Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

First, and perhaps most importantly, what a fun story.  Once I had purchased Ready Player One, I knew it wouldn’t sit on my shelves long (despite the massively large amount of books already on my TBR shelf).  I bought into the hype from the get-go and was so not disappointed – in fact, I think I enjoyed the book more than I had even hoped.

Wade Watts (online avatar – Parzival) is a senior in high school around year 2041.  The world is crumbling around him as humans spend all of their time inside the virtual world of OASIS, ignoring the reality that planet Earth’s days are numbered. When the multibillionaire creator of OASIS dies, he bequeaths his fortune to the first person able to uncover the hidden Easter egg he wrote into the OASIS code.  What follows is a desperate scramble to win the game and escape the miserable existence of reality, led by Parzival and his friends Artemis, Aech, Shoto, and Daito.  Right on their tails is IOI, the evil corporation who hopes to use their fortune and resources to not only win the money, but also control of the single most important social construct in the present day world.  Throw in a massive amount of 80s trivia, a hero’s quest, the search for identity and you’ve got the gist of Ready Player One.

At first I couldn’t understand why the media was making such a big deal of the billionaire’s death.  After all, the people of Planet Earth had other concerns.  The ongoing energy crisis. Catastrophic climate change.  Widespread famine, poverty, and disease.  Half a dozen wars.  You know:  “dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!”

You do not have to be an 80s connoisseur or pop culture guru to love this story.   Most references to these types of geeky entertainment are fully described and brought to life by Cline within the book.  I do warn you, however, that you’ll come away with a list of films, television shows, music, books and other items you’ll immediately want to consume.  My Netflix queue is filled with movies from this novel, much to my husband’s benefit as movies such as Blade Runner are, in his opinion, modern classics.  I can’t wait to re-read once I’ve educated myself.  Not that I’m a complete 80s novice, I love Pretty in Pink like I love Pride and Prejudice.  Plus, the 80s gave me life – so kudos most beloved decade.

To make a point out of my babbling, you don’t necessarily have to know the details of the 80s, but I think you need to understand what the 80s could possibly mean to a group of people young and old, or a deteriorating world in manic need to find themselves – to find an identity outside the virtual playground so that they survive the forces constantly pushing against them.  I can’t think of a decade that better eclipses the search for identity.  All the silly clothes and loud fashion, the experimental music, huge political failures and successes, the rise of a younger generation, and the rapid progress of the computer and technology.  There’s a lot you can learn from such a oft-criticized and repeatedly mocked decade.

All that important sounding junk aside, Ready Player One is a fast-paced, fun, quirky, and often touching story of friendship and competition.  There are explosions and high action for those who are adrenaline junkies right alongside great character development, romance, and compelling social commentary for the readers who require a little more depth.  And both groups will be utterly satisfied.  While Ready Player One might never win any literary awards or be studied some 200 years in the future,  Will Watts and his comrades will hold a dear place in the hearts of many readers and will remain on my bookshelf to be reread for years to come.  A book that can glorify Cap’N Crunch cereal right along with showing the detriments of global warming wins my own personal award for Awesomeness.  I can’t wait to see what Ernie Cline does next!

One last aside:  I think anyone who believes they hate science fiction should read this book.  I’ve recommended it to several sci-fi haters and they’ve all had to eat crow!  Take a chance!  You can always leave me scathing comments and ‘I told you so’ trash talk feedback if you prove me wrong – I can handle it!