"I'm seeing flying ostriches now in my sleep!"
I have had my mild disagreements with Mr. Ebert in the past, but I'm reminded of Lewis Carroll's maxim about the broken clock being right at least twice a day. And in this statement, he outlines something kind of important to remember about criticism. Especially with Ready Player One. You see, Ernest Cline is pretty clearly writing for a specific audience with this book. And if you're not in the specific audience, well, it can kind of get annoying when the unending spiel of anime, TV, movie, and music references fills up the page like brand names in American Psycho...though perhaps that might be the point, a self-reflective look at "geek culture" and internet culture and all of the numerous things that go along with that. It's hard to exactly say whether it's a culture-geek power fantasy, or making fun of it, but if it's as earnest as it seems in the book, I hope Mr. Cline got all the pop-culture references out of his bloodstream before he decides to write another one.
That isn't to say it's a bad book. Cline knows his way around a sentence, clearly, and he has some sequences that definitely work. While it's a deeply flawed book, it's an amazing first novel and when Cline works all the kinks out of his writing, I'd definitely like to read more of what he wrote. And I admit that there were some moments that definitely surprised me. And, at its core, it's got a really human message about growing up and learning to live in the world, or at least to make a place somewhere for yourself and your friends and your loved ones. But in the end, the sheer crushing weight of pop-culture eventually drowns out any message or heart or humanity the book has in its noise which, satirical or not, is still noise. And while at times it's worth the slog, most of the time it isn't really.
But how can it be all those things? Well, read on...