In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
The Literary Atlas Review:
If you grew up in the 80’s as I did, you’ll feel right at home reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I recognized many of the video and arcade games that I played as a teenager in the 80’s. I remembered how much fun they were to play and how much time I lost playing those games. (It was also disconcerting to realize how old I would be as an adult in this story, but that’s another matter.) I remember vector graphics and a time when video games were simpler and didn’t have bosses and the goal was to beat my previous high score.
But Ready Player One isn’t just about video games. It’s also about the music, movies, and tv shows of that era. I recognized many of the titles, and there’s plenty that I never heard of but I was familiar with the genre in general (such as Japanese anime). I loved the references to Dungeons and Dragons, Star Trek, and anything else 80’s related. Until I read Ready Player One, I never realized how much cultural information exists about the 80’s. In this quest, a “gunter” has to be organized, quick thinking, highly intelligent, and a logical and creative thinker. I realized as I read Ready Player One, that to completely understand any culture and its nuances thoroughly, a person has to process, understand, and integrate an immense amount of information and put that knowledge into action as appropriate. Wade’s quest in the OASIS requires him to put all of those skills to the test and reach beyond what he thinks he’s capable of. The quest isn’t actually a brute force exercise–it’s an intellectual challenge of the highest order. As for writing the story, I’m impressed that Cline managed to provide so much relevant material in such a concise and narrowly focused manner. It would be easy to run off on tangents and lose the story’s thread, but that never happens in Ready Player One.
In Ready Player One there’s plenty of humor and I liked the main character Wade Watts as well as his buddies. The story’s setting takes place on the OASIS, but society outside the OASIS has extreme poverty, insanely high unemployment, and incredibly high crime rates. Inequality abounds outside the OASIS, but inside the platform, people have a fairer opportunity to rise above their economic situation and overcome any other social prejudices. While Cline addresses these social ills in Ready Player One, they are not the focus of the story. Wade has plans to help society, but that plan is not the main focus of Cline’s book. To help others, Wade must improve his own financial and social standing and the way to achieve those goals is to win the quest for Halliday’s multi-billion dollar fortune and that is Cline’s focus in Ready Player One.
Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is not a deep book, but it’s fun and entertaining. It’s a quick read that I was sorry to see end because I enjoyed the trip down memory lane to 80’s culture. And I love stories that take place in a virtual reality setting because, well, it’s just pure fun. Ready Player One has it all: action, adventure, a little romance, and even some corporate espionage. It’s perfect for adults and teens.