I was working on my year end favorite reads list, and I realized that I had yet to review the most fun novel that I had read all year. So let’s take a step back from the list for now, and let me tell you about the amazingness that is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.
Ready Player One takes place in the 2040′s. Things are not so great on planet Earth. All the bad things that they warned us would happen if we didn’t get our act together have come to pass. A teenage boy named Wade, living on the outskirts of Oklahoma City in a trailer park (these are stacked vertically to fit more people), is so miserable that he spends almost all of his waking hours hiding in an abandoned car to access a virtual world called the OASIS. In the massive online universe, Wade is able to find some solace. For example, attending school is far less dangerous in the OASIS:
On my first day at OPS #1873, I thought that I’d died and gone to heaven. Now instead of running a gauntlet of bullies and drug addicts on my walk to school each morning, I went straight to my hideout, and stayed there all day. Best of all, in the OASIS, no one could tell that I was fat, that I had acne, or that I wore the same shabby clothes every week. Bullies couldn’t pelt me with spitballs, give me atomic wedgies, or pummel me by the bike rack after school. No one could touch me. In here, I was safe.
A ripple runs through the OASIS when the world’s creator, a beloved Steve Jobs-type character, dies. He wills his fortune to whomever of the world’s inhabitants can locate three keys/unlock three doors. The clues to the keys/doors are steeped in 80′s geek and popular culture, as the OASIS’s founder was a child and fan of the 1980′s. Wade who had wasted hours of his life studying, say, old episodes of Family Ties, suddenly finds himself well-positioned for a shot at improving his station in life. The hunt is on.
Of course, the question of who to trust in a world where everyone chooses their own names and appearances can be tricky. Wade eventually falls in with a small group that, although not working necessarily together, covers each other’s backs. The bad guys in the hunt for the fortune are an evil corporation that want to take over the ownership of the OASIS and monetize everything in it. This would certainly place sad sacks like Wade out of the OASIS forever.
Ready Player One is a retro-future-techno-thriller and is way more fun a read than I would have thought. If you’re the kind of person who appreciates the joke when someone says, “Answer the question, Claire” and isn’t talking to anyone named Claire, then run don’t walk to pick this one up. Dorks, dweebs, nerds, and other misfits of a certain age will also love it.