I first read Ready Player One not long after it came out and I gave my initial brief thoughts on the book on this blog. I’m very much looking forward to the film and I will be seeing it on Monday 2nd April, so I thought I would re-read the book to refresh my memory about the characters and plot. I was curious as to how I would find the book on the second reading. Some slight spoilers ahead although nothing that would ruin the movie for you at all.

I’m not normally the fastest reader but I managed to re-read the book in about 4 days. That’s unheard of for me. But I really do find it such an easy read and thoroughly enjoyable. I thought that on the second read it might not hold me as much, as I kind of felt that the 80s references were the real hook, rather than the story and the characters. But I was pleasantly surprised. The story really grabbed me again. I felt the overall plot development and the story in general were very well constructed.

I loved all the 80s references again, although at times it does feel slightly forced when he mentions a certain game or TV show and then has to stop and write a paragraph giving a synopsis on it. Those sections slightly pulled me out of the book and reminded me I’m just reading a book that was written by an 80s obsessed geek like me. It didn’t sound totally natural for the character to be giving that sort of exposition. I also found some bits of the plot a bit unbelievable, such as him getting the perfect score on Pac-Man fairly easily, or mastering Tempest in only a few goes. But I get that we have to let go and just run with the drama. Then there were other bits where he got all psyched up in his new flat and said dramatically that he wasn’t going to leave that room until he found the egg, but then in the next chapter he immediately spends several weeks hanging out with Art3mis. Some things like that just didn’t quite flow properly. I loved the whole heist bit near the end though. Overall I really thought he constructed a very interesting universe and made a pretty thrilling chase within it.

Furthermore, he touches upon some very interesting and important issues. There’s the net neutrality side of things with the big corporation fighting for control of people’s access to an online world. It touches upon autism as well, with its look at James Halliday who created the OASIS and the competition to find the egg. And it also touches upon race, prejudice, sexual orientation and gender identification in very interesting ways, due to people being hidden behind alter egos in the VR world. Sure, some bits are slightly obvious and cheesy but hey, that’s an 80s thing too, and it’s all done in a very genuine and innocent way. I think I enjoyed that aspect of it even more on the second read. I found it quite touching in places.

I think one of the reasons that I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the book as much on my second read was because I don’t really think of Ernest Cline as a proper writer. I’m not quite sure where I have that notion though. Not sure if it was after an interview I read or watched, but my impression is that he is just a retro obsessed guy like us who decided to try writing a book about lots of 80s references (like I’m sure a lot of us have had fleeting notions about doing) and he managed to work out a premise and a plot that really connected with people. I mean I’m sure he’ll probably agree that he’s no Mark Twain. Some of his character dialogue is slightly questionable and there were several plot points that I found a little bit too convenient let’s just say. But overall it’s forgiven because of how good the overall premise is and how well he spins it all out. If he is indeed just an 80s geek who decided to try to write a book then he did an incredibly good job. Hats off to you, Mr Cline.

He wrote his second book, Armada, fairly quickly off the back of Ready Player One, but I’ve not heard good things about it. The premise is meant to be not as good and so his writing and character flaws stand out more apparently. But fair play to the guy. With Ready Player One he came up with a genius way to write about lots of 80s stuff whilst still making it relevant with all the Virtual Reality stuff. And it really is an interesting look at our dystopian VR future. And then to get your book picked up by Steven Spielberg for a movie? That’s just the stuff of dreams.

On to the movie then. What am I expecting from the movie? I’ve heard that Steven Spielberg doesn’t want to just make it an 80s fest of his own stuff and instead wants to inject other 80s properties. If I’m honest I don’t remember there being back to back Spielberg references in the book anyway. There are some, but it’s not totally reliant on it. And we already know from the trailer that the DeLorean from the Spielberg produced Back to the Future makes an appearance, so that’s fine. If I’m totally honest I don’t think Spielberg is a very backward looking guy so I don’t think it was the 80s references that pulled him in. I imagine that it was Cline’s vision of the virtual reality future that probably grabbed his attention.

Having said that I do hope they manage to secure some of the main licences that are referenced in the books. I hope all the video games are in there. I hope the Dungeons & Dragons references are shown in a good light. And most of all I really, really hope they have the ‘Flicksync’ movie simulation, and I really, really, really hope that it’s WarGames. If that happens then I will be standing up and cheering in the cinema during that scene (not really, I’m British). But I just don’t know if enough people know the film WarGames unfortunately. I’m not even sure if they’ll do the whole movie simulation thing at all. It would be a lot of work. Although they could actually probably get away with CG that was of lower quality to Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One because in Ready Player One it’s all within a VR world. So maybe it’s a bit more manageable. Let’s not build my hopes up too much.

Also, judging by the trailers there are a few changes to the plot. So I’m going to stay open minded and not start listing things that are different to the book whilst I’m watching the film.

The good news is that apparently the film itself has been getting good reactions during previews. So my fingers are still well and truly crossed. The very first teaser trailer wasn’t very good at all but the later ones look good, although I’m concerned that they showed WAY too much. We shall see.

Stay tuned for the movie review next week.