“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline
Anyone who loves video games and would love to know what it’s like to basically live within one. Or anyone who appreciates 1980s pop culture references.
While books are our virtual reality of choice, video games provide a welcome escape for multitudes of people from the monotony of everyday life. To outsiders of the gaming world, the endless amount of technical jargon and infinite virtual adventures can seem daunting (some might even say boring). But in “Ready Player One,” Ernest Cline manages to write a story that takes place almost exclusively within a virtual game and is still incredibly enticing and continually enthralling.
Set about three decades in the future, the novel finds itself in the aftermath of the basic collapse of society due to the energy crisis and resulting crash of the economy. While this story is set in the future, it is by no means difficult to imagine what that world must be like and how it came to be that way. The protagonist is 17-year-old Wade Watts — his name being a shout-out to the similarly named superheroes of comic books. Wade’s reality is harsh, and it doesn’t seem like he’s got many opportunities for improvement. However, his savior takes the form of the largest online reality ever created, the OASIS. Once he puts on his visor and hepatic gloves, he can be someone else — someone who might have a chance of improving his circumstances.
The story revolves around the hunt for a legendary Easter egg hidden inside the game by its creator. This egg gives the finder the entirety of creator James Halliday’s multibillion dollar fortune and the controlling share of the company that runs the OASIS. To a guy like Wade, who barely scrapes together enough to eat, this is quite the opportunity. But the task is daunting — there are thousands of worlds that exist in the OASIS and just a brief limerick to start you on your quest.
To be able to find the keys that unlock the three gates guarding the egg, the players have to intensely study and research Halliday’s life and interests. Most of these revolve around Halliday’s obsession with the 1980s. Tasks include beating multiple rudimentary video games from the decade and being able to personally act out entire movies — like “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The hardest part of the search is dealing with the millions of people who act as competition — one of which is an incredibly powerful corporation that clearly has no qualms with going as far as murder to ensure it wins.
Cline creates an incredibly complex virtual world that can be appreciated by the biggest of gaming nerds and an endearing character whose personal growth and struggle bring a sense of pride to the reader. He navigates the complexities of our changing society and how our online lives are slowly replacing human contact but also illustrates that the most important relationships and the greatest changes can only be enacted in real life. This book is definitely a must-read, especially if you’re up on your ’80s culture and can appreciate the multitude of references sprinkled throughout the novel.
Image Source: Belio MGZ under Creative Commons
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