Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

Synopsis

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Review

This took a while to get into, but once I got into it… IT WAS ENTHRALLING. I struggled to maintain interest for the first part of it for a couple reasons. One, you had to maintain a pretty high suspension of disbelief. There was one mention that Oasis had open-source code. If that were truly the case across the board, you would think that the Easter Egg Hunt would be a hunt through code, not through crazy riddles. Two, things like the “stacks” didn’t make much sense—they were practically like apartments, but flimsier. I assumed that the whole world lived in them though, so once we realized that apartments and such did exist, that problem went away.

Another thing to note is that this book caters to a few very specific quirks and interests, but is still (evidently) accessible to all. If anyone was a nerdtastic gamer growing up in the ’80s, this is probably the best book EVER. While I understand the FEELINGS described, and I have fond memories of video games in my childhood, I would probably love this book 100x more if it was written for my generation. I didn’t get some of the pop culture references, unfortunately.

By “feelings,” I mean, I understand what it’s like to get OBSESSIVE about things. Sometimes, I cared more about my characters in Ragnarok Online, Maple Story, Gaia Online, or even freaking Neopets than strengthening relationships in the real world. I sometimes get what it’s like to feel more comfortable online than in the real world. I know what it’s like to see people I’ve known for so long online, only to be shocked by who they were in real life. Yeah, of course they don’t look like their avatars. The thing is, these feelings are applicable to anything. Books are similar to me, and it’s frightening to think that people can go invested in fictional lives and stories that they don’t go out making experiences of their own.

While I was happy for the High Five (DAITO PLS), I wish “helping everyone” wasn’t limited to the real world, but extended into Oasis too. I understand that by stripping nearly everyone of everything on Oasis, there would be a chance that people would start addressing their real life needs. But Oasis seemed to bring a massive paradigm shift in the world. I don’t think it’s fair that four people got everything restored when everyone else had to start from scratch.

I liked how this book touched upon the GOOD aspects of video games too. OASIS was an educational platform that was better than any real-life one. It could be used to travel. It could help people exercise (looking at you, Wii Fit). There are endless possibilities online.

There are interesting messages about reality. Recently I saw an idea that said something like: “There should be a video game where you fight for the human race, but every time you lost, a limb would be replaced with a robotic one. By the end, you’d be fighting for a cause that you didn’t connect with on a personal level anymore.” That was definitely in my mind as I read this book. Really, apart from the Oasis fame and recognition (after the copper key), why should any of the characters care about winning the prize? Or after winning, why LEAVE when you basically had control of this vast utopia? There are dangers to getting swept up in these false notions of reality. I’m glad it was addressed and Wade had a change of heart before getting “everything in the world.” Whether it was thanks to experiencing the beauty of Oregon in real life, or the wonderment of boarding a REAL airplane, or meeting Aech without any masks, or touching Samantha (get your head out of the gutter there), or even hearing the words out of Halliday’s mouth. Whatever the reason, it’s a strong message. We can’t give up on humanity. We can’t pack a space ship with everything good and book it out of here. But if we stop trying to escape, we can make the world a better place.

Related Reading

  • .hack//Legend of the Twilight (or other books in the .hack// series) – Tatsuya Hamazaki
  • Sword Art Online – Reki Kawahara (although I’ve only watched the adaptation)
  • Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  • Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Rating: 5/5 

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