Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Wade Watts lives with his aunt in a trailer stack on the outskirts of a US metropolis in 2044.  Both of his parents are dead, and his aunt hates him.  She only allows him in her trailer because she gets his food vouchers.  During the day, however, Wade is someone else.  He attends high school in a virtual reality online world known as OASIS, which he interfaces using a visor and a pair of haptic gloves provided by his charter high school program.  Wade does well in school, and yet his primary focus is on something else.  The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, began a contest at the time of his death.  Whoever is the first to find an easter egg within the immense OASIS universe will inherit his preposterous fortune. To find it, contestants will have to be versed in Halliday's personal interests, which revolve around 80's pop-culture, and especially nerd-culture: video games, movies, books, music, TV series, anime, cartoons, dnd, and japanese monster flicks.  Wade has spent the past several years as a "gunter," an easter egg hunter, and has immersed himself in that universe.  And, with a few lucky breaks, he might just be about to make a breakthrough.

The concept of the virtual world of OASIS is well-realized in this book.  Against the backdrop of a dystopian future United States, it makes sense that so many people would opt to instead find release from their bleak world by logging into a virtual universe with nearly endless new places to explore. But the heart of this book is how its characters make use of OASIS to revel in and experience the rich array of 80's culture that is infused into the novel.  It was a walk back down the memories of my childhood. Ferris Buhler. Goonies. Joust. Zork. Rush. Lord of the Rings. All of it is described and delivered with so much zeal by the author that you can tell how much he loves that source material.

If that weren't enough to compel the narrative forward, the book becomes even more of a page-turner as the stakes get higher. Along the way, we see Wade's character develop and mature, along with several of his closer friends and companions that he meets while pursuing Halladay's quests.  It's a fun, wild adventure, and at the same time a very satisfying trip down memory lane.  One of my favorite books of the past several years.

No comments:

Post a Comment