Thursday, 18 December 2014

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This book is really fun. Like really really fun. I don’t know what it is about the 80s that makes them so much fun to reminisce about, but there is just so much culture there! Are all decades like this? Is it just because that’s the decade that I started in, so it means more to me and all of my generation? Do our parents care about the 60s and 70s as much as we care about the 80s? Luckily for me, this book is chock-a-block full of the 80s, with a smattering of 90s and 2000s thrown in, even though it takes place in 2044.
The book starts when multi-billionaire James Halliday, the creator of a massive mmorpg (massively multi-player online role-playing game) Virtual Reality world, dies without any heirs. Now the world at this point is a pretty scummy place and the OASIS is where anyone can go to escape reality. People have jobs on the Oasis, kids go to school, people get married… its hundreds of thousands of different worlds where anyone can be whatever they want to be. Hallidy, a very eccentric recluse has died and left a little Easter egg (a video game term for hidden content – usually something fun) inside the Oasis, somewhere, and whoever finds it inherits his MASSIVE fortune. The world basically goes nuts trying to find it, but for 5 years nothing happens and for the most part the hype dies down, except with a group of egg hunters known as the Gunters. Then, suddenly, an 18 year old gunter figures out the first clue, and the world goes nuts once more!
The story reads like a movie script (which makes sense, Cline was a screenwriter before writing Ready Player One, and actually sold the movies rights to the novel before it was even published). It’s fast and punchy and fun (have I mentioned that already?) Hallidy, like his creator Ernest Cline, is obsessed with the 80s and has recreated worlds inside the Oasis that resemble all of his favourite 80s movies, tv shows and games. There are innumerable references – The Goonies, Speed Racer, Mad Max, Star Trek and Star Wars, REM, Bon Jovi, Monty Python, He-Man and She-ra…. Every John Hughes movie, and to find the magic Easter egg one must know all of this culture inside and out. Wade Watts, our unlikely hero knows it all. He’s a kid from the wrong side of the tracks. His mom and dad are both dead and he is being ‘raised’ by his moms sister Alice, who only keeps him around for the extra food stamps. He lives in ‘the stacks’ which is literally a trailer park where the trailers are stacked one on top of another. There are parks like this over the entire country, rows and rows and rows of trailers piled miles high. There are horror stories of one stack falling over and taking down the whole park like an evil game of dominoes.  Wade longs to leave the stacks and spends hour upon hour hooked up to the Oasis, where he attends school and attempts to find Halliday’s Easter egg and make something of himself.
No adventure story would be complete without a good bad guy though, and with IOI (Innovative Online Industries), we have a pretty decent despicable monopoly. IOI is a company that is trying to obtain control of the Oasis – they want to start charging user fees and they want to have control over all of its content, and they are willing to stop at pretty much nothing to get there. They have teams of people learning all of the 80s lore, specialists in every field, they have found every loophole possible to winning and exploit them as much as possible… and when Wade starts to figure things out on his own they will stop at nothing to either recruit him, or destroy him. 

And that’s pretty much where I am right now. Wade has beaten the first gate (clue), along with 4 others – Aech, his best friend on the Oasis; Art3mis, the girl (maybe? There is speculation she may be a 63 year old man named Chuck) of Wade’s dreams; and two Japanese brothers…. IOI is after him, but beating the first gate, first, has its perks and Wade is determined to evade them.

I must say, Ernest Cline has written a great story. I do have a few minor issues – mostly I find that Wade doesn’t really talk like an 18 year old boy… but I have been informed that this is probably since the story is told as reminiscence, so he’s really speaking from whatever age he actually is… I’ll buy this – but it doesn’t really matter as it is not affecting my enjoyment of the book at all. I think the thing that I am appreciating the most about this right now is how accessible the writing is. I am not sure what genre I would categorize this book under, but probably mild cyberpunk? A genre that I have tried many times before and it can be hard! Cline is writing about the future, which means that a lot of the tech he talks about does not really exist yet (although it pretty much does…. Oculus Rift anyone?) and he does a brilliant job of explaining it in a way that I can visualize pretty easily. He doesn’t get too extravagant in making up new tech – it’s only 30 years away after all – but just seems follows the natural progression that technology is already taking. We’ve heard of most of the stuff he mentions, or at least we’ve heard of something like it.

My favourite aspects of this book are all of the pop culture references. It’s not just the 80s that Cline bombards us with. Pretty much every geeky thing that’s popular today, or anytime in the last 30 years, makes an appearance; Firefly, Will Wheaton, The Matrix, Rush, Cyberpunk , Pac Man, Vonnegut, Back to the Future, Cowboy Beebop . It’s all thrown in there, and while I didn’t get ALL of the references, I did get a little thrill every time I recognized something, and quite a few references elicited a little giggle. The story may be a tad bit predictable… I am willing to put money on the fact that Wade ends up winning the game (although not without lots of obstacles), but I don’t think the point is to throw us off our game – this is an adventure story, it’s a coming of age story, it’s the quest that every little kid dreams of! I, for one am hooked, line and sinker, and can’t wait to keep reading and questing!
It was easy for me to match a tea with Ready Player One - Read My Lips from David's. Its little bit sweet and a little bit spicy, but more importantly - It has little red candy lips, which totally remind me of the hot lips candy and my childhood. Appropriate for this story, I believe!


  1. Dear Sheila,

    I know we had a discussion about this really really fun book. But now that I'm reading your blog, I might get myself an early Christmas present this year. Thanks again for being honest!

    The Geeky Lumberjack

  2. I totally recommend it! It was a prefect, stress free, light and fluffy read! and its all about video games!

  3. Based on our conversation last weekend and after having read this, I'm definitely going to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation Sheila!

  4. Thanks Jim! I guarantee that you will not be disappointed! Read it soon though, Steven Spielberg just signed on to direct the movie!