Thursday, November 3, 2011

Level One: Abby's Honeymoon Phase

Oh man.

50 pages in, and I’m already in love. This may sound a little premature. It is. I have a terrible habit of basing relationships on a shared ability to geek out over stuff like Discworld and the filmography of Rutger Hauer. Those relationships, however, tend to stay shallow and die out fast. I’m really hoping that won’t happen here.

I can’t help but admire what Ernest Cline’s doing here. As far as cultural reference-dropping in books goes, it’s a hard thing to do well. The only other writer I can think of who does it as much as Cline is Brian K. Vaughn. In Vaughn’s case, those references get old fast, because they don’t usually have anything to do with the main story, and really distract from the main action. You like “Miller’s Crossing,” Brian, I get it. You’re cool. Now quit. But in the case of “Ready Player One,” Cline’s managed to make those references something that actually propels the plot forward, and informs us about the inner lives of the characters. There’s a whole two-page argument about “Ladyhawke” in here (more words than I’ve ever seen dedicated to that movie, even in real-life conversation), and not only is it fun to read, it seems like a believable conversation.

But already I’m recognizing that Cline’s story is far from original. It’s basically “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Brazil” and a dash of “The Westing Game,” all put together in William Gibson’s Cuisinart while Gibson watches “Tron” with John Hughes in the next room. Complicated analogy, but you get the idea. It’s a lot of bits and pieces of stuff that’s been done before put back together in a giant homage that feels different enough to be interesting, but familiar enough that it’s not saying anything new or compelling. That’s either a recipe for solid entertainment or a burnout fart in the wind. Whether “Ready Player One” is one or the other remains to be seen, but it’s off to a good start so far. Don’t disappoint me, Ernest Cline. Let’s see if we can make this relationship last.

I have a friend who holds to the belief that we’re living in the Matrix, and that the Matrix is being run by Chris Hardwick. The more I think about it, the more I think he may have a point, because only in a world run by someone like Hardwick would a book like “Ready Player One” get published to general acclaim, snag a movie deal with Warner Bros., and have an audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton. One day we’re going to wake up to discover that we’re actually living in the OASIS, in the Nerdist quadrant.


  1. I can't remember if the infatuation phase is before the honeymoon phase or effectively just synonymous with it, but yeah, great analogy. Only addition I would make is that while Gibson immediately springs to mind (and forever will now in any story like this) a peer of his in terms of technological prescience and timing was Neal Stephenson and in particular his book "Snow Crash". Ready Player One is bringing back some memories and images I'd truly forgotten about.

  2. Oh btw I included William Gibson in a #pbrbookclub Tweet a moment ago just for kicks!

  3. I haven't finished your post yet--just started reading the book (at the pig), but I already agree. Though once I finish this rye Manhattan (I've never had one with rye before--they're amazing), I fully expect to lose interest. this love feels fleeting, and I don't do well with disappointment

  4. Snow Crash seems to be the book that immediately comes up in connection to Ready Player One, and I haven't read it. Putting it in my "queue!"

    I taught Gibson's Pattern Recognition a few years back. Student's didn't love nearly as much as I wanted them to!

    Also: who's ready for a Joust tournament??

  5. I think the online community and in-depth discussion of "Anorak's Invitation" is totally "Pattern Recognition." Wasn't there a character in that book named Parkaboy? Is there an outerwear connection?

  6. Speaking of Joust .. Just yesterday I was telling someone about the intro and chapter 1 of Ready Player One and we talked about arcade games we remembered and suddenly I remembered Joust.

    Fast forward to a bit more reading on this book and last night before bed I hit the scene where Joust makes a campy and surreal appearance! Brilliant and lo-budget camp all at the same time.

  7. The Joust section is my favorite so far.

    Abby, yes, there's a "Parkaboy" in Pattern Recognition. Agreed that the Anorak video in Ready Player One is similar to "the footage" of Pattern (though Anorak is complete as opposed to partial and unordered, I guess).