I was really excited when I read the synopsis for Ernest Cline’s bestselling novel Ready Player One. Unfortunately the only ARC I could get had to be read on the computer instead of on my e-reader, so it seemed to take me forever to finish it. It was well worth sticking with it though. This one feels like it’s going to be a classic!
Think Willy Wonka meets Matrix, without the cool black coats and sunglasses, and you’ve got the basic concept of Ready Player One. Although this novel will naturally appeal to anyone who loves playing online MMRPGs (massive multiplayer role playing games), I believe it will appeal to a much broader readership as well. Yep, as the bestseller lists have already shown, we’ve got a winner here folks!
By 2044, the population has exploded and Earth is a bleak place to live. Extreme poverty and hunger are common throughout the world. The one thing making it bearable is a wonderful online system called OASIS, a utopian, virtual reality world that everyone on the planet is tuned into. Kids go to school and then college on OASIS. People earn money, meet their avatar friends, play and shop on OASIS. OASIS, a.k.a. Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, is much, much more than the Internet.
Wade Watts is no exception. He lives high up in an Oklahoma City rusty vehicle, shipping container and trailer stack with his aunt and her boyfriend, and 12 other people, but he escapes from there as quickly as he can each morning by climbing down the outside of the stacked trailers. Then he uses a round-about route to reach his van hideout to plug into OASIS on the systems he’s cobbled together from scrap. Although he has to plug in and send his avatar to high school, he’s also busy working on solving the game’s clues so he can win the world’s biggest prize. Talk about multi-tasking, Wade’s a pro at it. His closest and only friend is Aech, who’s also excellent at the game. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
James Halliday, the man who invented OASIS, did something extraordinary when he passed away recently. He left his entire fortune to whoever could solve the ultimate Easter Egg hunt/puzzle series/adventure throughout OASIS. Now this was no simple role playing adventure. To solve it, gunters and sixers have to figure out how he thought, know his personal interests and obsessions, and decipher clues every step of the way on top of facing whatever enormous challenges might exist.
“’Before I died,’ Anorak [Halliday’s OASIS avatar] says, speaking in a much deeper voice, ‘I created my own Easter egg, and hid it somewhere inside my most popular videogame – OASIS. The first person to find my Easter egg will inherit my entire fortune…But don’t worry. I’ve left a few clues lying around to get everyone started. And here’s the first one.’” Excerpt from a video broadcast to everyone who participates in OASIS.
Wade and Aech have both become extremely proficient in 1980’s pop culture, old school video games, and D&D because Halliday was obsessed with those things. Wade believes he probably knows more about it than anyone who lived in the 1980’s at this point and is constantly looking for more trivia he might have missed so he can beat the other gunters and sixers. He needs that advantage, and all of his wits, because he can’t afford to purchase the gear other players have bought to give their avatars a physical advantage.
“If I was going to find Halliday’s egg, I knew I would eventually have to venture out in the dangerous sectors of the OASIS. And if I wasn’t powerful or well-armed enough to defend myself, I wasn’t going to stay alive for very long.”
When Wade is able to decipher the clues, find, and obtain the first key, the copper one, the quest has really begun and he learns that all of the game’s dangers aren’t just online.
This novel is very realistic both offline and online. The Earth that features prominently is one it’s only too easy to see becoming real in our lifetime, which gave me more shudders than Matrix ever did. I was really fond of Wade from the beginning and quickly became his biggest cheerleader. The 80’s references brought me a lot of added fun to reading Ready Player One.
Once it begins, the action never stops and it is one hell of a roller coaster ride! Once it grabs you, it is not letting go! I recommend Ready Player One to anyone who likes MMRPGs or science fiction but you don’t have to be a geek or a gamer to really like this novel. The themes are universal so it has a far wider audience than that. Also, although the protagonist is a teenager, this is a novel adults are going to really enjoy as well.
In case you think Ernest Cline’s name looks familiar, he was the screenwriter for Fanboys. He has written a screenplay for Ready Player One, to which Warner Brothers and De Line Pictures have secured screen rights. There’s a lot that has to happen for it to become a film; however, its success as a novel should go a long way toward enticing the right interests to make that happen. Fingers crossed because I think it will make an excellent film!
Ready Player One is available now, so if you’d like to buy it, just click on your preferred online bookseller’s link in the top right column.
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Below is an interview with Ernest Cline for those of you who want to know more about him and creating this novel.