Monday, January 16, 2012

Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)

In the not-so-disant future, the reality of living in the United States has become extremely unpleasant, especially for Wade Watts, who lives in the Stacks in Oklahoma City. The Stacks are a trailer park in which trailers are stacked upon each other in what is basically a vertical ghetto. Luckily, like many people, Wade spends most of his time in an online world called OASIS, a virtual reality game created by the legendary James Halliday. A few years back, Halliday died, leaving behind the ultimate game with the ultimate prize. Using just a few cryptic clues, players must find three keys that open three gates before they can find the Easter Egg hidden in the game. The first person to reach the egg wins Halliday's entire estate, including a controlling share of stock in Halliday's company, Gregarious Gaming Systems. But in addition to all the individual egg hunters (known as "gunters") a company called IOI - the world's large internet service provider - has channeled all its forces towards winning the quest so they can take over the OASIS. Wade, known online as Parzival, pins all his hopes on winning, as the only way out of the Stacks and his miserable existence there.

Integral to the quest is a vast knowledge of 80s pop culture, because Halliday grew up in the 80s and was obsessed with the tv shows, video games, and movies of that era. So the gunters also adopt this obsession, memorizing everything about that decade, including the lines to all Halliday's favorite movies. This encyclopedic knowledge is not only important to the gunters' mission, but is also makes this an incredibly fun book (especially if you're a child of the 80s.) Wade knows way more about 80s pop culture than I do, and I lived through that decade.

Ready Player One was so different from anything I've read in a long time. Admittedly, I stick to domestic fiction with a side of YA dystopias, and it was so fantastic to read an adventure! It was fast-paced, funny, and just generally well-written. I am not a video game person (except Tetris, which I just have to stay away from for my own good) but this actually made me want to play video games. The whole quest was very creative and pulled in so many fun tv shows, songs, movies, and even breakfast cereals that I remember from my childhood. Wade and his friends are all decent, even admirable, people that are totally worth rooting for.

Ready Player One is by far one of the best books I've read recently. Now I want to read more books like it, but I have no idea if there's anything similar out there. (If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments!) I'm very happy to hear that the day after the book sold, so did the film rights, with Cline as screenwriter. I think this could be a fantastic movie. I wonder if there will be a video game?

I'll just leave you with one more Ernest Cline tidbit: "Dance, Monkeys, Dance." He didn't make the animation, but the words are all his. If this doesn't make you want to read his book, I don't know what will.

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