[Contains no spoilers]
Ready Player One can be summed up quite simply as ‘the ultimate geek book’. I’ve heard other people describe it as a ‘nerd utopia’, and they’re certainly not wrong there.
The story begins in 2044 in an almost dystopic world. Climate change and global warming has taken its toll, civilisation is in decline, and most of the world is over populated and penniless. In these dark days everyone looks for a distraction – something that can make them forget about the real universe they live in, and provide some sense of hope and happiness.
Enter, the OASIS. The OASIS is an online massively multiplayer simulation game that allows the players to create an account and login for free to control a virtual avatar of themselves with their headset and haptic gloves. Through the OASIS, players can do any number of things whether it’s attend school, go to work, watch films, read books, or explore the huge world and complete various quests, challenges, and games.
The story focuses on the main character, Wade Watts, in his attempt to complete the biggest quest of all while battling enemies, living in poverty, and trying to impress the girl he loves. When the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he leaves his entire fortune to whoever manages to find a hidden ‘egg’ within the simulation. To do this, players must use clues and riddles left by Halliday to find three keys and unlock three gates in order to reach the end of the game and find the prize.
Now jumping straight into it. One of the biggest parts of the plot to Ready Player One is all of the references to 80’s pop culture. James Halliday was a teen of the eighties and so uses films, games, TV, and music references to create the ‘Easter egg’ hunt and leave behind clues. Initially I wondered if this would just make it a very boring read to anyone who didn’t understand the references – but how wrong was I?! I was born in the 90’s so completely missed the decade that the book so frequently references, and somehow, through Cline’s brilliant research and explanation, I was still able to laugh along at the inside jokes and find the book incredibly exciting!
I think the whole idea of Ready Player One is very clever. If you want to write a book where the story involves wizards and aliens and dungeons and robots all in one chapter, then set it within a game where anything can happen. This allows it to be believable and take place in the real world. There’s no need to create alternative universes that often appeal only to the geekiest of geeks.
Ready Player One also addresses some interesting subjects, the biggest being how we have come to rely upon technology. The main character describes how, with the energy crisis, people have come to rely solely on the simulation to find any kind of happiness. The book is set in the future so is by no means a description of how we use technology now, but perhaps could be used as an allegory to describe how it could become.
The great thing about Wade Watts, the main character, is that for a lot of teenagers, he is very relatable. He prefers to spend his time playing games and watching films instead of being outside. Wade struggles at school and has found it hard to make friends, especially in the real world. However, what really makes me like this character is his determination to stand up for what he believes in. This is what sets him apart from being the antisocial school dropout and instead turns him into someone who is relatable, but equally someone we can learn something from.
I have seen a lot of people say the endless references in this book to 80’s pop culture can be a little unnecessary at times. I say nah! Okay, some of them do not hugely add to the story, but 9 times out of 10, they’re really funny.
This brings me onto my final and possibly only semi negative point. Who is this book for? The style and plot of the book makes me think it fits into the young adult category. But the references, humour, and jokes are clearly aimed at folk who remember the 80’s. Yes, it’s all understandable and funny to anyone not from that decade, but I still wouldn’t be sure what section to display the book in at Waterstones.
In conclusion: I loved this book. It held my interest the whole way through and I thought it was brilliantly witty, exciting, and full of action. It’s incredibly well researched and the descriptions are written in a way that makes you feel like you’re in the simulation yourself. So nerds, geeks, gamers, teenagers of the 80’s, and anyone who just fancies reading something a little different, I would highly recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – and you can buy it off Amazon here.
It feels like my reviews are getting longer. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Does anyone have any suggestions? Is it just getting boring halfway through? Or is it okay finding out a little bit more about a book? Help!