LJ Best Books 2017

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Librarians’ Best Books of 2011: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One

Kaite Stover, readers’ services manager, Kansas City Public Library, loves Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (Crown).

What We Said:

The conclusion is perhaps a bit predictable and the moral a bit pat, but it’s a feel-good ending all around. A great geek beach book and an unapologetic romp with brains and style.

What She Says:

Like most folks, I have a love-hate relationship with the technology in my life. I love my Smartphone, laptop, Facebook, and Skype. I’m not overly fond of GPS, email, Angry Birds, or Wii. But I come from a different generation that remembers days without that many electronic assistants. Turning it all off is probably easier for me than it is for the younger set, which is why I was completely absorbed by Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, a techno-suspense thriller that could appeal to many readers, including that most elusive of demographics‚ the teenage boy.

Cline starts with Everyman outcast/loner hero Wade Watts, a smart adolescent from the wrong side of the trailer park who attends high school in the OASIS, an online community that our author presents as equal parts ghetto, utopia, and suburbia. It has become the virtual stand-in for real society, and it is grim, poverty-stricken, and environmentally unstable. Cline then populates Wade’s world with a cool best friend, a cute online-girl-next-door crush, and a dotty neighbor who remembers what real life was like, back in the early aughties.

Next, all of them are dropped into a blood-pulsing, mind-bending adventure‚ solve the fiendish puzzles hidden in the vast OASIS to obtain the keys that will unlock a priceless treasure. Pop culture fans out there will appreciate that the answers to the riddles lie in obscure 1980s trivia.

In addition to giving us a joyride of a plot with likable characters and detestable villains winging snappy dialog back and forth as handily as light sabers, Cline provides serious, yet subtle commentary on what our world may look like in 20 years. Like the easter eggs Wade and his friends are questing for, Cline drops astute observations about how the generations are handling the demise of the physical planet and the rise of the virtual one. His characters recognize the almost uncontrollable power of technology conglomerates and advertising empires to rule the thoughts and actions of people; Wade & Co. explain and experience the challenges to privacy in an online world, and it’s seriously frightening and suspenseful.

Ready Player One could have been a throwaway book of the moment, easily digested in one weekend when the cable went out and the Wi-Fi was on the fritz. Yet it has stayed with me. I’ve pitched this book to readers by focusing on different elements each time. When a novel gives a librarian as many options as Legend of Zelda as talking points, it has rightly earned some distinction.

Kaite’s Favorite Passage:

I did take the time to vote in the OASIS elections, however, because their outcomes actually affected me…. I voted to reelect Cory Doctorow and Wil Wheaton (again). There were no term limits, and those two geezers had been doing a kick-ass job of protecting user rights for over a decade.*

* Fun fact: Audiobook listeners will get an added laugh from the above snippet, as Wil Wheaton does the narration for Ready Player One.

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Heather McCormack About Heather McCormack

Heather McCormack (hmccormack@mediasourceinc.com, HuisceBeatha on Twitter) is Editor, Book Review for Library Journal.