Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I’ll admit, this book was off to a good start when in the first three pages, there had already been two Heathers references. The world within this novel immediately drew me in with its reality escaping technology that knows no boundaries. In the virtual world that people escape to, you can customize what you look like to other people. You can be a centaur, or probably a mermaid. If you’re uncomfortable with your appearance, you can manipulate it to your approval. The implications for social equality were astounding. However, I got very annoyed when I found out that the main character, Wade, is a straight, cisgender white guy. And he has a crush on a cisgender white girl. Not much potential for diversity there. I indulged myself by continuing to read despite how much these details disappointed me.
When Wade loses a bunch of weight and starts making his body super buff and toned, I was about to give up entirely. I was thinking, “Of course! Being straight, white, and male is not enough! He has to go through a transformation from geeky and chubby to geeky and hot!”
Then, [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT] I found out that Wade’s best friend, who he thought was a white male, is actually a black, gay female! 50 points to Cline for that one. I was so happy that he at least included someone who was taking advantage of the system, though clearly many people must do this kind of masquerading. And it only made her character even more rad. She was my new favorite, for the last few pages when we knew her identity.
In most of the other aspects, I LOVED this book. Seriously, it would have been 5 full stars if I hadn’t picked out specific things to focus on and critique, but once you see something flawed, there’s really no way to un-see it. A couple of other things that I can’t get out of my head – Wade is super hung up on Art3mis’s real life gender. He’s totally in love with her avatar, yeah! A cool premise for panromanticism or device for exploring bisexuality? Not at all. He goes so far in his homophobia to ask Art3mis not only if she is in fact a girl in real life, but if she has always been a girl. No trans women for this protagonist, no sir. But of course, he’s in love with her! He’s so in love with her that he claims her appearance means nothing to him (which is bullshit for the previous reasons) and when he does see her face in real life, his love lifts him above the burst capillary or scar on her face so that he can see the beauty within, because he’s such a goddamn great guy and not shallow at all. At least, he’s not shallow or picky in his love for white cisgender women like himself. The dialogue between the “couple” was super cheesy too. I cannot stress enough how great this book was aside from these things. It is well worth a read, and I’d highly recommend it to any fantasy, dystopia, or SciFi fans. I was riveted by the plot, from beginning to end. School work took a backseat for the two days it took me to devour this novel. It would have been a full 5 stars, something I don’t give out often, if I didn’t have issues with the narrator’s fundamental ideologies.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars