While it might not be necessary to be a huge video game lover in order to enjoy Ready Player One, it will help. And you will definitely need to have an affinity for pop culture — the 80s, in particular — or some of the lists of movies, tv shows, songs and games will get old in a hurry. Luckily if, like me, you generally enjoy these things, then you will freaking love this book.
“If I was feeling depressed or frustrated about my lot in life, all I had to do was tap the Player One button, and my worries would instantly slip away as my mind focused itself on the relentless pixelated onslaught on the screen in front of me. There, inside the game’s two-dimensional universe, life was simple: It’s just you against the machine. Move with your left hand, shoot with your right, and try to stay alive as long as possible.”
Set in 2045, Ready Player One stars 18 year old Wade Watts (a.k.a. Parzival) as one of millions of “gunters” – online gamers searching for a billion dollar Easter Egg planted somewhere in the OASIS, a virtual online game that allows a person to create an avatar and explore millions of worlds. The creator, James Halliday, planted secret clues before his death to find the Easter Egg, which awards the winner his substantial fortune. Playing against millions of kids like Wade are clans of avatars, as well as the evil corporate Sixers, hell bent on finding the egg, and controlling the OASIS. Halliway was an 80s kid, and all the clues involved 80s movies, songs, games, tv shows, and so on. Therefore, Wade (and the rest of his competition) know these things by heart, and they pop up often in the novel.
Ready Player One was funny, smart and a great story. I loved Wade and his fellow gamers, and the Sixers make for great bad guys. The dismal world Wade lives in outside the OASIS is no doubt where we’re heading, and Cline illustrates it in scary detail. I also loved the idea of the OASIS, full of planets featuring various worlds from pop culture (Discworld, Middle Earth, even Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse gets mentioned). It sounds simply wonderful.
I listened to the audio version, which Wil Wheaton narrated. While Mr. Wheaton does a poor job imitating other character’s voices (unlike, for instance, the narrators of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, or Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, who nail various characters and their accents to the point where they can recognized immediately), his natural voice finds a perfect fit with Wade’s rather nerdy character, and that made it even more fun to listen to. Hopefully he narrates the forthcoming sequel as well.