In 2044, the US has all but collapsed. Most people, including an impoverished boy called Wade Watts, spend almost all of their time in OASIS, a virtual reality game created by James Halliday. When Halliday dies, he doesn’t create a will, but leaves everything he owns to the finder of an Easter egg (a secret within a game) he’s cleverly hidden within OASIS. The secret is hidden within 80’s references and challenges. Naturally, this gives rise instantly to hunters called “gunters” seeking the Egg. Wade, under his pseudonym Parzival, is the first to find one of the key components of the secret, but finds his life and those of his fellow questers are in very real danger from the “Sixers”, a corporate group determined to seize OASIS for themselves.
I loved this book. Absolutely loved every minute of it. Cline does not miss a beat in this phenomenal dystopia, not from the storyline to the characters to the writing itself. It’s the perfect book for gamers, in particular those who remember the old days fondly, and for those who adore adventure, a touch of romance, and thinking about that essential question – “What if?” What if the recession continues? What if virtual worlds take on the real one? What is reality?
I’m not quite old enough to have witnessed 80’s gaming in person, but I’ve been a gamer since I was only 4 and have been surrounded by the same references Cline uses throughout my life. The book is littered with gaming trivia, but I don’t think it would be difficult for a non-gamer to understand, as Wade is an excellent narrator and elucidates every small point, somehow without detracting from the narrative, as the book continues.
And what a narrative it is as Wade takes us on his own personal adventure. It may be a mix of real and virtual, but this is a story to be swept up in. The narrative follows Wade’s journey to find the three keys and gates in hopes that either he or one of the more honest gunters will find the Easter egg before the corporations or the government can do so. OASIS is free and an essential resource for the poor, who use it for easy access to education and an escape from their generally dim, impoverished lives. Wade’s journey is a true adventure in the best sense of the world as he conquers challenges he could barely have imagined, stretching brain and virtual limits to attain his objective. He grows not only physically and mentally but personally, stretching into the persona of Parzival and escaping his past.
Also, as a medievalist, can I tell you how awesome the name choice of “Parzival” is for this character? Arthurian legends mixed with video games! Parzival was a knight who went on a quest for the Holy Grail. How fitting – the Easter Egg is very much a modern Holy Grail.
The supporting characters are equally wonderful, and it’s hard to describe them without spoiling the story. Given that all the characters sport avatars that do not have to match their physical appearances, you can guess what might happen – I was absolutely delighted with the way that Cline handled this aspect of the story and found it completely fitting for our world, subverting expectations in the best ways. Imperfections can be beautiful, too.
As you can probably tell, I adored this book to pieces. It’s the perfect read for anyone who loves gaming, anyone who loves adventure, and anyone who simply loves an exceptionally good story. It’s thoughtful, with a lot to say about our culture, without ever losing its narrative appeal. This is unquestionably a top read of the year for me and I can’t recommend Ready Player One enough.
As such, I’m delighted to say I have one copy to give away to a reader in the US. Just leave a comment to be entered to win – the competition will close one week from today, on August 23rd at 12 noon EST.
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