Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
|Book Name:||Ready Player One|
|Publisher(s):||Crown (US) Arrow (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Science Fiction / Dystopia|
|Release Date:||August 16, 2011 (US) April 5, 2012 (UK)|
The year is 2044. Planet Earth is entering the third decade of a colossal energy and employment crisis. Cities are going up in superheated mushroom clouds, and people are packed together in slums like sardines. The world is in a bleak time in its history. A time when nearly everyone is looking for an escape from the real world.
For many, that escape is the OASIS. OASIS was originally created as a massively multiplayer game; over time it evolved to become a way of life. One can work in the OASIS with people from all over the world, they can shop for products unattainable in their real lives, and they have free access to books, movies, and music from all eras. Multiple worlds have been recreated in the OASIS: Pern, Azeroth, Middle Earth, and many more. Then, the day comes when one of the co-creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, passes away. With no heirs. Leaving his considerable fortune – and a master account to the OASIS – to one person in particular:
The person who can successfully complete a treasure hunt to locate an elaborately hidden Easter egg within the worlds of the OASIS.
Ready Player One begins by setting this scene for the reader, and building upon it. Wade Watts is the protagonist, an eighteen-year-old from the slums surrounding Oklahoma City. However, none of the world’s problems seem to matter when Wade is jacked into the OASIS. He becomes Parzival, someone who has been searching for the hidden Easter egg within the game for the last five years. It immediately becomes clear to the reader how obsessed Wade is with the OASIS, with its creator, and with unraveling the first riddle Halliday left behind to help the players locate the egg.
As the plot progresses, we learn that Wade and his group of hunters aren’t the only ones searching for the egg. A corporation called IOI (eye-oh-eye) is also searching, using their considerable resources to cheat, hack, and even kill their opponents in order to be the first to find the egg and take control of the OASIS. It becomes difficult for Wade and his friends to progress with IOI standing in the way.
The first few chapters of this book were a little difficult for me to get through. Being the author’s first book, I have to wonder if he perhaps had a hard time finding Wade’s voice. As the story progresses, the voice smooths out and sounds less stilted; I found it easier to believe in Wade’s personality, to see him more as a fully fleshed character, once this transition was completed. By the end of Chapter Three, Wade has participated in verbal jousting matches with other players in the OASIS, grinding them into the dirt with his knowledge of all things relating to nerd trivia from the 1980s. Interactions like this help to make Wade feel more realistic, and also serves to further the story by proving to the other egg hunters that he knows his stuff.
Therein lies the catch for Ready Player One, if I had to pick one. Geeky references surrounding the 1980s and its popular culture run rampant through this narrative. Halliday grew up in that time period, and obsessed over things like the band Rush, the movie War Games, and Dungeons & Dragons. When he passes away, leaving behind the billions of people who are hunting to find the key to unlock the hundreds of billions of dollars he leaves behind, he unwittingly creates a subculture of people who also become obsessed with these things. Yes: acid washed jeans make a comeback.
In addition to the staggering amount of 80s information that is stuffed into this book, there are also many references to gaming. Besides the obvious part where the main characters are playing a large scale video game, there are also games played within the game. Many of the keys to unlock Halliday’s egg require the quester to participate in some sort of game, be it Joust, Black Dragon, or Adventure. For many, these are played on a virtual console within the OASIS; some are played in a 3D replicated game world.
Overall, I loved this book. Ready Player One has easily become one of my favorite novels; I’ve read it three times, now. It reminds me of the old epic quest fantasy novels…only set in a dystopian future. The story features a believable main character, and a supporting cast complete with best friend and love interest who definitely hold their own. Ready Player One is a book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys video games, or yearns for a new, modern twist to the classic epic quest storyline.