Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
2011 Crown Publishing
Ever read a book or seen a movie and thought, “Wow, that was made specifically for me!”? That is what “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline felt like to me. It is a perfect read for those of us that geeked out in the 80s. My wife and I formed our first real relationship over the controls of the Tron standup videogame at Chuck E. Cheese. Reading this book immediately made me flashback to those times.
“Ready Player One” is part “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory”, part “WarGames”, part “The Last Starfighter”, and part your favorite Japanese giant robot series (and it references every one of those at some point). It is set in 2044 and the world is not a pretty place. Wade is a high school student who, like much of the rest of the world, escapes that reality by visiting OASIS, a huge virtual utopia that lets you be whoever you want to be. You can use OASIS to do your online shopping, go to school, take on dragons & orcs, watch movies, listen to music, captain the S.S. Heart of Gold and fall in love. However, when the creator of this virtual playground dies, he leaves behind a quest: find the 3 keys he has hidden in the virtual reality by completing challenges and you will inherit the company that runs it and his huge personal fortune. Wade and every other gamer start hunting for clues, not knowing the time it will take and the dangers they will face.
The book is fast paced and I would have loved it just for the adventure, but what took it to the next level for me were all the pop culture references. The creator of OASIS grew up in the 80s and was obsessed with it. So the players in the adventure have to immerse themselves in the films, books, TV, music and especially the computer and video games of my favorite decade. You can’t turn more then a page or two without coming across a line from or a reference to classics (?) like “Family Ties”, Monty Python, “Buckaroo Banzai”, Rush, Gundam, Robotron, or “Brazil”. If you are a gamer, a science fiction/fantasy fan, can recite the Castle Anthrax scene, or just love a great adventure, I highly recommend “Ready Player One”.