I don’t want to call this a book review. I don’t think that this is really going to be a review so much as thoughts about the book. I know that this book came out a while ago. I know that the hype has sort of died down while we’re waiting for the movie is coming out. But I wanted to talk about this.
I got my partner to read this book while they’re out on a boat for a couple of months. It was a hit and other people on the boat were loving it as well. Because they were having so much fun with the story, I decided that I wanted to reread the book again. It was just as good the second time around. There are great characters, great story lines, great ideas, and so much more. But there’s this weird phenomenon that happens with content that I love. It expands.
In my head, parts of this story were so much longer and had so much more to them. Some of these sections were half a chapter or less. It was startling to realize that I had been expanding the story in my head. But a story like this seems to want us to do that. This phenomenon happens to me when I return to books and movies and shows that I loved. There are well-worn copies of a couple books that I have read over and over again. These stories are so much bigger in my head than they have ever been in my head. I’m not always sure why it happens, but I know that this typically happens with stories that are bigger than themselves.
By this, I mean that there’s a rich world within it. There’s also usually an idea within it that sticks. The virtual reality portion of Ready Player One is fascinating. How we interact with reality is the subject of not just books, but shows and movies. Reality is so subjective, even as we experience it right now. My reality is shaped by the experiences that I have had. Those experiences and how I perceived them were shaped by the way that my parents interacted with them. And that path just travels all the way back. All of our realities are so individual that I cannot say that my view of the situation is ever like someone else’s.
Virtual reality as it is in Ready Player One brings up a lot points about today. We are facing the beginning of that virtual reality life, but we’re facing it in more ways that I think some people realize. People my age and younger might get it (not all of us of course), and it is a concept that I don’t think my parents and grandparents necessarily understand quite as well. The internet.
We have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and so many more ways of looking into people’s lives. For some, that’s terrifying and they don’t post anything because it feels like it’s going to be this weird privacy breach. For others, this is where they live. Their friends live there and not outside of those things. I’m guilty of this, but it was before a lot of particular social medias. I hung out in chatrooms and had friends and fights and lived a whole life there that I don’t think many people know about. I still have friends from that time in my life, not many but some.
I lived there. I spent my time there. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to go to work. It’s just that I liked it there more. The lost generation in Ready Player One is an extension of that for me. It wasn’t just that they liked the game more than anything else, it was a better place. Their friends were there and not around them. In a way, it both isolates and comforts them.
So let me touch on a topic that I’m sure you’ve seen about the internet lately. We are hindered by our social media. Is it true? No, but yes. Our generation is well-informed, connected to people we would have never known before. We are also sometimes forgetting the situation around us. We give too much time to the device in our hand and forget to look up. That’s true too.
During my last quarter in college, a teacher had us do an exercise. I believe it’s from a book by Twyla Tharp. We were going to give up something for a week. It could be anything. But the goal was to give up something that was impeding our creative process. Unsurprisingly enough, half the class gave up social media. Specifically, many of us named apps and websites with endless scrolling. That exercise freed up so much time in my life. I was able to fit in an extra hour of writing and get everything I needed to get done, done. I was more productive, happier, and felt better.
I didn’t last past a week though. Virtual reality, even the virtuality of just Facebook, is hard to give up. It’s not as simple as finding someone you love outside of it. (I love my partner, but he also isn’t in the same state as me.) It’s not as simple as just a happy ending. There lies the one failure of Ready Player One for me. I didn’t just want to know that Wade got the girl and that everything was going to work out. I wanted to know what that reality looked like. The goal was to help those that were starving. The goal was to help the world, but by saving the world from an evil corporation, they were also making certain that their world is trapped in virtual reality. Maybe that’s not what happens. Maybe society starts to pull slowly away from the OASIS. Maybe society focuses on bettering themselves and the world. There’s no way to know. The story ends before that. It leaves us with questions while still delivering that good, good ending.
But I just want to know what future Ernest Cline imagines for that world 20 years down the line. What improved? What fell further apart? Where did society want to go?
Like I said, this isn’t a review of Ready Player One. I love the book a lot, but I just had some thoughts about what it meant for us and what we were going to be able to do with it.