Years ago, I heard about a book called “Ready Player One“. I fully intended to check it out, but forgot about it and was sidetracked.
A short time ago, I read that Stephen Spielberg was working on a movie adaptation of the book and thought I had to check it out for myself.
Boy, was that a great decision! “Ready Player One” was one of the most fun books I’ve read in years.
“Ready Player One” is set in a dystopian 2044. The world finally hit “peak oil” decades earlier and the world has been consumed by an energy crisis ever since. The energy crisis triggered a worldwide depression and increases the occurrence of war, famine. The middle class has essentially disappeared and the poor live in trailers stacked high into the sky.
To escape from the world, users go to the OASIS. The OASIS is a virtual world. Users can put on a pair of virtual reality glasses and be transported to any place, limited only by their imaginations. Most fictional worlds are covered — there are authentic recreations of different universes: Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Middle Earth, Blade Runner . . . just to name a few. Most of humanity spends all of their time in this virtual universe, mainly because the outside world is so horrific and the online world is so completely immersive.
At the beginning of the book, the creator of the OASIS (James Halliday) dies. With no living heirs, he leaves behind his entire fortune and controlling interest in the OASIS to whoever can find it in a series of puzzles embedded in the OASIS. Halliday creates a series of quests and puzzles in the OASIS for whomever can solve them. They are all rooted in his obsession with the 1980s and early video games.
The protagonist of the book (Wade Watts, known in the OASIS as Parzival) is one of millions of people looking for Halliday’s Easter Egg. He’s poor and growing up in a stack of trailer homes. As you might imagine, he’s up against significant competition, including a rival multi-billion dollar corporation intent on seizing the OASIS and Halliday’s fortune for themselves by any means necessary.
The book is incredibly fun. Not only is it a great adventure with interesting characters and a compelling vision of the future, but it is a deep nostalgic trip into the 1980s. It includes references to everything imaginable from the decade. The protagonist’s virtual meeting room in the OASIS is modeled after the living room from “Family Ties“. One of the quests involves the movie “War Games”. Things covered include Rush, Pac-Man, obscure video games like “Dungeons of Daggorath“, pizza shop arcades . . . actually, it’s hard to think of what facets of pop culture from the ’80s aren’t covered. The protagonist even drives a Back to the Future inspired Delorean in the Oasis. Naturally, it is capable of space flight and light speed!
I grew up completely absorbed in the pop culture of the 1980s and the decade has a special place in my heart, so that’s probably a major reason why I loved this book. It was also nice to read a book written by fellow geek who loves the decade even more than I do. My video game experiences are mostly from the NES and SNES era, but I could still appreciate all of the Atari references.
If you’re looking to kick back and go on a rip roaring adventure, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s the perfect summer read. Definitely check it out before the movie comes out next year.
Next on the agenda is Cline’s second book, Armada. I’ll let you know what I think when I finish it!
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