Every time I’m flying, I kill time in the departure lounge by finding the bookshop and buying one book. My choice this time was Ready Player One, a novel from 2011 by Ernest Cline. While I wouldn’t describe myself as being a big Science Fiction fan, I gleaned from the blurb and reviews on the back that two of my favourite things played a big role in the story; video games and 80’s pop culture, that was enough to peak my interest and risk the purchase.
Set in the not-too-distant future, the story takes place in a world that has truly gone to shit. Poverty, war and famine are common place, many people live in ‘stacks’ (massive towers of caravans and RVs stacked on top of each other) and pretty much everyone in the world spends the majority of their time immersed in an online world called OASIS. When James Halliday, the eccentric and mysterious creator of OASIS dies, a message is sent to the world media and everyone in the game. The message is simple: somewhere in the OASIS are a series of Easter Eggs hidden by Halliday himself. Whoever manages to find the final clue first, wins the entirety of Halliday’s mass fortune. The story centers on Wade Watts, a young egg hunter determined (like millions of others) to find the trail of clues hidden in the game and the trials that face him in doing so.
What I loved more than anything about this book is how quickly immersed I became in it. My love of 80’s music and films and my even greater love of video games (especially the MMO genre) rendered me completely unable to put down the book. The character of James Halliday or Anorak as he is known in the virtual world is a combination of Bill Gates and Willy Wonka; a technological mastermind with unabashed eccentricity and the main character Wade reminded me of my teenage self; likable, obsessed with fantasy and somewhat socially awkward.
Not growing up in the 80’s, every so often a reference was lost on me, but for the most part, many of the things Cline includes in the book (such as Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings and Wargames) are so well known that even 90’s kids like myself, or people who wouldn’t ordinarily be into classic arcade games and obscure fantasy movies can still enjoy the action packed ride.
One thing I kept thinking to myself was how great a movie this could be if done correctly. When I googled the book after reading it I was pleased to discover that Cline has actually written a script for the movie with Stephen Spielberg directing. The movie isn’t due until March 2018 however, and I doubt they’ll be able to cram everything in the book into a two hour film. I’ll safely say then, that this will be one to file under the category ‘the book was better’, although I am still excited to see how it translates to the big screen.
If I hadn’t made it clear by now, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with a geeky bone in their body. It’s a deftly written nostalgia trip wrapped in an action packed, tense and thoroughly exciting story. My only major criticism would be that so far there isn’t a sequel.