The father of the OASIS died and left a giant hunt for treasure, his legacy, hidden deep within the sprawling virtual playground he created. You think you have what it takes to be an egg hunter, a Gunter? If so, get Ready Player One!
Genre(s): Science Fiction | Dystopia
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: August 2011
Purchase At: Amazon
Ready Player One takes place in 2044, a future suffering from a decades-long energy and economic crisis. Crime is rampant, violence as well and people dive for hours into the virtual reality known as OASIS, which to many becomes the only reality they care about. Wade is one of them, a young man living with an uncaring aunt in the Stacks, giant piles of literally stacked RVs, busses, containers, etc. In the real world he’s miserable, but in OASIS he’s Parzival, a Gunter, an Egg Hunter. You see, the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, left a giant Easter Egg in the OASIS when he died. If someone finds it, they’d become the sole heir of his giant fortune.
But the years pass and not even hundreds of Gunters can find even the first key in the competition, even considering they all have encyclopedic knowledge of Halliday’s obsessions and likes, ranging from old school PC games to Anime, Tokusatsu series and the 80s era. But then Wade finds the first key and the race is on.
Ready Player One’s world is a dystopia, a truly despicable one, where you can understand people’s obsession with OASIS and the egg hunt. That obsession, the hunt and the slim chance of finding the egg is their only chance of escaping their dreary lives. Ernest Cline tells us much about this world just with his characters’ feelings, how they view the real world and the connections they make in the virtual one. He doesn’t need to give us a grand tour of the future. By just giving us the OASIS as a contrast, we know how bad things are and makes it so that when bad things happen, they don’t come out of left field, but instead feel like things that could really happen in this world.
Ernest Cline tells us the story in Ready Player One through Wade’s eyes, but while he’s our narrator, he also defines the personalities, fears and strengths of the secondary cast, and now that I’ve finished the novel I’m going to miss Aech, Art3mis, Shoto and Daito. The egg hunt itself, and the encyclopedic knowledge the Gunters display about Halliday’s life tells us even more about the OASIS’ reclusive creator, about his manias and regrets.
In telling me of its characters, and taking me down Halliday’s memory lane, Ready Player One took me down mine, made me remember amazing things, happy ones and others very sad.
Ready Player One tells a beautiful story at its core, one of growth, of learning the value of life, reality, friends and loved ones. But it also has loss, and hardship, depression, abandonment and fear, fear of facing life and reality. In its handling of difficult subjects the novel spoke to me on so many levels, its characters and situations resonating with my own experiences no matter how surreal the setting is, and that perhaps is Ready Player One’s greatest strength. There are many heartwarming moments, others where I cringed (and my eyes watered) as I remembered similar moments and some really shocking turns that I couldn’t predict.
One of the things that dominates Cline’s prose is the astounding number of references to 80s media, video games, anime and even movies. Gunters, Parzival included, have encyclopedic knowledge on these subjects as they obsess over them in their quest to find even the tiniest clue that’ll lead them to the keys and the Egg, so Wade’s narration is chock full of these descriptions, including background information, names of organisations, their employees, and even biographical details of its characters and the many games and shows they study. I will say that sometimes it feels too much, like you’re being bombarded with endless exposition, but having said so, for the most part they don’t feel out of place, they feel natural with these knowledgeable characters.
And as a gamer myself, and someone with an almost encyclopedic knowledge on trivia, the Gunters spoke to me one a very deep level. These were ultimate geeks, my people. I caught tons of references, missed others but I’m sure everyone will find something there they like, particularly if they lived through the 80s. I got references that I shouldn’t have just because my endless curiosity took me to places in the internet where I learned weird stuff. The best thing about it is that even if you didn’t experience playing games on an Amiga or an Intellivision, Cline’s descriptions will make them instantly familiar to you. And it’s the same with the environments and people, Cline’s descriptions are vivid in detail and you won’t just imagine you’re there but you will be there, transported into OASIS.
The plot is phenomenal and while at certain points I thought the pacing stalled, it was just groundwork, Cline taking the time to tell you important things that will come into play later in Ready Player One. It can be a character working a day job, or someone reported missing or dying, or the most common thing, the Gunters’ research, from watching Family Ties to booting up Joust. These moments aren’t wasteful, they’re not really info-dumps even if sometimes they feel like that, but as I said, they’re groundwork, so that when things happen, you know why they did and it’s never a Deus Ex Machina.
Ready Player One is a fantastic novel that any gamer, geek and 80s obsessed person in the world needs to read. It tells an amazing story in a phenomenal virtual world with references from anything from Bueller’s day off to World of Warcraft!
5/5 – Hell Yes!