I know, I know. This has already been reviewed by Ron (here) and Mark (here). I was looking for a good fiction book to break the monotony of my usual non-fiction preference, and this book came pretty highly recommended by these gentlemen so I thought I’d give it a try.
Unlike the two previously mentioned men however, I was born in the 80’s.. 1989. So I actually grew up in the 90’s. Both Ron and Mark touted how this book was a “journey back to the 1980s.” I must admit, most of the culture references did go over my head. I’ve never played Adventureland, I didn’t even know what Wargames was, I found out who Rush was 2 years ago… Many of you are crucifying me at this moment, but whatever. So I did not appreciate the nostalgia quite as much as others might.
“Player” is about a multi-billionaire software giant who suddenly dies, leaving behind his fortune to whoever first can find his hidden “easter egg” within the game he created (called “OASIS”). The world, in 2044, is run down and struggling to cope with mass hunger. People once drove cars regularly until natural resources once abundant came crashing to a halt. People live in massive project-like complexes near major cities where drugs and crime rule the streets. Queue a highschool boy from Oklahoma City who is a total geek. He spends hours playing in the virtual world of OASIS as an escape from reality. He joins an elite group of hunters called “gunters” who live solely to find the egg and the massive fortune that goes along with it. There also is an evil corporation pooling massive amounts of precious resources into finding the egg by cheating, who colloquially become known as “Sixers.”
Along the way, our boy (named Wade in the real world, Parzial in the virtual) meets new friends, falls in love, finds clues to the mystery, and eventually goes on to become very successful.
I don’t want to reveal much more without giving away the end. But here are some impressions:
1) I agree with both Ron and Mark that the writing, at times, is just atrocious. I’ll give you a brief example:
“Great,” Art3mis said, throwing up her hands. “Good for you guys. You were all prepared in advance. I’m so happy for you. Bravo.” She gave us all a sarcastic golf clap, which made everyone laugh. “Now, can we adjourn the Mutual Admiration Society and get back to the topic at hand?”
“Sure,” Aech said, smiling. “What was the topic at hand?”
“The Sixers?” Art3mis offered.
“Right! Of course!”
2) I think this book points to a theme that runs throughout of losing ourselves in a virtual world. I personally have not played many video games since I got out of high school. But I was once drawn into them pretty heavily when I was younger. It was an escapist fantasy: you could be entertained for hours by clicking a mouse or fondling a controller. The warning here is that reality is a lot better than fantasy. I’ll give another brief example:
In the OASIS, the fat could become thin, the ugly could become beautiful, and the shy, extroverted. Or vice versa. You could change your name, age, sex, race, height, weight, voice, hair color, and bone structure. Or you could cease being human altogether, and become an elf, ogre, alien, or any other creature from literature, movies, or mythology.
On the one hand, I can see the appeal of this. The imagination is really a beautiful thing. But we can’t let the imagination rule our world so that we become so detached we lose ourselves in the process. I think this is a bigger warning to my generation than Ron and Mark’s. In the book, Wade can’t even talk to girls because he’s so anti-social. He spends weeks and perhaps months not even leaving his house all to escape the “real world.” This is crippling our generation in the sense that boys in their early and late 20’s are.. well. Boys. Sometime we will have to put the game consoles and computers down and grow up.
Nonetheless, I did find this book engaging and gripping. I finished it in a couple of hours and was really quite addicted to it. So it’s a good, easy read with some important undertones of where are culture may be going.