Ready Player One entertained me from start button to game over.
Ernest Cline’s novel is set thirty years in the future. Like many of the futuristic stories these days, Cline’s version of our world in 2044 is distinctly negative. Poverty, crime, famine– the one bright spot in this bleak future, the one escape from the hopelessness of reality, is the OASIS, the enormous virtual world accessible by all. In Ready Player One, some people live most of their lives as their avatars, their “real” selves strapped into haptic chairs and logged into the system for hours at a time. Kids even go to school in the OASIS, including Wade, a.k.a. Parzival, an orphan whose only friendships are found online.
When James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS and an eccentric multibillionaire hermit obsessed with 80’s pop culture, dies, every OASIS user receives a video with the first clue to a hidden “Easter egg” located somewhere in the vast virtual world. The person who finds this prize will inherit Halliday’s fortune.
The story begins five years after the release of Halliday’s video when Parzival becomes the unlikely person to obtain the first of three “keys” to finding the egg. His discovery propels him into the limelight– fame, glory, and very real danger. Now he and the rest of the “gunters” (egg hunters) are racing for the prize against each other and the “sixers”, employees of an evil coproration that wants to turn the OASIS into an elite money-making machine.
The book is full of great twists and lots of action. It’s also full of detailed gaming lingo and a plethora of 80’s pop culture references packed into every page. I’m no novice of 80’s lore, but Ernest Cline is way out of my league. There were several allusions that went right over my head. But then again, what do you expect from a guy who owns one of the DeLoreans from Back to the Future? While you don’t need to be a gaming genius or a child of the 80’s to enjoy this book, some knowledge does help. Picking up on the subtle references and inside jokes is half the fun. I appreciate the fact that Cline does not stick only to the most mainstream media. It’s the attention to detail that makes the book great.
Flaws? Well, I was a little disappointed with Art3mis’s big reveal at the end. It didn’t live up to the hype. I actually found the whole ending to be a bit cheesy, and there was definitely a little “hand-waving” in the middle during some of Parzival’s more complicated and impressive capers, but these things can be forgiven. After all, what 80’s movie didn’t contain a little cheese?
Ready Player One is a great book. Check it out. In the meantime, I’m going to catch up on some of the 80’s movies I’ve missed. Believe it or not, I’ve never seen Blade Runner. It’s time to remedy that.