Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

#BeatTheBacklist Book 8
2017 Book 8

Format: Print (Paperback)
Length: 372 pages
Published: 2011

Ready Player One has become a must read for geeks of a certain age.  My demographic, that is.  Recently, I found myself in an airport with an insufficient number of books and some time to kill.  Naturally I stumbled into the airport bookstore and now I have my very own copy of Cline’s debut novel.  I was prepared to be underwhelmed by this book.  Which may be why I wasn’t.  I don’t know.

This is the 8th book I have read this year for the Beat The Backlist challenge.  My proposed list of books to read and review is found here.

What It’s About…

It is the not too distant future and much of what you probably suspect will happen has happened.  There is a global energy crisis and food shortage, crime is rampant, people live like impoverished sardines.  Reality is not a fun place to be for most people on earth.  Fortunately, there is an alternative.  The OASIS is an online universe in which people work, shop, learn, and socialize.  Thanks to sophisticated headsets and body wear, time spent in the OASIS can feel as real as real life.  Only less terrible.

The inventor of the OASIS is reclusive oddball James Halliday.  He is the king of the geeks, but he has no heir.  When he dies, he leaves a vast fortune and a puzzle.  The person who can solve the puzzle by collecting three virtual keys and passing through three gates will inherit his fortune, including ownership of the OASIS.  To collect the keys and win the game, players have to master an extensive lexicon of eighties pop culture.  Wait, what?  That’s right.  Halliday was absolutely obsessed with video games, movies, music and television from the 1980s and in order to find the keys and pass through the gates, the players will need to share his obsession with all things eighties.  In addition to needing to have an intimate acquaintance with the pop culture of a decade that ended almost 50 years before any of the players were born, they are also confronted with problems of scale.  The  OASIS is literally infinite and the keys could be located anywhere within it.  5 years after his death the first key has still not been found.  Until a nobody named Wade Watts finds it.

The OASIS is not a utopia. There are haves and have nots and Wade falls firmly in the latter category.  He is poor in both his real and virtual lives.  This means that while the OASIS is a definite improvement over his offline existence, there are still very real limits to what he is able to do there. Finding the first key changes that and much more.  Suddenly he is a powerful player in a game with very high stakes.  He quickly learns that people are willing to kill for power and wealth on this scale.

What I Thought…

I started out thinking that this book was too clever or trying too hard.  I think I was looking for reasons to dislike it.  Cline won me over though.  His vision of the near future is plausible and well rendered.  The OASIS is very nearly a reality now, although its relatively commercial free nature feels more far fetched than the technological aspects.  The quest and the nature of the quest as a massive multiplayer game full of eighties pop culture themed riddles was clever, yes, but not so much so that I couldn’t lose myself in it. What clinched it for me though was the villains.  IOI, the evil corporation bent on world domination, is a bad guy I can enjoy rooting against.

Now that my aging nerd street cred has been shored up, I’m on to read some more books n’at.



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