Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Book of the Year 2011 (see all)
The year is 2045 and life in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, resembles scenes from every Hollywood sci-fi, dystopian flick you’ve ever seen. Chrome and glass skyscrapers soar into the heavens towering over buildings as grey and miserable as the dystopian, Bladerunner-esque weather. Society is high tech with glowing neon everywhere. Orphaned 18-year-old Wade Watts lives in the "stacks", dwellings, literally, formed from stacks of old cars, trailers, RVs, etc. Like most of humanity he escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia. Like millions of others, Wade dreams of discovering a virtual Easter Egg that lies concealed within one of thousands of virtual worlds by the OASIS's creator, the late James Halliday. The wacky genius has left clues to the Egg’s location in puzzles scattered around his virtual worlds which, when solved in order, lead to the location of the prize – whoever discovers the Egg will inherit his entire estate, including management and control of the OASIS itself; a prize worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
In order to claim the Egg Wade has to solve the series of puzzles hidden in various classic arcade games and media from the 1980s, as Halliday was mad about the era. Though Wade is an expert at classic arcade games, and a human database of 80s pop culture knowledge, he doesn’t know everything. Aiding him in his quest for the Egg are his "gunter" (a portmanteau of "egg hunter") mates: Art3mis, his best friend Aech, and the brothers Daito and Shoto. Our nerdy heroes, however, soon gain the attention of Nolan Sorrento, the head of the "Oology Division" at Innovative Online Industries. IOI is a multinational corporation bent on taking control of the OASIS for purely commercial reasons - charging for its use and bombarding users with advertisements. Currently schooling in the OASIS is free. When Wade refuses to assist them in finding the first key, Sorrento and his associates attempt to murder Wade; they fail and the race is now on to find the Egg with Wade and his buddies representing the forces of good and Sorento, the face of the evil IOI corp, the villain of the story.
So what’s to like about the book?
Everything! Ready Player One is not just homage to all things 80s pop culture: the movies, the music and, of course, classic arcade and roleplaying games, it’s an addictive read so potent it can only be described as literary cocaine. The story grips hold of the reader and drags them through a dizzying adventure and when it finally ends, you feel light headed and disorientated. It’s unputdownable!
Ready Player One is an utterly engrossing story, peering nostalgically into a popular past while at the same time set in a disturbing, dystopian, future. But, reader, be warned! If you read this book, you won’t love it - you’ll worship it! You’ll genuflect at its feet and sing hymns in adulation to it. You’ll die for it and wage jihad in its name, it’s that good!
Abbas Daya, 9.5/10
It’s 2044 and in the face of a global energy crisis, famine, poverty and climate change people have turned to virtual reality to escape. OASIS is a virtual utopia spread across ten thousand planets where you can be whatever you want to be and for Wade Watts, living in the laundry room of his aunt’s trailer, OASIS is his only escape.
Like the rest of humanity, Watts is obsessed with solving the biggest game Easter egg that has ever been – OASIS founder James Halliday’s entire multi-billion fortune and control of the game. Halliday was obsessed with ‘80s pop culture and the keys to the kingdom are hidden in such a way that only those who can pick up on the most oblique ‘80s reference will be have a chance of competing in the ultimate quest.
For years millions of people have scoured the thousands of planets on OASIS for the three keys until one day Watts finds the copper key and his world explodes. Instead of being just another low level, inconsequential character he is now the most famous person in the world and with a billion-dollar fortune at stake, there are ramifications both in OASIS and the real world.
Ready Player One is a not too distant future which melds Second Life and RPGs into a world where you can build up a character by undertaking quests and march around wearing armour and killing other characters, but which also functions as a virtual classroom for thousands of children worldwide. However, despite being set in a futuristic world, this is a book very much built on ‘80s pop culture. I personally loved it and found it a highly enjoyable read. Watts was a well-developed character that carried the story well and the world of OASIS came alive around me. You’ll need a certain appreciation of both the ‘80s and gaming to get the most out of this I would say; some of the references are so obscure that it bogs down the flow a little and maybe more of the 2044 world could have been brought in, but it was funny and unusual and heart-warming. A really good, fun read.
Cat Fitzpatrick, 8.5/10
I had never heard of Ernest Cline before this book arrived at my door and now I am glad that I have. Having been there at the birth of the home computer revolution, owned a number of those pieces of plastic history that I remember with more fondness than any of my old girlfriends this book can only be described as Geek Porn. Why? Put simply it tickles every bit, pops every stack and loads my drive. It bytes!
Ready Player One is written with such a depth of love for its subject that it reads like a digital historical novel. Yeh verily it is sooth. I could happily sit and read this all over again - right away. There is nothing in this book that I would change. The characters are believable teenagers with enough street cred to make them instantly viable in the real world. There is action on every page without it ever being overdone. Even the bad guy fits in his world of corporate greed as much as any that you could name in our world. Ernest Cline has crafted a story that I sincerely hope falls into cult lore right up there with the Rocky Horror Show.
You don’t have to be a geek to enjoy this book but if you are you even a tiny bit geeky (or a lover of all things 80’s) you’ll get so much more enjoyment from it. Others have tried and failed miserably to write stories like this one. Tron was a masterpiece of just this sort of idea its sequel however falls into that category of: oh dear. Like the last Indiana Jones movie, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I pretend that it never happened.
Ready Player One has leapt into my top twenty books along with the likes of Lord of the Rings, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Invisible Man, The One Tree, and others of that ilk. Not because of its eloquence of words, its flowing language, or the rich vibrant, living world in which it dwells but because it just deserves to be there. Nuff said.
Mathew Bridle, 9.7/10
Have you read Ready Player One?
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Ready Player One reader reviews
John from US
Very good book! Started out kind of slow but as the book went on it kept getting better and better. By the time I was 100 pages away from the end, I read it all in one sitting. 100% would recommend!
Gary from Ohio, USA
I'm currently geeking out pretty hard about this book. It is just awesome in its use of 80's nostalgia (video games, films, music) and geek culture as the basis for the virtual reality "game" being played by the characters in the book. Just when I didn't think anything could surpass the geekiness of this book I found out the audio book version is read by Wil Wheaton and the author is doing his book tour in an 82 DeLorean with personalized Ghostbusters plates.
9.8/10 from 3 reviews
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