About two weeks ago, my friend, co-author and soon to be co-(statics, connection lost) Alex from Clockworker pointed me towards Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It sounded intriguing enough to read it in spite of my 50+ books backlist. Ready Player One The book has been out since 2011 and I could kick myself no end for only reading it after Alex recommended it.
In one sentence, Ready Player One is a geek 80’s retro cyberpunk techno thriller virtual reality love story. But one sentence is not enough.
Let me get one thing out of the way first: If you are a child of the 80’s and were a computer geek and/or role player in the 80’s, like I was, you get a lot more out of this book, simply because of all the references to 80’s geek and gamer culture in the novel. If you are not, the book is still an excellent, fun and action-packed read.
About the plot:
In 2044 the world is a pretty messed-up place, war, recession, environmental destruction and the depletion of natural resources have devastated the world and sent most economies crashing down. The USA have turned into a poverty-stricken, almost lawless place, where civilization as we know it only exists in the remaining bigger cities.
Most people flee their harsh reality in an online cyber environment called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS), formerly known as Gregarious Games. It is World of Warcraft, Second Life, Facebook and your real life combined. People go there to play, work, hang out, shop. You can do everything in OASIS.
One of the people who flee their harsh life and live mostly in OASIS is Wade, a destitute orphaned boy who lives with his aunt in a stacked pyramid of trailers and makes a living on the side repairing and scavenging electronic equipment while being enrolled in OASIS-based online highschool. His life changes when one of the founders of GSS, Halliday, dies. In his will, released as an online-video sent to every OASIS player, he declares an Easter Egg hunt of epic proportions. Within OASIS, three keys are hidden and whoever finds them and unlocks the three gates inherits Halliday’s multi-billion fortune.
All clues for the hunt are 80’s geek gamer references and things from 1980’s pop culture Halliday loved so dearly in life. The hunt creates a subculture called Egg Hunters (Gunters for short) and leads to a 1980’s revival. Wade becomes a Gunter and on his quest to find the keys gathers a group of other gunters around him who will become known as the High Five.
But all is not well, because a multinational corperation, IOI, just another incarnation of Evilcorp Inc. devotes enormous resources to finding the keys and does not stop at extortion and blackmail at all to get what it wants, far from it.
But I shall not spoil!
Ernest Cline has created a masterpiece, a blend of Matrix, Blade Runner and every sci-fi/cyberpunk movie of the 80’s you love. plus everything you find in WOW and other such games taken to the extreme, after all, computer technology is so much better in 2044, thanks to Moore’s law.
There is action, there is cyberpunk, there is a love story, there is a coming-of-age story in there. There is a tale of true friendship and of loyalty. And: There is tons of 1980’s references and some tongue-in-cheek hat-tips to our time (like the Doctorow/Wheaton tac team)
A true masterpiece and an excellent read. I devoured it in three days.
Highly recommended reading!
Ten out of ten, what shall it be… Space Invaders!
And of course, the badge of honour:
And these are the formats you can have it in: