I was born in March of 1979, so I consider myself (whether correctly or not) some of the youngest Gen-Xers and generally a child of the 80s and 90s. The 90s were where my tastes in music were more formulated, but the 80s was my childhood. Though I generally avoid fantasy gaming, rpg’s, etc., I knew I would find something appealing in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. And, to be honest, though it’s been sitting on my kindle for over two years now, I wanted to read it before I saw the movie.
I enjoyed Ready Player One for the most part. While it has its flaws, I think it is an exciting adventure/treasure hunt. We all love a quest, especially when it’s a race against some incredibly evil opponents. The premise is that it’s 2045 and the world pretty much sucks. The Earth is dying, people are overcrowded and our governments are barely keeping things together. A weird, reclusive genius created the OASIS, a completely immersive virtual reality experience most people generally live and go to school in. Then, a few years prior to the novel’s start, he dies. His will indicated that he’d hidden an egg in OASIS and the first person to find it would inherit his entire billion-plus fortune. Cue everyone on the planet at least taking a stab at it. Our hero Wade Watts is a lonely, poor orphan living with his aunt in the stacks (literally RV’s stacked on top of each other), eking out a life going to school in OASIS and trying to find the egg. All the sudden, he figures something out and after five years of nothing, the scoreboard for the contest shows he’s in the lead. All hell breaks loose and it’s now a fight to the finish for Wade and his ragtag group of friends.
Everyone mentions the references when they tell me about this book. So I’ll start with that. If you didn’t grow up in the 80s or have any real interest in 80s culture, so much of this book will be skimmable for you. The integral plot is still worth examining, but you won’t really be able to mentally picture the scenarios in which Wade and his friends find themselves. The novel has a little of a post-apocalyptic feel but I think that is more my interpretation than anything else. There isn’t a large swathe of the planet that is uninhabitable or some large event that killed most everyone off; it’s just a depressing presentation of what damage we probably are doing to the planet and what life could be like in 20-some years. I was pretty young for some of the references to be at all meaningful. I will admit that by the end of the book it’s a little overplayed. I love nostalgia (yay Stranger Things) as much as anyone but readers under 45 will miss some of the references here. Again, not a huge deal but it is fun to try and solve the clues along with Wade, and most of them went over my head and I’m a font of useless knowledge.
I liked most of the supporting cast of characters, though I felt like the two Japanese contestants were a little stereotypical. They do keep to themselves more than the rest of the competitors (Art3mis and Aech), so perhaps that is the consequence of Cline’s choice here. The main villain, Sorrento/IOI Corporation, is terrible and you definitely cheer whenever they run into a setback. We all wish we could do battle with some of the giant corporations that have wormed their way into every aspect of our lives these days. I’m talking to you Amazon. I love you and hate you. I’m eager to see the film adaptation. With Spielberg directing I imagine it’ll be fantastically nostalgic. There isn’t a lot I actively disliked about this novel; Wade is super lucky at all times so you have to suspend your disbelief a lot in that vein. I would have also liked this book if it included others’ points of view rather than a first person narrator. Art3mis and Aech are interesting characters and to know their real stories like we know Wade’s would be cool. Overall, however, if you can get in the groove and forgive the large quantity of 80s references, it’s a fun read.