Sunday, April 21, 2013

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline


It's the year 2045 , five years after the death of James Halliday, the creator of the massive multiplayer virtual game known as the OASIS.  Most of the world uses the OASIS on a daily basis, preferring the  online world over the world's dystopian reality.  But when James Halliday died, he left his fortune, and ownership of the OASIS, to whichever gamer can find the hidden Easter egg within the game.  Anyone with access to the OASIS can search for the Easter egg, but their only clues are a riddle, Halliday's journal (known as Avorak's Almanac) and Halliday's obsession with pop culture from the 1980's.

Wade Watts, known by his avatar name of Parzival, is still on the hunt for the first key to unlocking the Easter egg.  He has seen all of the movies, listened to all of the music, and played all of the games mention in Avorak's Almanac, looking for any clue to the riddle.

Most had stopped searching for the answer to the riddle, but when Wade discovers the answer to the first riddle and finds the first of the three keys needed to recover the Easter egg, everyone is determined to be the first to the Easter egg.  But one group, a media conglomerate known as the IOI, will stop at nothing to be the first to the egg, even if that means killing Wade and the other gamers.

My Impressions

I was amazed by how many pop culture references appear in this book.  There are a TON of references to comics, movies, music, and video games that were popular in the 1980's, though there are references to a lot of "geek culture".  Not only were there a lot of references, but there is a lot of background for the references, such as actors, directors, game designers, evolution of game systems, etc.  It is clear that the author loves pop culture and is extremely knowledgeable on the subject.  I learned a lot about various movies, games, and comics, which I probably wouldn't have discovered outside of this book.

While I loved the references, I can see where some people might not enjoy them.  I was familiar with at least 70% of what was mentioned, and since I love "geek culture", I was able to follow most of the references and their importance to the story.  However, if you are not someone who has an interest in video games, comic books. and/or movies and television, then the pop culture references could get tiresome.  I had trouble following the descriptions of various computers and their capabilities because I don't know much about how computers work in general, so those parts of the book were a bit over my head.

I also liked the dystopia that the novel presents.  Though very little of the book takes place outside of the OASIS, the things we do learn about the economy of planet Earth is an extreme case of our current situation: unstable currency, severe global climate changes, growing populations, poverty, and the desire to escape into virtual reality.  I found it realistic that the characters in the book would spend most of their time in the OASIS to escape, and I believe that our world can end up this way if we aren't careful.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I noticed this book when I was working at Hastings, though I didn't decide to read it until it was selected as the common reading book for all first year undergraduates at K-State.  (For some reason, I associated the title of the book with baseball, so I wasn't interested in it.)

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
My Rating: Five Stars