Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ready Player One: Review

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is the ultimate 70s/80s pop culture, video-game-loving, geek overload of a book.  There are references to everything from Pac Man to Max Headroom, from Star Trek to Star Wars, from War Games to School House Rock. If it doesn't make your nerdy self explode in a Dungeon & Dragons frenzy, then I don't know what will. Oh....and it works for those of us who aren't quite so into video games and pop culture too.

The story takes place in a rather bleak future. Fossil fuels have finally run out and the entire world is in a pretty depressed state economically speaking. There are few jobs and little hope and most people spend as much of their time as possible in the virtual world...a place called OASIS.  The OASIS was developed by super-geek James Halliday and his partner Ogden Morrow.  This virtual world/gaming paradise places all sorts of worlds at the player's fingertips.  Via one's avatar, Vulcan and Endor and probably even Arrakis of Dune are all possible destinations.  And every game a gamer can imagine is ready for playing. And access to the OASIS world is free--well, virtually.  A one-time fee of twenty-five cents gets you in.

But Halliday's passion was the 80s (and 70s)--he was obsessed with the decade and when he died he left behind a will that said that whoever could find the easter egg hidden in the OASIS would be his heir--an heir to all of the OASIS stock and billions of dollars. The easter egg could only be found by playing "Halliday's Game"--the ultimate treasure hunt with an initial clue given in the will. Every gamer out there has been working for years to try and figure out what that original clue meant--there are Halliday scholars and books and online resources detailing every moment of Halliday's life.  Notebooks and journals that tell about all of his obsessions--from early video games to his favorite 80s movies and TV shows to the science fiction novels he loved. No self-respecting gamer (or "gunter" as they're known in the book) would dare enter the game without being able to recite whole movies from Halliday's list of must-see films.

Our hero is Wade Watts--a teenager who is on the low-end of the social strata.  He has spent his life in the "stacks"--trailer parks where (since real estate is such a premium) the trailers are stacked on top of one another like apartment complexes.  He is the first to break the code in the first clue and soon he and the High Five (four other individuals) are off and running on the treasure hunt of their lives.  And it just might cost them their lives--because individual gamers aren't the only ones with their eye on the prize.  Also in the mix is the Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a mega-corporation that intends to win the game, take over OASIS, and start charging regular fees and cluttering up the virtual world with advertising. To this end, IOI has hired gunters to work for them--regular paychecks, benefits, gaming supplies all provided and all you have to do is sign away your right to the prize. Wade and the rest of High Five become the target of the Sixers (those in IOI's employ) and it becomes a race to claim the final prize before the Sixers can eliminate the competition--permanently.

This was a very fun book. I'm grateful to all the fellow bloggers who have read this over the last two years and put it on my radar.  With so many folks mentioning it, I figured the book would qualify for the "Everybody But Me" category in Book Blogger Bingo.  Lots of action and great ride all along the way.  I am deducting one star, however, for the rather tedious game explanations (info dumps) that occur periodically along the way.  I finally started skimming and can't see that my lack of knowledge about how some of the old video games worked really hurt my understanding of the novel.  I also really enjoyed the characters and the way the High Five group interacted.  There was just the right mix of friendship and friendly competition.  Four stars for a really good read.


Red said...

I'm glad you liked this one. I was a little nervous I'd be lost with all those 80s game references but nope, I enjoyed!

TP said...

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would too.

Tanya Patrice

Amelia said...

I aduiobooked this one and was rewarded by having Wil Wheaton (my geek girl crush since childhood) read the book to me.