Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. New York: Crown Publishers, 2011.
Imagine a future where people live almost entirely immersed in a virtual world, escaping from an increasingly ugly reality. In the OASIS, people can shop, play, travel and even attend school in a vast utopia. Now, imagine that future society obsessed with the 1980’s. That is the world of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
It is 2044, years since the death of multi–billionaire James Halliday, creator of the OASIS. Halliday died with no heirs and left his entire fortune to the person who can solve the fiendishly difficult puzzles, or Easter eggs, he has hidden in the OASIS. Halliday loved the pop culture of the 80’s, so millions of hopeful egg hunters, nicknamed “gunters,” immerse themselves in the popular culture of that decade. Wade Watts is just another teen gunter watching endless episodes of 80’s sitcoms and memorizing scripts of John Hughes’ movies when he stumbles upon the solution to the first part of the puzzle and the race to complete the quest is underway. But with billions of dollars at stake, the danger is not only virtual. There are those who will kill to get their hands on the money and control of the OASIS.
While the story is set in a dark, forbidding future society, this is not a weighty dystopian novel. Nor is it only appealing to geeks, despite the importance of gaming for the narrative. The dystopian future serves only to provide a plausible setting for a culture where people spend as much time as possible escaping into a virtual world. As someone who attended high and college in the 80’s, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to indulge in nostalgia for the popular culture of my youth, and the fast-paced action left me unable to put this book down. All in all, Ready Player One is a fun, light read that will appeal to geeks and non-geeks alike.