderful party that greets you warmly at the door as you arrive, and puts you immediately at ease. The story will make you laugh, and remember, and sit on the edge of your seat as you follow Wade and his friends on their great quest.

The story also provides us with a cautionary tale for both individuals and society; an allegory highlighting the damage that can be done to people and worlds when we opt for spending too much time in our virtual worlds, and not enough working on our real life and world.

The narration by Wil Wheaton (who has his own cameo appearance in the story) was a fantastic fit for the story; I doubt anyone else could have done half the job he did with this book.

This story was the perfect love letter to the 80’s; the music, the movies, the culture, and yes, the video games. I loved it all. So even if one of those aspects wasn’t your strong suit, have no worries; just pick up your joystick, download this book… and ready player one.

227 of 279 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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GOING OUTSIDE IS HIGHLY OVER RATED

MY BULLET BILL THIS MONTH WAS GOING TO BE HUGE
I am going to join the 30,000+ who have given this a 4.7 rating and say this is a wonderful book. I loved it from the get go and their was not a single dull moment. I am a little old for the generation that will love this the best. In the 80's I was in my 20's, married and had my two kids. I played some of the early systems and can even remember text games, where all you had was text and you could only give simple commands. I remember the first time I saw a pong machine (not mentioned in the book). I remember Space Invaders at the bowling alley.

THE CROWD WENT WILD
I might buck the crowd just a little and say, if you did or do not play video games, then you will not enjoy this. The bigger the nerd you were or are, than the more you will enjoy this. This is mostly for the hard core nerds and not the pop scene. For instance even though MTV is mentioned and even though Michael Jackson made MTV popular, his name is never mentioned. I had heard of most of the games, but not all and I had played a few. Games such as Master of Orion and Romance of The Three Kingdoms (my favorite games) are totally ignored. So, there is a certain amount of bias in the book.

THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME
The plot is a game, which is why I am sure none gamers will not like it. I loved the game within the game and thought it was very well done. I normally do not like shoot-em ups in any book, but this is so well done, that it holds your attention. There is a romance that is well done, there is suspense, some surprises, and even without the 80's references it would be a great book.

THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OG
Yea, there is also some serendipity help that takes place, especially toward the end and the main character just seems too knowledgeable at times. Watching nerdy movies is one thing, but memorizing the entire dialogue??? My wife and I did see War Games at the theater and War Games plays big in the book.

Just before this book I listened to a Scalzi book, not narrated by Wil Wheaton and I followed that up with this book, read by Wil Wheaton, but not written by Scalzi, how weird is that? Anyways Wheaton is one of my favorites and was the perfect pick for this book. He Crushered it.

325 of 404 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • colleen
  • ANCHORAGE, AK, United States
  • 05-29-12

Where is book 2?

I immediately looked for more from this author after I listened to ready player one. This story is full of detail and imagination. You'll like it even if you aren't a gamer. Very clever plot and excellent narration by Wheaton.

169 of 222 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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"Naming 80's things" the book

What did you like best about Ready Player One? What did you like least?

This started out a lot of fun but as it went on I liked it less and less. It had a cool semi-dystopian future set-up with this really cool facebook-meets-video games-meets-virtual reality immersive secondary world which never really explored more than being a big video game. That's fine, that's the point of the book, but if something like this were ever real, it'd be so much more.

The thing that got to me was eventually the book just became a list of things from the 80's and talking about how they were "THE coolest" robot/game/character/movie.

There's no twist. Every plot development is the discovery of another obscure 80's relic that the listener has to be let in on. We dont get to discover much of anything for ourselves.

The bad guy is 2 dimensional. (Also a thinly veiled metaphor for Comcast) The dialogue gets old quick. And the whole thing is just a little too neckbeardy.

I enjoyed most of it. I couldve used a better third act, some real human dialogue and plot twist or two

Would you recommend Ready Player One to your friends? Why or why not?

Only if you actively call yourself a "gamer" or really miss the 80's

220 of 304 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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The Big Bang Theory of books

This isn’t a geek book. This is a book about geeks for people who aren’t geeks. The references say the right words, but there isn’t understanding behind them. It’s as if someone researched about these things and hadn’t ever actually experienced them. Consistently, key points about each game or reference are left out - for instance (minor spoiler) the character at one point talks about a strategy for winning a game, but doesn’t actually ever say what that strategy is. It’s entirely “trust me, it was cool.” That’s almost the entire book. The character refers to various swords as “+5 vorpal” without ever explaining in the slightest what that means in the mechanics of the game. Instances of this are in almost every scene, from the “zero-gravity dance floor” that doesn’t make any sense (how does one dance with no surface to push off of?) to the character reaching “99th level” in a matter of weeks and still somehow being way more powerful than the bad guys who have had far more time and resources. Geeks want to understand mechanics. Geeks want to dive into rule books. The characters in the book like to dive into rulebooks, but the book gives us almost no rules whatsoever. It’s the difference between speaking Chinese and saying random Chinese words - to a non-speaker, these are indistinguishable, but to someone who speaks Chinese one is gibberish. This book is written for non-speakers.

129 of 183 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Lesley
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 06-14-14

Shall we play a game?

This book has been coming up in my recommendations for a long time, but I always skipped it. When I listened to the Audible sample it sounded as if the book's world-building was terrible or even non-existent (which is because it's not from the beginning of the book!) Further, descriptions of the book's 80s nostalgia were kind of a turn-off: as a member of Gen X, I'm not always very nostalgic about the 80s.

But I had a credit, and I like Wil Wheaton--so when I read the Audible Essentials review of Ready Player One, I thought I might as well try it. Boy. Was I ever wrong about what this book would be like!

In 2045, Wade Watts is a child of the new era, a teenage orphan living with his aunt and a bunch of other people in a derelict trailer. The planet is a dump and most people are jerks, or worse. The only place he can find peace is OASIS, a Second Life-style digital game environment where he attends school, goes on adventures, and hides from the drag that reality has become (and where Wil Wheaton and Cory Doctorow are elected officials!) The game's creator has been dead for several years, leaving behind an in-game easter egg hunt: the winner gets his entire multi-billion dollar fortune! But nobody's had any luck. Until now.

This book wasn't much like anything else I've read recently: it's part mystery, part quest-legend story, part love story, part fairytale, and part dystopian-future novel. I was afraid it might be depressing, but it wasn't--not at all. Events moved quickly, and the humorous tone kept me laughing out loud. The nostalgia itself turned out to directed mostly toward geeky stuff that I remember fondly, like arcade games and old computers. Puzzling out what might happen next was an additional bonus--I was so proud of myself when I got a crucial reference before Wade did!

Wil Wheaton does a great job on narration. The only thing I was a little disappointed with--it caused me to knock off a star--was the character development. Wade, and especially his friends, come off as somewhat two-dimensional. Perhaps that's because the events of the book are such a wild ride. I could not stop listening! I ran the batteries out in my headphones and was forced to dig through a junk drawer to find an analog pair so I could keep going. That's how determined I was to find out what would happen next.

Overall I recommend this book if you are looking for an exciting and fun science fiction adventure that's also close to home. If you recognize the headline for this review, you're definitely going to like Ready Player One.

86 of 124 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Karen
  • Cincinnati, OH, United States
  • 09-09-11

One of the best books/audiobooks I've ever heard.

Where does Ready Player One rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

I've listened to a LOT of audiobooks in the last few years, and there are some series I'm totally loyal to. This beats all. The story, the humor, and Wil Wheaton's performance are all incredible. I laughed out loud multiple times during a marathon practice run! No one laughs during that misery!

I enjoyed the geek "in" jokes, and I appreciated the 80s nostalgia, even though I'm too young to get a fair number of the references. I enjoyed this so much that I went out and got the hard cover so I could loan it to friends. Buy this book. I'm serious. Do it now!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Ready Player One?

Too many. The entire hunt for the egg was well done and the conclusion was excellent--very satisfying. There is a moment where Wil Wheaton as narrator refers to himself in text :). I think they picked exactly the right narrator for this novel.

Which scene was your favorite?

I loved the deus ex machina moment where Og appears to save the day. Also loved the Oingo Boingo reference in the beginning.

Was there a moment in the book that particular moved you?

The discussion between Samantha and Wade at the end. It was sweet and sincere.

Any additional comments?

Seriously, this is one of the best books I've read/heard in a VERY long time.

105 of 155 people found this review helpful

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A Redditor's Nerdgasm

What would have made Ready Player One better?

What couldn't have? There is so much wrong with this it defies logic! There's a dystopian future world where wars are waged over dwindling energy supplies, but everyone has plenty of power to run their haptic equipment and internet connections all day long. Food is in scarce supply, but Wade can lock himself in his apartment for months with plenty of pizza and other food delivered daily. There are shallow little diatribes that sound like they were lifted from /r/atheism or some other self-righteous subreddit. The narrator has, in 5 years, been able to master every arcade game and every text adventure and every console game (to the point that he can play a perfect Pac-Man game on a whim), watch every 80s movie and television show (to the point that he can recite every line of WarGames and the Holy Grail verbatim), and learn every bit of obscure trivia and lore about the 1980s and James Halliday, yet neither he nor anyone on the planet can figure out that a clue about "collecting the trophies" is a direct reference to Zork? The cliches that abound are flat and silly, like the "evil multi-national corporation" or the computer prodigy with Asperger's (that magic disease that makes those afflicted by it geniuses). And did society just stop in 2013? For a novel that takes place mid-century, there's no progress aside from the OASIS. No references to newer technology, updated media, different forms of communication or travel. Oh, right...there's a war over energy. It's a combination mcguffin / deus ex machina. Cline uses it to gloss over anything he can't explain, which is a lot.

What could Ernest Cline have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

How about giving the reader credit for having a modicum of intelligence and awareness? For a book that is ostensibly targeted at nerdy types, Cline doesn't think his audience knows anything about the subject matter. For example, when the video game "Joust" is introduced, Cline slams the brakes on and explains (in excruciatingly boring detail) the game and how it's played and that player one rides and ostrich and that player two rides a stork and blah blah blah. He's not a talented enough writer to work said explanation into the narrative. It almost feels like he pasted the game summary from Wikipedia into his novel. When he does make a meager attempt to work such exposition in as part of the story, it's awkward and annoying, like how the narrator hears a song and reflexively rattles off the artist, label and year it was released. There are a few moments where he gets it right (e.g. when one character throws an object against a "Revenge of the Jedi" poster, Cline refrains from discussing how said posters were a rare misprint), but they're few and far between. Someone commented that references are like jokes - if you have to explain them, then they aren't effective. Cline is like a comedian who tells a joke, then explains the joke (that everyone got) before anyone has a chance to laugh.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Wil Wheaton is a horrible actor and his hammy acting and exaggerated narration detract from an already weak story. When Wheaton reads lines like the oft-repeated, "It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen!" in his breathless sappiness, it grates the ears. There is an insufferable reference to Wheaton in the narrative which comes off as a bit of blatant sycophancy, exacerbated by the fact that Wheaton himself is the narrator and is lapping it up as he reads about himself. I dare anyone to listen to Wheaton read off the top ten scoreboard positions without screaming ("Number seven, I O I six four eight nine three six, one million, four hundred eighty thousand points") Ugh! Wheaton was chosen as a celebrity reader with a nerdy tie to the novel, but he is not talented and is certainly not a good narrator. There are other vocal artists with real talent that would have made this far more palatable.

What character would you cut from Ready Player One?

Aech. The character adds nothing to the story, speaks in the most inauthentic voice in the novel (no small feat, seriously) and is used for a small, politically correct twist at the end. The "epic" exchanges that he and Wade have are boring and cringeworthy, especially when read by Wil Wheaton.

Any additional comments?

This is a story told by someone who lives on Reddit and has a wishful obsession with the days of his youth, but rather than crafting a wistful bit of nostalgia, he has spit out a harsh mishmash of misplaced references, endless lists, and copious exposition. One can only imagine the horror this was before an editor worked on it! I grew up in the 1980s and I know all the music, movies, shows and games referenced here, but this was not a fun little reminiscence. It was tedious and phony, like a kid who just watched a John Hughes marathon and is listing out the artists whose posters were on Ferris Bueller's wall. This could have been an enjoyable read. The concept of a massive Easter egg hunt is intriguing and working it into a virtual world is a great twist, but this is a orgiastic mess, full of empty references and contrived circumstances, signifying nothing.

61 of 94 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Bennett
  • 10-02-18

High concept, low on story

The whole thing could be about half as long if the author didn't just spout cultural references without any plot

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  • Kimberly
  • 03-27-18

Totally awesome

This is the 7th time I’ve listened to the book, brilliant performance by Wil Wheaton.

Looking forward to Spielberg’s interpretation tomorrow, though not expecting it to be the same as this book, but still expect an awesome movie.