Author: Ernest Cline
Published By: Random House
Audio Version Narrated By: Wil Wheaton
Page Count: 385
Publication Date: August 16th, 2011
Link to Purchase (Amazon)
I can still remember when this book first came out. It took the world, or at least the corner of it I lived in, by storm! Most people I knew had read it. But it wouldn’t be until years later that I myself got around to reading it.
Honestly? I don’t understand the hype. I think it’s a perfectly fine book, especially for young teenagers. But that’s about it. It isn’t especially amazing in any particular ways. In fact, it is quite poor in several regards.
Plot: VR Chat Version 1082.78
The OASIS is just VR Chat when it evolves too far. Tell me I’m wrong.
In the year 2040, a man created the biggest online video game of all time: the OASIS. This man, James Halliday, crafted the most elaborate Easter egg hunt of all time. For those who find the Egg, they will inherit his entire fortune, as well as gain complete control over the OASIS. Teenager Wade Watts is after this very Egg, and he may just be one of the only ones who can find it. But with both his competition and an evil mega-corporation on his ass, can he win the day? Or will he drop dead halfway through?
The story here is perfectly fine. It’s a coming of age story with a spot of teenage romance and lots of pop culture references. The characters have enough development that I can say it was fine, but they’re so underwhelming that I can’t remember any of them. This is a simple, forgettable story.
The setting isn’t much better. The OASIS is a fascinating setting, as it’s a digital world where anything is possible. However, the real world is so generic and boring that it physically hurts. This does seem like a strength on the surface; having the real world feel bland could make the OASIS seem all the more magical. But it simply makes the real world seem neglected. It doesn’t feel like a dystopia. It just feels boring.
I can tolerate many things. So long as I’m entertained, you could practically get away with anything. But if I’m bored, then you know you fucked it up.
Voice: A Clear Picture Isn’t Always a Great One
I’m kind of split of Ernist Cline’s creative voice. On one hand, he does paint a very clear picture of the characters and world, sucking you right in. On the other, his character writing ranges from ‘pretty okay’ to ‘ugh’. I don’t know which one has the stronger argument.
Cline is excellent at painting the setting of the story in clear, concise detail. When the characters are in the OASIS, you can easily imagine all of the pop culture references simply coming to life around them, even if the characters using them are less than interesting.
This is where we hit a minor problem. See, the only original idea in the book is the OASIS itself. Everything within the digital world is a reference to some pop culture thing, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. Sometimes, the references are very clever, such as when our heroes need to quote whole classic movies while inside said film. But the other ones are the worst kind of reference. The kind that screams “LOOK AT US, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A THING!”
Still, I think Cline’s creative voice is okay. At no point is it actively painful to read (though a good chunk of the dialogue is cringe inducing). It isn’t Tolkien, but it is still better than, say, Stephenie Meyer.
Yeah. My bar for success is super low.
Production: An Excellent Pick
Wil Wheaton is a charming man. Even if his dice curse is horrifying to behold for anyone who even remotely believes in luck, you can’t deny that he has charisma. And he is an excellent pick for the narrator of the audio book version.
Wheaton gives the book his absolute best. His performance is energetic and enthusiastic from start to end. You can tell that he really loves the book. He doesn’t do much for unique voices, but his natural voice works just fine. He reads it in such a way that it never becomes confusing as to who is speaking.
Unfortunately, his excellent narration is all the audio version has. It doesn’t go above and beyond, like some other audio books. It’s fine, but nothing amazing.
How is an audio book about Minecraft still the best I’ve ever listened to?
Do I see why this book became popular? Yes. Do I think it should have gotten that popular? Nope. But hey! At least it’s better than the movie!
Though the bar isn’t particularly high. The movie was okay at best.
If you are a young teenager, this is the book for you. But if you’re any older than that, there isn’t much here for you. It is a perfectly fine story, and nothing more.
How did this become so popular?