As soon as it hit the shelves, Ernest Cline’s science fiction young adult “Ready Player One” was an instant hit, as it came out in a time in which pop-culture was becoming mainstream, and it hit the sweet spot when it came to nostalgia which hadn’t yet reached its peak. And while I would never classify it as a classic, it was a fun page turning ride of nostalgia with such an engaging premise that I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.
“Ready Player One” was written by Ernest Cline, and was published in 2011. Soon after he signed with his current publishing company, the film rights to the book were bought, and Cline started penning the screenplay adaptation, with Steven Spielberg as the director of the movie adaptation.
The story is set in 2044, in a dystopic version of the world, and in particular, the U.S. Here, the world is a dismal and dreary place full of pollution, the effects of climate change and never ending wars. So, instead of focusing on the dreary reality of things, most of the world’s population spend their time in the Oasis, a huge virtual reality world created by the eccentric genius James Halliday and his best friend, Ogden Morrow.
The story follows the eighteen year old Wade Watts, who is also known online as Parzival, who is a dedicated “gunter”, or Easter Egg hunter. These gunters either go solo or work in clans, with the sole purpose of trying to find Halliday’s famous Easter Egg. This Easter Egg, which would allow the winner to inherit Halliday’s fortune and the Oasis itself, was the prize of a contest that Halliday had set up upon his death.
Five years after Halliday’s death, Watts finally solves the first clue to the puzzle and gains the first of three keys that would open the three gates that would lead him to the ultimate prize. Because of this, he and four other gunters become famous. This also draws the attention and ire of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a global telecommunications corporation hell bent on winning the hunt themselves so that they could monetize the entire system for themselves.
The rest of the novel is a wonderful and fun ride across the world’s of Oasis, with ’80s and pop-culture Easter Eggs galore, and with the ultimate reminder that no matter how much more enticing the virtual world is, nothing really beats what you can experience in the outside world.
One of the biggest driving factors to the success of this book is that it is unashamedly a love letter to the ’80s, from the pop-culture references, to arcade machine games, all the way to places that were clearly set in the ’80s. Our characters also make reference to a lot of these things, and wittily use them as well in their conversations.
The world that Cline built in the Oasis was a fantastically imaginative one, so much so, that just like Watts, I would prefer to be immersed in the Oasis rather than the stark and bleak reality around me. I also liked the fact that I could relate to these gunters, as I do have an inordinate amount of random trivia inside my head.
While the action sequences kept me on the edge of the seat, and while it was a fun ride as I smiled and laughed at all the references I knew, and frantically looked up the ones that I didn’t know about yet, I felt that more could have been done with the characterization of each of the characters.
However, I only realized that the characters did seem a little bit flat, only after I put down the book (I finished it in five hours!), as I was much more engaged in the Oasis and the entire hunt than I was with the characters. I did really like Aech though, especially as Aech’s true identity went somewhere I didn’t think it would go.
Aside from this, there was one particular scene that was very R-13 or R-15 that I didn’t think needed to be in the book, so if any parents are wondering if they should allow their teens to read the book, just make sure you know what that particular scene is all about first. However, aside from that, it is a page turning and fun read. Definitely not a classic, but definitely a fun read for geeks and those who either lived in or adored the ’80s, as this book is the ultimate pop-culture fest that you have been waiting for.
Have you read “Ready Player One”? Did you like or not like the book? Are you looking forward to the movie adaptation of it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image Source: Ernest Cline Official Facebook Page