I finally read Ernest Cline’s first novel Ready Player One, and was instantly sucked in to this modernized depiction of planet earth. The novel takes place in year 2044 (which doesn’t seem too terribly far away, frankly), when larger cities are crawling with “stacks,” structures of trailers stacked haphazardly on top of each other and housing several families in each. Half the human population is starving, cities are riddled with crime, and nearly everyone finds escape in a digital world known as the OASIS.
Video games as we currently know them are archaic dinosaurs with limited graphic detail compared to the life-like, totally interactive games of this future fictionalized world. Players don suits, gloves, and visors that completely immerse themselves in the video games they play. Even public schooling is available in virtual form. The “real” world has become so hopeless that most people choose to exist primarily in virtual form where their avatars can explore the worlds from their favorite movies, exhibit superpowers, and virtually live out their fantasies.
The plot revolves around a virtual Easter egg hunt that the creator of the OASIS–James Halliday–set in motion via an elaborate video message following his death. Countless “Gunters” (ie. egg hunters) set out to find clues to the egg’s whereabouts by studying Halliday’s favorite things. This research involves watching 80s movies, listening to 80s music, and of course playing lots and lots of 80s video games. There are references to comic books, Dungeons and Dragons, Pac Man, and countless other ultra-geeky paraphernalia. The story follows Wade Watts, a gunter from a disadvantaged family who is desperate for the prize: inheritance of Halliday’s fortune. Unfortunately, Innovative Online Industries (IOI)–an evil corporation with total aims for money, power, and control–is equally desperate for the egg and will go to any lengths to acquire it.
This book is an absolute nerd haven, as the hunt for the egg takes readers directly into classic games, movies, and other references. Even though I wasn’t familiar with all the references, I found this book to be an absolute blast to read. The characters are interesting, strong, and intelligent (Art3mis is a total badass), and I really found myself rooting for the underdog. The disturbing reality is that this fictionalized world doesn’t seem too far off from what the future may look like if we don’t get our act together. This book was just really well done, satisfyingly paced, and a lot of fun to read. Whether you’re a gaming junkie or not (I’m not), give this book a try and let me know what you think!