I can’t remember the last time a book was this much fun. Ready Player One is a straight-up, old-school Grail Quest wrapped in 80’s pop culture and vid...moreI can’t remember the last time a book was this much fun. Ready Player One is a straight-up, old-school Grail Quest wrapped in 80’s pop culture and video game nostalgia. And it’s AWESOME. (Yes, my inner 14-year old is contributing to this review. After reading this book, he already made me dig up an Atari 2600 emulator online. I’ll have to put my foot down before he drags out all my Gatchaman DVDs.)
In a way this book was manipulative in the same way that Jo Walton’s Among Others was manipulative, but this time I didn’t mind so much. My complaint about Walton was that all the nostalgia buttons she pressed were too literary, and not trashy enough. That’s not a problem with Ready Player One, certainly not after the hero pays a visit to a classic Gygax D&D module.
The book is set in a dystopian near-future where the world is on the brink of total economic and environmental collapse, and everyone who is able to spends all their time online in the OASIS, the ultimate in MMORPGs, in which all the aforementioned tributes to 80s geekery take place. It would be presumptuous, of course, to make the classic Baby Boomer mistake and imagine that generations of the future would share the same fixations as those of the past, but in the novel it makes sense: the Quest revolves around the hunt for an Easter egg left by the OASIS’s deceased designer, a Howard Hughes/Bill Gates type who was himself a child of the 80s and who couched all of his clues to the egg’s whereabouts in terms of his childhood obsessions. The prize: to inherit the designer’s billion-dollar fortune and control of the OASIS.
And so you have a Hero: the poor kid from a trailer park. There’s the Girl he longs after, and the trusty Best Friend. And of course, there’s the Villain in the form of an evil corporation that wants control of the OASIS for itself and won’t stop at anything – even murder in the real world – to get it. If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that the story follows the familiar Quest structure so faithfully, that the heroes aren't very conflicted on moral grounds about what is basically a greed-driven quest, and that the bad guys are so totally, irredeemably eeevil. But then, that would be like going to the best hamburger joint in the universe and complaining about the lack of selection on the wine list.
So just shut up and read the book. If at all possible, listen to the audio version narrated by Wil Wheaton. (less)