Ready Player One, written by Ernest Cline, and released in 2012 to International acclaim, is a nostalgia-fueled geek fest of a book, and if you were blessed as I was to have been born in the '80s, will have you on youtube chasing down every song referenced throughout.
If watching the 2018 Steven Spielberg take on the book brought Ready Player One to your attention, you are in for a treat, the book is nothing like the film, in other words, it's not awful.
Most people tend to gravitate towards a particular genre that they know and love, for myself, Sci-fi, Fantasy, tech books, and Classic 80s films are my recreational drug of choice.
The book's chief character, Wade Watts, an orphaned teen living in a depressingly ominous near future of global warming, fuel, and food shortages, finds safety and solace in an online utopia called the OASIS.
A VR construct of worlds upon worlds, if it`s been written, or been seen, it`s on the OASIS. From a beach in Hawaii to the World of Warcraft universe, Star Wars and Star Trek, worlds designed for sexual gratification, to a Mall the size of Mars, everything is available online thanks to the game's designer, James Halliday.
Halliday, himself a child of the 80s, a troubled yet brilliant teen, socially warped, introverted to the point of obsession, but with a flair for video games and easter eggs (the hidden ones in games, not the chocolatey ones), designs the game with his only childhood friend, Ogden Morrow, himself a games fan, drawn to Halliday by their mutual love of D&D (dungeons and Dragons FYI) .
All of this eventually leads to the creation of the OASIS, in the process earning Halliday and Morrow Billions of Dollars in revenue as they sell "Virtual Real Estate" to companies to sell their wares online, at almost no cost to their company, Gregarious Simulation Systems, as the two simply spam copy and paste to create entire worlds for online shoppers to go mad with their credit cards.
The eventual death of the lifelong bachelor James Halliday is where the story starts, in what becomes known as "The Hunt" for Hallidays` easter egg, hidden inside the OASIS; whoever shall find the egg becoming the sole owner of the OASIS, and all of the deceased Halliday Billions.
Billions of egg hunters, both in clans or as solo hunters (including our hero, Wade Watts) begin the search, desperately trying to escape the misery of the real world, hiding inside VR, as the real world, grey by comparison, slowly erodes around them. Allied against them is IOI (Innovative Online Industries) The global conglomerate bent on winning the egg hunt by means fair or foul.
Think of IOI as the Empire, and the clans and Wade Watts as the Rebel Alliance, you won't go far wrong...
The book keeps up a steady pace, the characters have plenty of, well, character, albeit a bit one-dimensionally, but you do find yourself rooting for them, and the classic good guys vs bad is always a tried and tested winner.
What really sets the book apart, and you may need a bucket here, is the 80s references, from classic films to awesome sauce tunes that had literally fallen out of your head, if you were a child of this decade, or simply a fan of the films or music, you will fly through Ready Player One.
You may want to read it while sitting in front of YouTube, you can play some of the classics that are so shamelessly promoted throughout the book.
Or you may find yourself pining for The Breakfast Club or any of the John Hughes classics from the Brat-Packs heyday. Ferris Beuller, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, you will be positively bubbling with nostalgic glee by the end, the book really is that thick with references.
There is a lot to be said for the VR OASIS construct too, and Cline ponders the effect of VR on a population, as our own world suffers around us today, and the dramatic global changes of the past few years become an ever alarming portent of doom, Cline asks what we would do if we really did have an escape from it all.
VR addiction is rife throughout the book, referencing things from obesity, sexual addiction, loneliness, and isolation, all give us something to think about. With the ease of access to the OASIS, and the sheer drudgery and poverty of the world in which Wade and his fellow Gunters (Egg Hunters) reside, how tempted would you be to put a headset on and travel the universe in your X-Wing, or playing Zero-Gee golf on Saturns rings?
Overall, the book is a win; and a solid win at that. As evidenced by its best-seller tag, many felt the same as I do about the book. If you love VR and technology, like near-future dystopian or just like a good book, with a good plot, you`ll really enjoy Ready Player One.
If, like me, you love all things the `80s, already had the John Hughes films committed to memory, think Top Gun was a documentary, and still wear your Journey "Don't Stop Believin" 1981 t-shirt, then you`ll probably just melt into a coma of Footloose induced ecstasy. And you`ll love it.
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