I finally broke down and read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline because it just isn’t going anywhere. My previous reason for not reading Ready Player One? Basically, because I am not a fifteen-year-old boy so I made an assumption that I would not enjoy it. So one of two things is happening… either I actually do have the same interests as a fifteen-year-old boy OR it’s a really good book. The answer, of course, is that both of these things are true. It helps to be a total nerd, but I do not think that it is necessary to be a total nerd to enjoy this book. And you might as well just read the damn thing because Steven Spielberg is making it into a movie next year so it’s not as though you can ignore it.
The good news is that it’s a super fun read. The year is 2044. The place? A depressed and totally screwed up US. This will shock everyone, but apparently years of science denying republicans in government might actually have some consequences (what?) and there are too many people in too small a space with very little natural resources. (All political snarkiness mine, but come on) It’s not quite The Hunger Games, but not a whole lot better. Everyone spends their lives in a virtual utopia called OASIS. They work and go to school and read and have sex and socialize and basically do everything by putting on a suit and interacting over the internet, which sometimes sounds like a dream come true but in reality is even worse than, well, reality.
The story centers on a race to solve an incredible puzzle that the now deceased creator of the OASIS has embedded within the virtual universe. It is a series of challenges that the whole world is obsessed with completing – kind of like Willy Wonka but the stakes are slightly higher than a chocolate factory; limitless resources, money and a way out of this hellscape. Wade Watts is our teenaged hero, a poor orphan who is barely one step in front of the authorities, determined to win the ultimate prize. He prepares for the game by researching what he knows was the creators favorite thing, 80’s pop culture, and this is where things get really fun. The challenges rely on detailed knowledge of everything from Pac Man to War Games to Duran Duran and it is inventive and totally unique and I loved it. Naturally evil corporations have been formed for the sole purpose of trying to win this game, and there are plenty of people who will do anything to get what they want. Wade finds the first clue and it sets up a thrilling game between Wade, his (virtual) friends, his (virtual) love, and a bunch of nasty bad guys.
The story isn’t perfect – things lag a bit between the challenges – and it can be a little depressing if you think too hard about what has happened to our world in a time frame that is really not too far in the future; but I promise you’ve never read anything remotely like this, and I can’t wait to see what they do to a screen version of this.
Ready Player One: A- (go ahead, you geek, you’ll love it)