Saturday, October 08, 2011


Ernest Cline wrote Ready Player One with a very specific reader in mind.  This person grew up in the 1980s and played a lot of video games.  He loved Rush, WarGames, Asteroid, Monty Python, Dungeons & Dragons.  He played video games obsessively--he was the beginning of the current geekiarchy.

This book was a ton of fun.  The world building is intense, amusing, and incredibly well thought out.  It's pretty explicitly laid out--the narrator gives you a history lesson, and drops a lot of information throughout the book in the manner of someone whose audience needs info.  What's kind of cool is that he's filling you with '80s trivia and late 21st century history in the same tone of voice, and you never feel like he's laying it on too thick.

I got most of the movie references and almost none of the video games, but you are handed more than enough information.  Mike was actually turned off by all the name dropping, and I can see that--programmers who worked on obscure video games, characters in specific Dungeons & Dragons quests, shots that appeared in specific movies, the book is loaded up.  I'd argue that it's not overloaded, and that part of the point is that these people are all weirdly submerged in a pop culture that isn't even their own.  But you could argue with me on those points.

Instead of the internet, these future folks have the OASIS, which is a simulated universe where most modern life takes place.  Everyone has an avatar, and access to the OASIS is free and anonymous (though you can only have one avatar at a time, which is an interesting twist), per the specific plan of its kooky creator, Halliday.  When Halliday died with no heirs, he left his enormous fortune to whoever solved the scavenger hunt he'd left in the OASIS and found his Easter egg.

Now our hero Wade (avatar Parzival) and everyone else in the world are trying to track down the egg.  Including mammoth corporations who want to monetize the OASIS, and will stop at nothing to win the prize.  You can imagine that Wade has a series of adventures and near misses, learning about the true meaning of freedom, friendship, and Zork along the way, and you'd be right.  It's action packed.

And if it played out a little more straightforwardly than I had expected, if the boogeyman I kept waiting for didn't jump out, well, there's a sweetness and innocence to the feel-good ending that I can't help but love. 

Also, I played Joust once.  The '80s were crazy, man.

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