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“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.

The year is 2044. The world has gone to shit. Unemployment. Civil unrest. Famine. Pollution. Overpopulation. War. People’s only escape is OASIS, a digital utopia where you can forget all about the real world.

OASIS is a digital virtual reality simulation, accessible to players by using a visor, and haptic technology. The few rules that apply inside the simulation were defined by its creators James Halliday and Ogden Morrow1. Concerned people were using OASIS to escape the real world, Morrow leaves its parent company, Gregarious Simulation Systems. Halliday remains the sole owner of GSS and OASIS.

Upon his death, Halliday announces a competition: Whoever manages to find an Easter egg his has hidden inside OASIS will inherit GSS, OASIS, and Halliday’s entire fortune. To find the it, the egg hunters, quickly nicknamed gunters, first have to locate three keys that open three different gates. Soon, everyone and their grandmother are searching for the egg. It become apparent that Halliday’s affection with the 1970s and 80s of his childhood is the right path to find the egg. With enough knowledge of 70s and 80s pop culture and nerd trivia, and the ability to connect the dots, a player should be able to find the keys, the gates, and thus the Easter egg, and Halliday’s big pile of dough.

But the first key proves to be hard to find, and years go by without any progress, until suddenly, one day, a name appears on the top of the Scoreboard: Parzival.

Parzival is the avatar of young Wade Watts. An orphan living with his doper aunt in the stacks surrounding Oklahoma City, Watts uses the OASIS to attend high school. It’s also his escape from the real world. For Wade, and most people of his generation, OASIS is in many ways more real than reality itself. His mother used OASIS to raise him, and OASIS is where he spends most of his time. And for Watts, Halliday’s Easter egg becomes an all-consuming obsession.

Insert Coin

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One will take you on a very entertaining, yet simple and somewhat predictable, ride. Unlike the previous book I read, Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune, Ready Player One is very easy on the eyes. And it’s certainly less of a challenge for the mind. There’s is absolutely no need to think, and you’re spoon fed every single detail. This story ain’t exactly the kind of multi-layered onion you’ll find in Frank Herbert’s pantry.

But there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.

Ready Player One is a captivating experience, and the mere 400 pages flies by in a flash. There is very little downtime, and no real reason to put the book down until you’ve finished the last paragraph. If you’re a child of the 1970s and 1980s, you’ll find that the story feels very familiar, very quickly. Because of Halliday’s obsession with that era, author Ernest Cline gets to make his book a literary nerd fest. The story is filled to the very brim with references from both pop culture and nerd culture. Sometimes it might even feel a little like the references are forced in there just to make the reader go “oh, yeah, I know that reference!” one more time before Cline runs out of pages.

Game over

After finishing the book, I’m left with the feeling that Ready Player One is a novel I could’ve written myself. Realistically, that’s not something I’d ever managed, of course. I lack the writing skills for such an achievement. But since Ready Player One sports no original Sci-fi ideas, and often feels like an encyclopedia of 70s and 80s geek culture, the story feels extremely familiar; it feels like something I should be able to conjure myself.

This might be the key to Ready Player One’s massive success: People like familiar things.

Will there be a movie adaption? Of course. Ready Player One is perfect for the big screen, and will translate beautifully into a fast-paced, two hour orgy of computer generated imagery. Director Steven Spielberg is currently working on a movie adaption that is scheduled for release in March next year. There are also rumors going around that Cline is working on a sequel to the book.

In summary, Ready Player One is among the best books, perhaps the best book, I’ve read since I ventured on my A Book A Month project.

Spoiler: A perhaps better ending would have been if it turned out Og was the bad guy. By luring the four players to his lair for the final battle, he could control the outcome, and gain complete control of OASIS. Sorrento wasn’t the final boss. But that would’ve probably added another 50 pages to the story, which would have been a stretch.

Footnotes

  1. These characters are obviously inspired by the two Johns, John Carmack and John Romero.

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