Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ready Player One Review Five Years Too Late But Whatever

I saw RP1 last  week. It’s a good film, watchable, over-hyped for sure. It’s a little above the level of Jumanji and Rampage, both of which I also enjoyed. It’s all about expectations. 

So, take a look at this. Well, the trick is not to look. All I recall was, looking is bad. See, look, it’s one of the nice devil mirrors from the dreaded S1. Or demon? Daemon? Is that a burning Styx album?

Last week I got to talking with Grace about the movie and she wanted to know if I knew about the “Tomb of Acer...ekk..whatever his name is”. It’s a ruse. When you meet him...never-mind. Yup. I even have a copy. Usually at this point is when the person to whom you are talking to "hears their mom calling" (Pre-internet texting). Instead I got “Can I borrow it?” Poor girl. 

It was at this point I started talking. Kinda like when my wife makes fun of me about recounting dungeon adventures as if they were something that happened in real life. Not only did I have it, It was the first D&D dungeon I played it in ‘78 and could probably go on and on and on (until I froth at the mouth and fall over backwards). So I talked. Grace is pretty hardy and fairly tolerant. Poor girl.

Next I was asked if I had read “Ready Player One”. I had not. I was informed that I needed to. It appeared on my workbench the following day with a vintage Barbie bookmark informing me I had better read this or die. Well, not “die-die” but the a kind of death a friend can conjure up with soft cushions and Barry Manilow (why wasn’t HE in the book?). My next book in the queue is about the slow disintegration of the Soviet Union in the mid 1990’s. No cushions or Barry needed to start this one.

I began on a Wednesday and finished on Sunday. Saturday I forced myself to read more slowly, once it’s gone, it’s gone. I like the feeling of fighting the whirlpool when reading a story like this. Way way way better than the film. Reminded me of reading Twilight and the Stainless Steel Rat. 

This book is constructed from the trash heap of 80’s pop (and sub-pop) culture. I have a vague memory of passing through that time, some of it brought a scrunchy face, some a gnashing of teeth. Cline handles going through the trash heap well. He stays his temptation to really geek out and keeps the writing focused on the teen boy angsty plot. Getting down into the pop culture weeds has a way of culling out a lot of readers who are just not interested in the fact that you get teleported to a misty room naked. (So, do you like gladiator movies?”)

The non-virtual world in the movie seemed flat to me. In the book it’s more real and is a proper contrast to the digital fantasy. The grayness of the world, it’s blandness, even the dull way one of the characters dies all works. The plot is fast moving and has balls. I believed in Wade's do anything to impress the girl thing. It’s the kind of thing that makes sense when your an 18 year old virgin.

I half believed I was one of the characters in the book (not one of the stupid kids, BTW). I remembered how I sat in front of the TV with my tape recorder to record Gilligan's Island. I am a purger now, a destroyer, I just don’t have reverence for old unchanging crap anymore. Where are the new ideas? I digress.

The book is a celebration of social gaming: “...As I learned more about how these early role-playing games worked I realized that a D&D module was the primitive equivalent of a quest in the OASIS. And D&D characters were just like avatars. In a way, these old role-playing games had been the first virtual-reality simulations, created created long before computers were powerful enough to do the job. In those days, if you wanted to escape to another world, you had to create it yourself, using your brain, some paper, pencils, dice and a few rule-books. This realization kind of blew my mind…”

On the back cover is a pic of the author sitting on his Delorean. I can still remember seeing one back in the 80’s at a local shopping mall with my dad. ”What a piece of junk…”

So, don't thank me, thank Grace.
Read this book or I’ll be forced to get the soft cushions out.

Remember, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants:

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