Ready Player One (2011) – Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Date published: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I am beyond excited to write about this book! I don’t even know where to begin.  I suppose getting my overall excitement out of the way is a good enough start. If I were able to describe in detail the delicious shivers of happiness I got every time another awesome POP culture reference appeared in the novel the page would read very oddly. The reason for this is because I do not actually know how to describe shivers of happiness with words. I also do not know how to describe my giddy dancing when I arrived at exciting ‘bits’ in the story and simply could not contain my excitement. This book is a nerd’s dream! It is a plethora of 1980’s pop culture and even if you don’t get all the references it surely makes you want to!

Let’s begin at the beginning:

The Year is 2044, and we are introduced to the protagonist, Wade Watts, who lives in a place called The Stacks (which is basically a whole bunch of mobile homes placed on top of one another). Wade Watts lives in a world that has been wrecked by humanity. Due to famine and drought and poverty and disease the world is not a very nice place. The human race now spends significant portions of their time inside a virtual space called the OASIS (the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). Created by computer game designers James Halliday and Ogden Morrow, this virtual world contains absolutely everything the heart could possibly desire. There was almost no limit to the possibilities and within that there was the possibility of escape for the people of planet Earth. Within this world they could be anything or anyone they desired, and this included having secret identities within the game. In the OASIS Wade Watts is Parzival.

Years before, James Halliday had passed away leaving behind no heirs and therefore no one to inherit his massive fortune which included the OASIS. His partner Morrow had long ago distanced himself from the project. So Halliday created a universal challenge for the people of Earth to find a hidden ‘Easter Egg’ within the game, and the winner would automatically gain control of the whole OASIS. The invitation to this challenge was left behind in the form of a video of Halliday himself explaining the rules which involved having a massive knowledge of 1980’s pop culture. Those that spent all their time searching for this so-called ‘egg’ were known as Gunters. Some worked in groups and some worked alone attempting to decipher the riddles Halliday had left behind.

One day Parzival unlocks the first challenge, ends up with his name on a massive scoreboard for the world to see, and then the game really begins.

During the games we are introduced to fellow Gunters who share Parzival/Watts’ passion for Halliday’s work and 80’s culture. They include his best (and only) friend Aech, the infamous Halliday blogger Art3mis (pronounced Artemis) who Parzival is just a little bit in love with, and two ‘brothers’ from Japan called Daito and Shoto.  They take part in the challenges set for them which involve being immersed completely in movies, tv shows, music and video games from the era that Halliday couldn’t get enough of.  The novel takes us on a nostalgic stroll through arcade games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, John Hughes’ films, TV shows like Family Ties, Monty Python, role playing games such as  Dungeons and Dragons, and the music of Canadian rock band Rush. And all the while the Gunters are trying to keep ahead of a group of professional Easter Egg hunters called the Sixers who plan to win the game and take over the OASIS (and not in a nice way).

I honestly can’t tell you anymore about this novel without giving away the entire plot, but trust me if I could I would write and write and write. I love this novel for all the right reasons and because it reminds me of every ‘nerd’ I have met and befriended and loved. Being inside this world that Ernest Cline created feels like a privilege, and also like going home and cozying up on the couch and being safe. I guess this novel could be described as the ultimate ode to all those kids (and grown-up kids) that have spent their lives watching movies and playing games and reading books and not the kids that went to parties and played sports and spent time with friends. This novel is for all the kids that maybe didn’t have a lot of time for socializing and making friends, and rather chose to stay at home (or wherever) and go to different worlds in their imagination. These kids made friends in the strangest of places and traveled the world and fought battles and climbed mountains and fell in love, and they did it all from behind books and in front of screens. And I think that Cline wants to say that that’s okay. It is also equally okay to go outside every now and then and feel the sun shine on our faces, and hold someone’s hand because that is also Real Life.


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