Were you born in the early nineteen-seventies? Are you a complete [expletive deleted] dork? Then this novel is a big wet sloppy kiss to you, my friend. – J. Robert Lennon
When these two questions and a statement zipped across my Facebook News Feed a few weeks back (my answers: yes and yes by the way), I couldn’t resist reading the book to which it referred. The novel in question is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and my friend’s recommendation couldn’t have been more apt.
Ready Player One is a dystopian novel set in the near future (2044 to be exact). A global energy crisis has dramatically raised the price of fuel. As a result, cars that have run out of gas are abandoned alongside the road and old trailers are stacked one on top of the other in rickety apartment-like skyscrapers which are prone to collapse. Our 18-year-old protagonist Wade Watts lives in one of these trailer stacks outside of Oklahoma City. He goes to a virtual school in a virtual world called OASIS. When not in school, he spends the majority of his time as a gunter (that’s short for “egg hunter”), a group of people who hunt for an “Easter egg” hidden somewhere inside OASIS that was left by its multi-billionaire creator, James Halliday. Whoever finds the egg will inherit Halliday’s immense wealth and gain control of OASIS.
Halliday was an avid fan of the 1980s, the decade of his youth, so those attempting to discover the hidden egg must delve into a world of 1980s trivia. This creates a future popular culture obsessed with the long ago decade. Our protagonist, whose OASIS avatar is known as Parzival, finds the key to the first of three gates leading to the egg. He rises to international superstardom and soon the novel’s bad guys, the monopolistic media conglomerate IOI, are after Wade/Parzival and his gunter friends.
So this book is not just a dystopian novel, it’s also an epic adventure story jam-packed with well-known to highly obscure 1980s cultural references. The author even owns a DeLorean and is driving it to each city of his book tour! For someone like me, who grew up in the 1980s but wasn’t deeply into Dungeons & Dragons or equipped with a deep knowledge of early computers like the TRS-80 or Commodore 64, the cultural references are still a lot of fun. Who knew that David Lightman, the main character in the movie WarGames, lived in Snohomish? Younger readers who might not get all of the ‘80s references, will most likely enjoy the sheer adventure of the book. The plot very much mirrors a complex video game.
Ready Player One is a fast-paced adventure story and ode to the 1980s. It’s not just for the über-geek though. This book has a wide enough appeal to satisfy most readers willing to give it a chance.