Notes on “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

I really liked it. The writing isn’t very deep, but the story is captivating mostly because it puts a spin on our current relationship with technology and social media. At first, I wasn’t impressed and kept reading because I wondered where he was going. Then, about a third of the way in, I was sucked in. It was a bit like an action film with a slow start. I was disappointed that he stayed close within the confines of our current technology. It was just a bit beyond what we can do now, not as imaginative as I would have liked. But maybe that was the point. The story is set within my lifetime, so maybe things grew exponentially now but in 20 years they would stagnate. It felt like a movie and I wonder if it will become one in the future.

Page 17 “Our global civilization came at a huge cost. We needed a whole bunch of energy to build it, and we got that energy by burning fossil fuels, which came from dead plants and animals buried deep in the ground. We used up most of this fuel before you got here, and now it’s pretty much all gone.”

This statement sets up the background of the world they live in. It’s decaying and that’s why things have gone stagnant. But would it really? If the world were actually running out of fuel and companies relied on energy to keep making money, don’t you think they’d find a way to make more? This just smacks of “green” energy propaganda to me.

Page 21 “But after the oil crash and the onset of the energy crisis, lager cities had been flooded with refugees from surrounding suburban and rural areas, resulting in a massive urban housing shortage” That might happen at first. People looking for work. But he thinks people were so addicted to access to the internet that they stayed there. I just don’t believe that. It may be true if everyone was getting enough food, water, and shelter, but when those things are gone people would naturally stop “logging in”.

Page 24 “Most of them worked as day laborers in the giant factory farms that surrounded the city.” More jobs, less energy consumption. The energy has to come from somewhere. If you can’t build or fuel machines to do the labor, humans must do it or starve. This is what some people would call progress.

Page 28 Why have a real identity at all if you never leave the virtual world and it functions as “reality”? Also, adults are allowed to be anonymous, but children are not? Why? And why the virtual classroom? It seems to be that this author cannot wrap his mind around people learning outside a coercion. That bugs me. I guess he doesn’t know any homeschoolers. I wonder if he did, would he have written this differently? This is the kind of stuff I didn’t like. It’s like now but with some extra technology thrown in.

Page 45 Kids are still segregated from adults and return to a Lord of the Flies attitude among each other. No one has yet figured out that when you separate children into large groups of similar age with and occasional adult authority around, they will always revert to this kind of thug behavior. They have no one to model civilized behavior.

Page 47 “The OASIS software took care of that, ensuring that students remained quiet and in their seats. All the teachers had to do was teach.” What the hell? This just freaks me out. Your virtual self is not allowed (by force) to express itself at all. The teachers are much happier because they don’t have to discipline kids, they only need to teach. Why not just give your lecture to an empty room? You’re doing the same good.

Page 48 They go on virtual tours and expeditions of things no one knows what they really looked like, origins of planets and King Tut’s “Empire in all its glory.” We only can talk about what we think may have happened. Now these kids walk around a virtual world, made up by someone’s imagination of these things as if they are real. It smacks of public education textbook indoctrination.

The way worlds and sectors are set up and managed reminds me of Minecraft. My only problem with it is that he describes them as if they physically exist. Each one exists next to another. I see it more like dimensions, overlaying each other.

Page 50 “Ludus had been designed as a place of learning, so the planet had been created without a single quest portal or gaming zone anywhere on its surface.” Right. Because games aren’t learning. This is so amazingly short sighted.

Page 53 “By all accounts, James was a bright boy, but socially inept. He had an extremely difficult time communicating with people around him. Despite his obvious intelligence, he did poorly in school, because most of his attention as focused on computers, comic books, sci-fi and fantasy novels, movies, and above all else, video games.” This is about the guy that invented the OASIS. So, he created the world the whole world escapes to, moves in, and survives through. But instead of encouraging others to do the same, this world (in the book) creates more schools in the same vein that failed him. I just don’t get it.

Page 55 “his obsessive adherence to routine and preoccupation with a few obscure areas of interest led many to psychologists to conclude that Halliday had suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, or from some other form of high-functioning autism.” Suffered? The only suffering he’s experiencing is that which you put on him for not being exactly like everyone else. Oh damn, I’m totally suffering from my genius and creating all kinds of new, innovative ways of doing something amazing while the rest of the world tells me there is something wrong with me that needs to be fixed!

Page 69 “James Halliday had donated billions to fund the creation of the OASIS public school system here, as a way to demonstrate the huge potential of the OASIS as an educational tool.” Why? Why would he set up and fund for eternity a school system “virtually” that had so perfectly failed him in the real world? It just doesn’t make sense, unless you believe that he was a freak and that he failed the system but then somehow overcame that eventually and made something out of himself despite his “disability”.

Something I had a hard time keeping straight was that this is not 100 years in the future but only about 40, so I assumed we would be farther along technology wise than it was.

Page 98 “If I win that dough, I’m going to make sure everyone on this planet has enough to eat. Once we tackle world hunger, then we can figure out how to fix the environment and solve the energy crisis.” That’s the foresight and logic you get from 17-year-old public school students.

Page 120 The co-creator of the OASIS left the company because he felt it had become something horrible, “a self-imposed prison for humanity” “A pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.” I can understand this sentiment. I see it starting this way now, which is probably why he wrote this book this way. But the book assumes so much will remain on the same trajectory for the next 40 years. There is no suggestion for change. But maybe that’s the point, a “this is where we will end up” story. My experience has shown me that people are gravitating toward escape from reality. They really think it’s more effective to donate a dollar to a huge charity, do the 5K for life, or share a post on Facebook than to pull weeds at their local community center or help cook at the local shelter.

Page 145 SPOILER This is one of those rare books that main character does the right thing and bad things happen. You know, you always think, don’t give in! They’re going to kill you anyway!

The notes get farther and farther apart as I got sucked into the story. It does feel like a high school student wrote it and I wish it were a bit deeper, but the story is good.

Page 182 “Magic zones had their advantages.” This kind of stuff bugs me. It’s cheating in the story line to make something happen in “magic” zone that wouldn’t have worked anywhere else. And then a few pages later they are surprised that everyone knew they were at the club. Things like that pull me out of the story, like a commercial came on or something. How could that possibly be a surprise?

Page 201 “It didn’t matter who was in charge. Those people were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and everyone knew it. Besides, now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people that could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical evangelists.” Why would it matter where you vote? Who people vote for has a lot more to do with the education and independence of the voters, not with where you write down who you want. This bit is part of why I feel like a high school student wrote it. It feels limited to what pop culture believes is true at the moment.

Page 207 “This avatar appeared inside a huge virtual call center, inside a virtual cubicle, sitting at a virtual desk, in front of a virtual computer, wearing a virtual headset.” Why?! Why wouldn’t you be answering calls from any virtual space? There’s no reason to do this.

Page 277 “I saw (homeless) people clustered on every street corner and in every vacant lot, huddled around burning barrels and portable fuel-cell heaters. Others waited in line a the free solar charging stations, wearing bulky, outdated visors and haptic gloves. Their hands made small, ghostly gestures as they interacted with the far more pleasant reality of the OASIS via one of the GSS’s free wireless access points.” There’s the “bread and circus” aspect of this world.

Don’t read past here if you don’t want to know the ending!

It was a great ending, but again not deep enough. It feels like something I’d write. It doesn’t go far enough, but it does make you think about how there should be a balance between the real world and the virtual/online world. As humans, we can’t live completely virtual. We need to have the interaction between physical humans, or at least our physical world. The online world connects so many people that never would have known each other. It lets people work, play, and collaborate with people from all over the world, instead of just your own backyard. I always see it an awesome new tool that we need to learn to use in bigger and better ways. We’re not losing our humanity, we’re adding to it. We just need to learn new ways of doing things and humans are amazing at doing just that!

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