The year is 2044. Humanity has reached a steady decline, leading to overcrowding, rampant hunger, and extreme unemployment. But like a mirage in a dry desert, a new interactive virtual reality massively multiplayer online game arises to help people escape called the OASIS. In the OASIS one could visit thousands of worlds (Tatooine, Middle-Earth, Pern, Narnia, etc.), quest any number of adventures, watch any number of movies, listen to every song ever, or play any number of games. It became so popular and lucrative that it nearly replaced the Internet, and the in-game currency was worth more than the dollar, yen, or pound. When one logged in you’d see the three words that preceded all the classic arcade games: Ready Player One.
The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, was hugely, HUGELY, influenced by his obsessive nostalgia over his favorite decade, the 1980s. And at the moment of his death, he unveiled his greatest Easter Egg, a hunt for three keys to unlock the way towards winning his fortune: over 200 billion credits. And to find these cryptic keys, they’d have to study the 80s – the video games, the movies, anime, TV, and so on. Those that hunted for the egg were known as Gunters. Naturally, large corporations like IOI capitalized on the fact that they could pay people to do the work for them. These are called sixers.
But nearly five years had passed and nobody had any idea about how to even find the first key. That is until an avatar known as Parzival finds it.
Ernest Cline wrote the story he wanted to read. This can be said about any writer, really, but seriously. Cline found the perfect way to throw in every single one of his geek hobbies and make an excellent story with it all. Although this is technically a dystopian novel, the novelty of it is pure nostalgic bliss. I’ve never had more fun reading a book. And I’m happy to say, being a 90s kid myself, I had little trouble catching most of the hundreds of obscure references.
And it starts off incredibly strong. From the beginning, this book will have you grinning from ear to ear as they describe the merits and wonders of the OASIS. I listened to this on audiobook while on a road trip with my family, and it was perfectly entertaining. Wil Wheaton’s narration only added to that effect.
The novel does tackle some brilliant concepts head on. What happens when you meet the persons you’ve grown so close to on a virtual reality system? Do their actual looks mean more to you than the personalities you’ve grown to love? My favorite was the fact that, although the book totally runs with the idea that escaping into a virtual reality world is totally okay, don’t expect to find true happiness in it.
The book did drag on between the discovery of the first and second key, and although this was thematically what the book was trying to accomplish at that point in the story, it’s not at all fun to read. The book also relies so heavily on the nostalgia and reference factor that I find it hard to believe this story could exist without that aiding it along. But then again, Ready Player One is just a gigantic homage to the 80s, something it accomplished with lives to spare. I would recommend this book to just about everyone, for in as much as it’s cool to see your favorite John Hughes movies quoted, it’s actually quite a lengthy and entertaining course on all things geeky from that time period.
And Ernest Cline has certainly solidified his geek cred with this one.
A sequel has been announced as “in the works,” and the movie rights have been optioned to directors (including Christopher Nolan).