Imagine that you live in a world on the brink of total desolation. Fossil fuels have been depleted. Temperature has risen to scorching heights. Sea levels have increased fast. The weather is screwed beyond belief. Wars are fought at every part of the globe. People have no place to live. Food is scarce.
Now, imagine that your only escape is to log into a virtual utopia, a computer-generated world where you can lose yourself playing games, become a comic book character, or take on another life entirely. The experience is like living in a realm that combines The Matrix, Tron, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Star Wars, and etc. Won’t that be enticing? Wouldn’t you leave reality? These exactly are the premises of the book (now turned movie) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
In Ready Player One, Cline, a screenwriter and self-confessed geek, tells the story of Wade Watts, a 19-year-old living on earth in the year 2044. At this time, the world isn’t ideal; it has become worse than what it is today. To escape the horrors of everyday existence, he logs into OASIS, a “massive multiplayer online game that has gradually evolved into a globally networked virtual reality most of humanity uses on a daily basis.” In other words, OASIS is a means to those who want to leave reality behind.
And as the story goes, Wade “devotes his life to studying puzzles hidden within the world’s digital confines—puzzles based on their creator’s obsession with pop culture of decades past.” But, solving these riddles aren’t just for kicks. “Massive power and fortune” await the individual who can unlock them. But, when Wade discovers the first clue, “he finds himself beset by players willing to kill and take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if he’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”
Related: Review: Ready Player One
Ready Player One, as written above, tells an interesting story. But, it isn’t only the tale that is quite impressive. Also, equally or if not more noteworthy is the book’s unique and novel feature: Cline inundates the reader with ’80s pop culture. The book is replete with references to the following: WarGames, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Pac-Man, Joust, Atari, Def Leppard, Mechagodzilla, Gundam, Macross, Galaga, Back to the Future, Star Wars, Star Trek, Cyndi Lauper, etc.
But ’80s pop-culture are not alluded to for stylistic purposes; they are integral to the narrative. For instance, Wade, in his quest to get a vital clue, gets transported into the motion picture WarGames and morphs into the film’s protagonist named David (Mathew Broderick’s character). So for Wade to get the information that he needs, he has to become David and act out the whole movie. How cool is that?
Aside from Cline’s clever use of ’80s pop-culture, Ready Player One is also impressive due to its scale and imaginativeness. The story in fact takes its readers to various locations. At one point, the characters will be in a Lord of the Rings world. In another turn, they will be in a Back to the Future-inspired planet, be transported into the middle of Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie, or be forced to do battle in a video game. Every geek or geek-at-heart’s favorite film, comic book, or video game is alluded to; no one will feel left out. Ready Player One is without a doubt a nerd’s paradise!
But, it isn’t just scale or the use of ’80s pop-culture that is the most telling feature of this novel. Ready Page One is a page-turner because it has heart. It shows that happiness can’t be found in a virtual world; it can be felt and experienced in everyday existence. This is what Cline, through one of his characters, i.e., OASIS creator James Halliday, imparts: “I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. Do you understand?”
Every geek or geek-at-heart’s favorite film, comic book, or video game is alluded to; no one will feel left out. ‘Ready Player One’ is without a doubt a nerd’s paradise!
All in all, Ready Player One will entertain two kinds of readers: the geeks and geeks-at-heart. The book will regale and mesmerize those who love comic books, video games, role-playing games, and the like. It will also rekindle fond memories of the mid-forties to early fifties demographic. While some may find the incessant gaming in the novel a bit too much, this isn’t enough reason to detest the story. Nothing after all is perfect.
So my advice is to sit back and relax, log in so to speak, read and flick through the pages of this narrative. Let Cline’s imagination take you for a wondrous ride; allow him to provide a momentary escape. Do this and then come back to reality; but chances are you will do so with a smile.