After two consecutive chick-lit-y and predictable (if not slightly disappointing) books, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was a breath of fresh air. A believable glance at the future, a sci-fi adventure, a study on human behavior, a love letter to 1980’s pop culture…there’s something for every kind of reader in this book. I found myself wanting to tell a lot of my friends about it, especially some that I know have played video games like WORLD OF WARCRAFT and EVERQUEST. I think this particularly calls out to people who dabble in that.
The year is 2044 and the world basically sucks. Crime, oil prices, unemployment…you name it, it’s happening in the worst possible way. Our protagonist is 18-year-old Wade Watts, who lives in the stacks (literally a field filled with trailers that are stacked on each other…not an ideal home) with his aunt. His parents are both dead and his aunt barely acknowledges him, using him for the food stamps.
Wade could complain about his crappy life, but he chooses to stay as far away from it as he can by spending all of his free time in the OASIS, a virtual reality that has consumed the majority of the world. You create an avatar that gets experience points, interacts with people all over the globe, goes on adventures, watches movies, plays video games…anything you would do in the real world, but in the safety of your home.
Wade is a self-proclaimed “Gunter” who is searching for James Halliday’s (the deceased creator of the OASIS) Easter egg within the depths of the various planets and worlds Halliday has created. When Halliday passed, he left a message in his will, leaving his billions to whoever could locate the 3 keys (and 3 gates) and find his hidden Easter egg (a nod to game creators who used to code their names or other hidden goodies inside of their games for hard-core gamers to find). Wade spends his time studying the life of James Halliday, who grew up in the 80s, and all of his passions. The band Rush. The movie WarGames. Various Atari games.
As luck would have it, Wade (known as Parzival in the OASIS) is the first to find the copper key, and it starts a whirlwind of adventure that leads him to making some interesting friends and enemies on his quest to make it to the third and final gate.
This book was filled with humor and action and suspense. At times, it was hard for me to keep up. Imagine this: We are learning about Wade’s life and his quest through the OASIS and he’s going on so many missions and making friends…but none of it is actually…well…real. Sure, he is talking to other people, but he doesn’t know who they really are or where they live. Sure, he is traveling to new places, but he’s really just sitting in a chair,connected to a computer. It really made me think, once again (like Feed did a while back, but this wasn’t as depressing), about how technologically engaged we are in this society. I might not play WOW, but there are so many people who get obsessed with social media websites (um, me?) and games like Farmville (not me) or Candy Crush Saga (okay, that’s me) and spend money on ways to beat games and become immersed in the escape of reality that a computer, iPhone, movie, or video game can provide.
So I loved this fictional novel, but I could feel a factuality to it.
It’s a highly plausible future, of us fully and finally escaping reality in the hopes of a happier way to spend your days.
I recommend this, especially to those who love video games and 80’s pop culture. You’ll love it.