Like Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline regularly caught my attention when I was working at Barnes&Noble. The cover was intriguing and the plot summary sounded like it was right up my alley, so every time I saw it on a table or in the Science Fiction section I would pick it up and check it out. I finally bought it before I left (and my employee discount ran out!), but I didn’t actually sit down to read the novel until a few weeks ago, when I had a little bit of time to myself.
To be sure, I had started to read the book a couple of times before, but the first few chapters contain so much exposition that it was hard to get through anything between brushing my teeth at night and turning the lights out. In fairness to Cline though, it does take some time to explain the deteriorated condition of the United States in 2044, the OASIS virtual reality platform/world, and OASIS creator James Halliday’s Easter Egg hunt. But once you get through the first 50 pages or so, the book really takes off.
For me, things began to pick up when Wade Watts, the protagonist, figures out where the first key is hidden – there are three hidden keys that open three secret gates; the riddles that are solved at each step in the hunt provide clues as to the next’s location, and ultimately Halliday’s multi-billion dollar fortune – because that’s when it becomes a race against time. And Watts isn’t just competing against other gunters (short for “egg hunters”). He’s also trying to beat the minions from Innovative Online Industries, a multinational corporation that is trying to take over the OASIS and monetize it. I don’t want to provide too much more of the plot for fear of spoiling anything, but the story is incredibly detailed and the world Cline has imagined is so richly described that you really just have to experience it.
In addition to enjoying the colorful aspects of the OASIS, I also loved all of the references to the popular cultures of days gone by. As a child of the 1980s, I was especially amused by all of the homages to that particular era. It also gave me several ideas of other things to check out as I continue my own geekynerdy education! (I even nerded out a bit the other night when the 1983 movie War Games came on television as it factors heavily into one of the clues.)
It’s been a long time since I have read a book in less than a day – about 18 hours, though that includes time for sleeping – but I just couldn’t put Ready Player One down! And as I was speeding through the pages, I kept thinking: “This would be incredible to see on screen.” But then I realized that it would require so much CGI to bring Cline’s fictional world(s) to life that the fun of the book would likely be lost (though there are reports a movie might be in the works). In the end, it was a good reminder that sometimes things are best savored from the corner of a couch.