This week I’ve been reading Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. This got quite a lot of coverage in the genre press last year, and a fair bit of mainstream attention as well. I’ve had a proof copy sitting around for ages (not sure where I got it – perhaps Novacon?) so, while I waited for the new Ben Aaronovitch to come in (hooray! Arrived yesterday!) I thought I’d give it a go.
I won’t talk too much about the plot – basically, through some unlikely co-incidences, the fate of the world in 2044 rests on one teenage boy’s ability to remember obscure 80s music, films, games and books. The prose is solid, and the plotting is fine, but what we’re really here for is a post-apocalyptic SF novel played out through the prism of our childhood memories. There should be no doubt that the book works purely as an SF novel, but the fact remains that if you don’t know your eighties geeky pop-culture references, there’s not much point in you reading this book. From obscure Easter Eggs in early videogames, to War Games, to Rush, it’s almost as if the author had a checklist of ‘things thirty year olds reminisce about after a few pints’ and whacked them all in.
It shouldn’t work, and there are some definite flaws. There is a tendency for plot elements and characters to be introduced and then discarded without a second thought – I ended the novel with a list of half-a-dozen things that just hadn’t been resolved, really – and the whole thing ramps itself up into a pyrotechnic climax which sadly doesn’t quite work (the pre-climax climax is great, what with all of those giant robots – but the actual ending falls a bit flat). That said, I banged through the whole thing in about three hours, it’s just so readable and entertaining and fun. If you fancy some SF with a bit of a difference, and you’re happy to realise that you’re missing half of the references, this might just be the book for you.