Book Review: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown Publishing
The year is 2045, and programmer James Halliday has created a virtual, online universe, OASIS, where everyone goes to experience a better world than the dystopia they currently live in. Halliday is also a major fanatic of the ’80s in which he grew up. Upon his death, a video message is sent out to the world informing the masses that there is an Easter egg (hidden code in the program) within OASIS, and the first person to solve three puzzles and collect their keys wins not only half a billion dollars but the rights to OASIS itself.
Wade Watts is our teenage hero who spends his free time learning all he can about the ’80s along with everyone else. Known in the OASIS as Parzival, Wade finds the first key hidden in an obscure Dungeons & Dragons module located in the very world where he attends virtual high school. Each key is used to open a door where a puzzle is presented. Upon solving the first puzzle by beating a rival at the arcade game Joust, he becomes a “gunter” (Easter egg hunter) and starts a frantic search to find the rest. Along the journey, Wade is confronted by a corporation determined to gain control of OASIS and make a fortune by changing the free virtual program into a paid service.
As a huge fan of the ’80s myself, having spent the best of my teenage years in them, I loved this book. Author Ernest Cline’s love of the time period is displayed in this story as he incorporates so much of the pop culture from music to movies to arcade games. And despite the heavy incorporation of the ’80s references and scenes, I didn’t feel the imbalance between the characters’ time period and explanations of historical subjects that could have easily been an issue.
What I love most about this book is that the story is so unique. Yes, it’s the typical “protagonist is the only one who can defeat the bad guys and does so by the skin of his/her teeth with the aid of newfound friends,” but the setting is what really sets it apart. We’re in a dystopian future but delve deeply and rely on the past at the same time. We’re exploring a future time where technology is superior to today’s, but we’re relying on old arcade games like Joust as major action scenes.
There’s a good reason why Steven Spielberg has produced the movie adaptation for release in Spring 2018. There’s plenty of action and suspense to keep me on edge until the end, and flashbacks to my earlier days made this a wonderful sci-fi story I eagerly recommend to anyone.