If you love a book, it is a good policy to avoid seeing the cinematic adaptation. Within the past few years I’ve refused to see Gone Girl and World War Z, and now have no reason to see Ready Player One.
Walter Chaw’s dense analysis of pop movies can be provocative and entertaining. Apparently his current ruthless take down has gone viral. One comment stuck out: “Adapted from Ernest Cline’s terrible novel…”
Ready Player One was a huge bestseller. Naturally, there was backlash. Some of that backlash must be connected to what Chaw claims is “the book’s self-satisfied checklisting.”
From where I sit, that “checklisting” is no more self-satisfied than in any other book that uses elaborate paraphernalia to tell a story. Two examples from novels I read recently: Robert Harris used the byzantine politics of the Vatican for Conclave; Megan Abbott dived into the world of high-school cheerleading for Dare Me.
What bothers Chaw (I think) is that Chaw interfaces with the paraphernalia of Ready Player One for his own sense of self and aesthetic. He doesn’t like the details of Cline’s opinions, and especially he doesn’t like how the act of processing retro culture is used as scaffolding to tell a straightforward cat and mouse thriller. It’s just too close to Chaw’s daily bread. This is fine: A pope probably won’t like Conclave, a cheerleader might not like Dare Me. (Naturally, I myself have little use for novels about jazz…or movies about jazz, either! My only significant act of movie criticism addressed Whiplash.)
Anyway, all this is to say: I love the book Ready Player One, and if your own own sense of self and aesthetic isn’t defined by 80’s pop artifacts and how they are processed today, then you might love it too. It is a perfect clockwork mechanism that nails every beat and achieves the final goal with grace and style. Every time I read it I am filled with joy.