Two of the last three novels I’ve read have been first-time efforts. The previous one I’d read was Brian Keene’s The Rising, which I found mediocre and fairly filled with first-time authorisms. Ready Player One has its share of flaws, too, but as a debut I felt it worked much better.
The main character of Wade/Parzival seemed a little too prone to silly actions and emotional speechifying. The most cringe-inducing moments in the book were usually when several characters engaged in dialogue. But as they are mostly teens or near-teens I found this forgivable, even realistic. Having been a teen once (that was enough for me) I can attest to the propensity for silly actions and saying Very Serious Things Stop Laughing At Me, so in RPO it works, for the most part.
The key concept of the OASIS was fleshed out just about right — the technical ins-and-outs of this proto-holodeck are presented with enough detail to make it seem plausible without descending into unnecessary Star Trek-level technobabble.
This is very much a niche book. While a movie version would be more accessible, simply due to the visual experience, the novel’s constant and key references to all things 1980s (or thereabouts) makes the story best-suited for those who grew up in that era. Being a massive nerd is probably essential, too. Since I qualify in both regards I enjoyed the nostalgia trip, even as I stopped to wonder if the occasional detail was right or not.
The ending is a bit pat and as others have said, Wade has a whole lot of coincidental knowledge that turns out to be precisely what he needs. The ability to memorize countless movies, books and games is a stretch, too — you pretty much have to handwave it or the whole story collapses on itself.
The character of Art3mis didn’t quite click for me. Her actions felt more like they were in service to the plot than organic or natural.
Still, there’s no denying the spectacle, the villains are suitably over-the-top and it’s a fast-paced, effortless read. If you’re at all nerdy and know your 80s references, you’ll probably have a good time with Ready Player One.