Dec 27, 12
Read from June 17 to July 11, 2012
Reading Ready Player One was probably the most pure fun I had reading any book this year. I literally did not want it to end.
I am a member of the Atari generation. I grew up spending much of my time playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends, haunting mall arcades mastering games like Joust, Tempest and Pac Man, and learning how to program on my 16K TRS-80 and Apple IIe while sneaking sessions on Zork, Aklabeth, Adventure and their various iterations for hours on end. Ernest Cline goes to the near future in Ready Player One to revisit video gaming's near past of the early 1980's, and it is so refreshing to find someone who gives these sources the respect they deserve. When I was reading Ready Player One I often had to explain to others what the huge smile on my face was all about.
Ready Player One is a quest. In the year 2044 the world is a mess economically and many, if not most, spend their time in the Oasis, a massive multiplayer online simulation game much like World of Warcraft, only much larger. Wade, the main character in the story, is an extremely poor boy who lives with relatives in "The Stacks," a trailer park in Oklahoma City where mobile homes are stacked several high in order to save space. A garbage dump/auto graveyard surrounds the Stacks, and over time Wade manages to piece together working laptops from leftover parts and he is able to connect to The Oasis using an old car battery for power and a pirated Wi-Fi connection while hidden in an old conversion van. Wade attends school in the Oasis and uses his spare time boning up on the obscure 1980's cultural references that Oasis' creator James Halliday grew up with. Halliday reminds me a bit of a Bill Gates/Steve Jobs character.
When Halliday dies, he leaves a will stating that his fortune will go to the one who can solve the obscure riddles he left throughout the Oasis, find the three keys, and use them to get through the matching portals. The riddles are affectionately referred to as Halliday's Easter Eggs, and the ones searching for them are called Gunters (short for egg hunters). The gunters believe that the key to the riddles lie in Halliday's beloved 1980's, and we get a liberal peppering of pop culture references throughout the hunt.
We run into pretty much all things late 70's and 80's geek, including John Hughes films, Family Ties, Rush's 2112, Dr. Who, Blade Runner, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Breakfast Club, Robotron: 2084, Galaga, Rocky Horror Picture Showand many more. Along the way Wade, who chooses the screen name Parzival, meets and makes friends with other gunters Aech (his best friend), Art3mis (a well-known Canadian blogger and gunter), and Daito and Shoto (Japanese gunters working together as a team). Although they start out working alone, they end up helping each other when their "Sixer" rivals from Innovative Online Industries (IOI), which wants to take over the Oasis, start getting nasty.
Special note: the book itself contains several Easter Eggs directing the reader to secret internet games (a new Atari 2600 game called "The Stacks" you can play online, etc.) The first through the three "real life" portals won a DeLorean from the author. Also, if you are a fan of the 2009 film "Fanboys" as I am, you will be interested to know that the author Ernest Cline wrote that screenplay as well.
Ready Player One is wildy original. It is fun, fast-paced, has a big heart, and is so compulsively readable that I was up way past bedtime every night for a week unable to stop turning the pages. Simply put, I absolutely loved it. Highly recommended.