If I ever were to dabble in reviewing novels or literature, you’d better believe it would most likely be related to comics or video games. While I admit I don’t read novels as often as I should, I did get a recommendation from a friend for this book and had a lot of time to kill on flights to Europe and back so I decided to pick up and copy and take it with me. Published in 2011, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a must read for those with the love of all things 80s, video games, virtual reality, and a story reminiscent of classic childhood adventure movies.
Set not too far into the future, most of the world has become a filthy place both in a literal and metaphorical sense. An energy crisis coupled with the decay of the environment has spurred a new era of poverty and near collapse of society. Most of the common populace live in stacks of old trailers that offer little refuge from the acres of garbage below. In terms of wealth, few are comfortable and even less are considered wealthy except a few. For many, the only escape is into the OASIS, a virtual reality and MMORPG which almost the whole world plays. The OASIS is not simply a game though, it’s an entire virtual world. The OASIS credits are valued more than real money, school systems have moved entirely into cyberspace, and many people spend 100% of their waking time in the OASIS. Upon his death, the creator of the OASIS let the world know that if anyone were to find a hidden Easter egg he placed within the virtual world, they would be heir to his vast fortune. And so, the greatest scavenger hunt the world has ever known began, and five years later there was no progress. That is until Wade Watts stumbled upon the very first clue and the adventure took flight.
This book is a fun read all together, especially if you’re old enough to remember growing up in the 80s. From beginning to end, this book packs a thrill ride loaded with nostalgia that would make even a bored reader think “Hey I remember that!” It’s jam packed with references and throwbacks to some of the best of 80s culture such as old school arcade and video games and classic TV and movies.
Cline also does a great job of creating the virtual world of the OASIS as well. Aspects of all sorts of video games are lumped into the digital world that most of the book takes place in. Just like today’s MMORPGs, our group of characters grow stronger and level up, upgrade their weapons and spaceships, travel across galaxies, send in-game video messages, and post to forums about the OASIS. He also does not shy away from detailing the VR experience from the outside. Cline creates tiers of VR systems to log in and experience the OASIS. From a basic VR headset with some simple haptic gloves for feedback, to the full blown upscale apartments dedicated to life in the OASIS complete with full haptic body suits and ceiling apparatuses that mimic all motions experienced in cyberspace.
The book itself is not an overly difficult read and does not try to be too vague or complex. Great for younger readers who are at the height of their fondness of video games but not too simple to bore more mature readers. The story isn’t overly prolific, and sometimes even slightly predictable or clichéd, yet still manages to be satisfying and keep readers wanting to flip the page. The adventure itself seems to be a throwback on its own as it heavily reminded me of child adventure movies like E.T., Stand by Me, The Goonies, or the more modern Stranger Things (which was set in the 80s of course). Though I wouldn’t say Ready Player One is a ground breaking prolific novel that can rival Shakespeare, I will still give the book great praise for its entertainment factor that many millennials (or even younger) will enjoy.
As a side note, Ready Player One is in production to become a movie in the near future and I’m more than excited to see Simon Pegg as a major character (though I don’t think he really fits the particular role). If you’re a fan of reading a book and comparing the on screen adaptation then get on this!