Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The virtual world is under threat—can a poor kid from the stacks save it from the grasp of corporate evil?

Ready Player One by Ernest ClineTitle: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

GenreSci-fi

Days to read it: 2-3 days, with exponentially faster speed at the end!

Synopsis:

Wade lives in the stacks—spires of trailer homes perched one on top of the other on a makeshift scaffold. In a 22nd century suffering from the economic crash of an energy crisis, this is the norm for the growing population of poor relegated to living on the outskirts of the big metropolises. Despite his bleak circumstances, Wade doesn’t mind. He has OASIS: a free-to-enter, online massively multiplayer virtual reality game that simulates a galaxy’s worth of planet-sized worlds for him to explore—and escape from his depressing reality. In OASIS, Wade is known as Parzival, and his avatar belongs to an exclusive community of geekery-obsessed players called “gunters”, hunters searching for the keys to attaining the biggest “Easter Egg” ever left by OASIS creator, John Halliday. According to the late creator’s will, whoever finds the Egg will inherit Halliday’s multibillion dollar fortune—and the entirety of the OASIS universe. To find Halliday’s Egg, Wade must familiarize himself with every detail of Halliday’s life and obsessions with classic video games and pop culture from the 80s, obsessions Wade himself has grown to share. But there are other, better-armed, better-funded, and much more sinister groups bent on finding Halliday’s Egg, too. Except they want it so they can milk it for its profits, not celebrate the freedom and empowerment it represents. Wade will have to use all his geek-smarts, be resourceful, think on his feet, and team up with the true fans of Halliday in order to win. If he doesn’t, there’ll be more than just virtual repercussions.

Impressions:

The term geek became the proud title we know and love today at the height of the 1980s—during the beginning of the technological boom. Since then, technology has advanced and the number of self-described geeks has grown along with it. To be a geek about something is to have such a wealth and confidence of knowledge on one particular topic that no one can one-up you in a conversation about it. Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a story about one such geek, and it is an homage to the true geeks who more than dabbled in their obsessions—they ate and breathed it all in from the canonical to the obscure, down to the last 8-byte game.

I’m not surprised that the book’s general arc and protagonist are compared to Harry Potter’s story, there’s both a similar sense of comfort in a magical world as well as a sense of coming-of-age against an epic evil. Wade is an underdog, poor, unloved, with not much to brag about in looks. But, when he enters the magical world of OASIS, he’s a different guy—confident, popular, skilled. There’s also a Dumbledore-esque figure, an all-powerful-yet-down-to-earth mentor who is there but not really there…who is rooting for Wade to succeed but only if he does it the right way, only if he proves he is indeed THE ONE. And there’s an evil corporation that is willing to stop at nothing to take what is magical and special about OASIS and corrupt it. Wade can confront them in the virtual world in his empowered form and defeat them, but what if they find his real self?

As I mentioned earlier, Ready Player One takes you on a journey through the 80s pop culture and video game craze that sets the solid foundation for today’s thriving geekdom. There are obscure references and there are mainstream references so there’s a little bit of everything for today’s geek to reminisce. In fact, how quickly you get the references will determine whether you survive in some of the OASIS games. So the geekier you are on the topic, the better! I’m horrible at remembering detailed things (doubly horrible at remembering quotes) so I would probably fail epically at the tasks…

Personally, though I am impressed with Ernest Cline’s dorky-ness, I am even more impressed by his world-building.

Sign me up for OASIS!

Seriously.

Imagine a universe where you can code your own world with its own rules. A place where you can teleport to Hogwarts one day, and visit Middle Earth or Tatooine the next. And not only go there but become your favorite character and play out your every fantasy. A universe containing an infinite number of games created throughout history—a universe where you, a regular ol’ person, can become anyone you want —a hero, a god. In a zero lag digital universe, possibilities are endless. 2044 is only less than 30 years away…bring on the virtual reality! But let’s hope there will be better hygiene regarding those haptic suits 😛

Overall, I enjoyed Ready Player One for its fast-paced storytelling and overall celebration of the dorky-ness in us all! It’s both thrilling and comforting and massive tons of fun.

Rating: 4 pairs of haptic gloves.

Here’s an excerpt about Wade’s secret hide-out in the stacks, and his excitement at entering OASIS!

Excerpt:

I pocketed my flashlight and unlocked the van’s rear right door. It opened about a foot and a half, giving me just enough room to squeeze inside. I pulled the door closed behind me and locked it again. The van’s rear doors had no windows, so I was hunched over in total darkness for a second, until my fingers found the old power strip I’d duct-taped to the ceiling. I flipped it on, and an old desk lamp flooded the tiny space with light.
 
The crumpled green roof of a compact car covered the crushed opening where the windshield had been, but the damage to the van’s front end didn’t extend beyond the cab. The rest of the interior remained intact. Someone had removed all the van’s seats (probably to use as furniture), leaving a small “room” about four feet wide, four feet high, and nine feet long.
 
This was my hideout.
 
I’d discovered it four years earlier, while searching for discarded computer parts. When I first opened the door and gazed into the van’s darkened interior, I knew right away that I’d found something of immeasurable value: privacy. This was a place no one else knew about, where I wouldn’t have to worry about getting hassled or slapped around by my aunt or whatever loser she was currently dating. I could keep my things here without worrying they’d be stolen. And, most important, it was a place where I could access the OASIS in peace.
 
The van was my refuge. My Batcave. My Fortress of Solitude. It was where I attended school, did my homework, read books, watched movies, and played videogames. It was also where I conducted my ongoing quest to find Halliday’s Easter egg.
 
I’d covered the walls, floor, and ceiling with Styrofoam egg cartons and pieces of carpeting in an effort to soundproof the van as much as possible. Several cardboard boxes of busted laptops and computer parts sat in the corner, next to a rack of old car batteries and a modified exercise bike I’d rigged up as a recharger. The only furniture was a folding lawn chair.
 
I dropped my backpack, shrugged off my coat, and hopped on the exercise bike. Charging the batteries was usually the only physical exercise I got each day. I pedaled until the meter said the batteries had a full charge, then sat down in my chair and switched on the small electric heater I kept beside it. I pulled off my gloves and rubbed my hands in front of the filaments as they began to glow bright orange. I couldn’t leave the heater on for very long, or it would drain the batteries.
 
I opened the rat-proof metal box where I kept my food cache and took out some bottled water and a packet of powdered milk. I mixed these together in a bowl, then dumped in a generous serving of Fruit Rocks cereal. Once I’d wolfed it down, I retrieved an old plastic Star Trek lunch box I kept hidden under the van’s crushed dashboard. Inside were my school-issued OASIS console, haptic gloves, and visor. These items were, by far, the most valuable things I owned. Far too valuable to carry around with me.
 
I pulled on my elastic haptic gloves and flexed my fingers to make sure none of the joints was sticking. Then I grabbed my OASIS console, a flat black rectangle about the size of a paperback book. It had a wireless network antenna built into it, but the reception inside the van was for shit, since it was buried under a huge mound of dense metal. So I’d rigged up an external antenna and mounted it on the hood of a car at the top of the junk pile. The antenna cable snaked up through a hole I’d punched in the van’s ceiling. I plugged it into a port on the side of the console, then slipped on my visor. It fit snugly around my eyes like a pair of swimmer’s goggles, blocking out all external light. Small earbuds extended from the visor’s temples and automatically plugged themselves into my ears. The visor also housed two built-in stereo voice microphones to pick up everything I said.
 
I powered on the console and initiated the log-in sequence.  I saw a brief flash of red as the visor scanned my retinas. Then I cleared my throat and said my log-in pass phrase, being careful to enunciate: “You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.”
 
My pass phrase was also verified, along with my voice pattern, and then I was logged in. The following text appeared, superimposed in the center of my virtual display:
 
Identity verification successful.
Welcome to the OASIS, Parzival!
Login Completed: 07:53:21 OST-02.10.2045
 
As the text faded away, it was replaced by a short message, just three words long. This message had been embedded in the log-in sequence by James Halliday himself, when he’d first programmed the OASIS, as an homage to the simulation’s direct ancestors, the coin-operated video-games of his youth. These three words were always the last thing on OASIS user saw before leaving the real world and entering the virtual one:
 
READY PLAYER ONE

I’d recommend y’all read it soon because apparently Warner Bros. has picked up film rights for the book. They have Steven Spielberg signed up as director and a planned release date of December 2017! I can definitely imagine this one translated onto the big screen!

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15 comments

  1. I loved this book. It wasn’t even the 80s references, because I’m sure at least half of them went over my head, but it was the online gaming aspect that really got to me. I am an avid player of MMOs and a lot of my closest friends are people I’ve never met in the flesh…but it doesn’t mean those relationships are any less meaningful. I remember reading this and when I got to the part the main character met his fellow gaming buddies for the first time…man, the emotions!

  2. Mogsy – Haha! I don’t play all that many MMOs but yeah, there is the same equivalent with anything internet related! Even with blogging 😛 It was definitely a really emotional scene when Wade meets his pals for the first time in real life. And all that mystery surrounding Art3mis!!

  3. I was a teenager in the 80’s (graduated from high school in 87), so this book hit so many familiar notes. I “read” it via the audio book, narrated expertly by Wil Wheaton. This is one book I recommend a lot and I always recommend people experience it via audio because Wheaton embodies the character so well.

    I’m happy you enjoyed the book.

  4. I really liked this too! I remember hesitating over buying this – when I finally caved, I probably finished within a couple of days. I hope the movie does it justice…

    I haven’t read his latest yet though (ARMADA?) – have read mixed reviews of that one.

    Li

  5. Lisa – Me, too! I think with today’s special effects technology the film can definitely do cool things to make the novel come alive on screen!

  6. Li – Yeah, I think people still preferred Ready Player One over Armada 🙂 And yes! I totally think this novel is translatable to film 😀 I hope they don’t mess up….:P

  7. Carl – Ohh! I didn’t know Wil Wheaton does the narration for the audiobook…totally going to check it out, now 🙂 Thanks for the head’s up!!

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