Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty and disease are widespread.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on an of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will got to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based on Halliday’s obsession with 80s pop culture. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.
The virtual worlds that make up OASIS are a fantastic construct, an endless environment where anything and everything is possible. The author really has let his imagination run riot, and the scenes depicting the ongoing hunt for Halliday’s treasure are great fun. Where the novel really excels is in the comparisons between OASIS and the real world. OASIS is a pristine virtual playground, meanwhile the real world is falling apart and dying a slow death. Hardly a surprise then, that large groups of humanity spend as much of their existence as they can in OASIS.
Ready Player One asks the all-important question ‘can there be such a thing as too many pop culture references in one novel?’ Quick answer – No. The author elegantly scatters a plethora of geeky gems throughout the narrative. Though there are many, many references, they all fit neatly within the confines of the story; not one feels like it has been crowbarred in. There are so many I’m quite sure some may have passed me by, certainly some of the more obscure ones anyway, but every time I came across one I recognised, I have to admit, I could feel the knowing smile creep across my face.
From the very first page you’ll find references to everything 80s you could possibly imagine. From Ghostbusters and Family Ties, to War Games and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. My personal favourites where the couple of references to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, they were perfectly placed and entirely appropriate. Its not just television and film that are referenced either, 80s music also features heavily. Put it this way, if you are a fan of Rush your going to be over the moon.
This novel feels like Cline has taken the best bits from geek masterpiece Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, and fused it together with virtual epic Otherland by Tad Williams. Then he’s decided to add a hefty dose of 80s nostalgia into the mix. The resulting novel is a joy to discover, I don’t doubt for a second that I will read this again.
You’re probably thinking to yourself ‘Should I read this book then or not?’ I suggest you ask the following three questions (1) Did you grow up in the nineteen eighties? (2) Have you ever played and enjoyed a video game/MMORPG? (3) When you watch The Big Bang Theory, (I am making the assumption here that you do watch the show) do you get all the jokes that they make? If the answer is a resounding yes to any of these questions then you NEED to be reading this book NOW.
This week may go on record as being the most fun I have ever had since I started this reviewing malarkey. First Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig and now ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I honestly believe that both these books have the potential to become classics.
My one hope is that someone in Hollywood will stumble across this novel and make the decision to go for a movie adaptation. This has the potential to be something really special and handled delicately, it could be brilliant. Fingers crossed. Actually on top of that if some clever computer geeks could actually create OASIS as well, that would be pretty cool.
Ready Player One is published by Arrow and is available now. Go and purchase it immediately, you can thank me later.