A parent of a student I teach recommended this book to me a year ago. It looked interesting, but I do not run headlong into sci-fi books. Recently, I watched Atari: Game Over, a documentary about the company’s E.T. game. In it, the author of Ready Player One was interviewed, which reminded me about the book. I picked it up, and could not put it down again until it was over.
Ready Player One is one of the most fun and interesting novels I’ve read this year. The story focuses on a teenager named Wade Watts, an outsider living in the year 2044. While his life living in a ramshackle trailer with an opportunistic aunt, he finds support, friends, and adventure in an online world called OASIS. OASIS started as a World of Warcraft-type of online game, but now has morphed into a complete online experience where people live and work and fight and love. At the start of the novel, the programmer of OASIS dies, but left his multi-billion-dollar fortune to the player who finds the secret Easter egg hidden somewhere within the world of OASIS. Wade spends years trying to find it.
If I read this summary, I’d never read this book.
Here’s what I loved about Ready Player One: the expansive 80’s references and the critique of our Internet addition. Not since VH1’s I Love the 80s has there been a collection of glimpses into my childhood. This book was a waterfall of nostalgia about all things 80s. As the OASIS creator was obsessed with the 80s, his online world is filled with them. From Atari games like “Adventure” to pop songs to movies (WarGames has a regular appearance throughout the novel), this is a surf down memory lane for forty-somethings. I loved that aspect of the book best.
The other focus that I enjoyed was the critique of our online usage. I continue to love reading about the affects of our online obsession, and this is a different take on this topic. The characters in this world in 2044 do anything they can to get online, complete with a virtual reality visor and haptic gloves and bodysuits for a full immersion into OASIS. Their avatars are far more important than who they are on real-life, mainly because that is where they “live” for most of the day. It’s not preachy about the Internet—in fact, I wish that it were more so—but it shows what kind of people we are creating by a 24/7 Internet cycle in our lives.
This is not perfect literature; in fact, there are times that the dialogue is painfully bad. The online love affair with Wade and Art3mis, the “surprise” reveal of Aech, or the racial stereotypes of two Japanese boys at times all feel like they were written by a teenager. But, I’m OK with that as there is a far better character that Cline writes quite well: the 1980s.