Book Review of “Ready Player One”

The Steven Spielberg movie will be release in theaters March 30, 2018. Meanwhile, I would like to recommend the book.

Today’s world is starting to look more and more like science fiction, so it should come as no surprise that more readers than ever are getting into the genre for the first time. Whether readers are avid sci-fi fans or first-time explorers of the realm of science fiction and fantasy, they can’t afford to miss Ernest Cline’s recent work. Check out this brief Review of “Ready Player One” to discover whether it sounds like a good fit.

What’s it About?

Taking place in a dystopian version of the near future, Ready Player One is about a teenage boy who only feels truly alive when he’s plugged into the novel’s virtual reality utopia, known in the book as OASIS. Wade Watts becomes fascinated with the puzzles hidden between the layers of this digital world. As he stumbles upon his first real clue, he finds himself surrounded by players in an insidious game that forces him to confront the real world in order to learn how to survive it.

The Real World

In the real world, Wade is so quick to abandon the teenager’s family lives in a large block of unpleasant stacked mobile homes, dividing his time between school and the abandoned van he uses to plug in and adopt his online persona. As he becomes more obsessed in the online world, readers begin to see his real-life persona slumped over his desk sleeping, risking access to his virtual reality visor, which will be taken away if he flunks out.

The Virtual Wort

In OASIS, Wade Watts transforms himself into an alter-ego known as Parzival. In the virtual world, he becomes more and more obsessed with the game, called Anorak’s Invitation, which is chock full of references to 1980s trivia. In fact, the very name of the novel hearkens back to the phrase that signaled the beginning of arcade games designed in that era.

Understanding the Game

Readers who are hooked by the author’s premise but don’t have the background knowledge to understand his many references will likely have to begin looking things up as soon as the plucky hero begins to uncover clues. To begin with, it’s important to note that many games from the era incorporated secret features, known as Easter eggs. In the novel, the game’s creator, Halliday, has incorporated Easter eggs into his own game as secret clues designed to lead the novel’s protagonist on an exciting adventure through the virtual world.

The Egg Hunters

Wade isn’t the only player who has become obsessed with unlocking the puzzle behind OASIS. In Cline’s dystopian future, prospects have already grown quite grim on the resource-depleted earth, so it’s no surprise that so many players have chosen to devote the majority of their lives to the virtual world Halliday has created. Those who are playing the game within a game are known as gunters, and they will stop at nothing in their hunt for Halliday’s Easter eggs.

The Other Players

Wade becomes virtual friends with four other players in an attempt to quicken his progress in the game. These players, known collectively as the High Five, throw around 80’s-vintage movie quips and obscure references like nothing and begin to bond over their hunt for Halliday’s eggs.

The End Game

As Wade struggles to make progress toward his goal of winning the untold billions that are promised by the game’s creator it becomes clear that this virtual contest is taking its toll back in the real world. When players begin to die in the real world, Wade must decide whether he can trust his new-found virtual friends, or anyone else, for that matter, with helping him in his quest toward this ultimate prize.

Worth the Read?

Complete with sly references and inside jokes that will appeal primarily to gamers and 1980’s trivia buffs, Ready Player One is still accessible enough to engage a wide range of readers. This smart, funny thriller functions as both a celebration and a critique of modern online culture, and the author’s well-developed sense of suspense keeps the narrative moving quickly along. With its intriguing puzzles, intense action, and a remarkably engaging payoff at the end, Ready Player One is worth the read even for those who might need to pause periodically to check Cline’s many obscure references.

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Neal Walters

About the Author

Neal Walters