*Posted on the Monkey in the Cage Website on June 29th, 2012
I’d heard rumblings of this book for some time now, basically that it was a gorge fest of nostalgia porn for anyone who grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s. I approached the book eagerly and was almost immediately rewarded for this decision. Let me say this, nostalgia porn barely covers it as this little novel packs a closed fist punch to the face of pop culture references, gaming nods, and full on geekery that never failed to satisfy me.
Our Protagonist, Wade Watts (given an alliterative name ala Clark Kent by his father who was apparently a geek as well) lives in a pretty dismal time for Planet Earth. If you take a moment to ponder a future where Global Warming, sporadic nuclear war, and rampant unemployment have ravaged the world you’ll get the gist. Wade’s only outlet to a better existence is via the ultimate MMO experience OASIS, a universe sized virtual world with nigh infinite possibilities. One merely creates an in game Avatar and their adventures begin.
OASIS was created by two fictional game designers from the 80’s, James Halliday & Ogden Morrow, though James is essentially the brains behind the project. Jim Halliday was a reclusive individual who spent more time designing and playing video games, devouring 80’s pop culture, and immersing himself into Dungeons & Dragons than living anything resembling a social life. It is fitting then, that upon his demise the revered gamer leaves behind his quarter trillion dollar estate to the first individual to uncover an “Easter Egg” planted in the massive universe of OASIS as an homage to the first ever video game “Egg” from “Adventure”.
I’m a huge geek, and I feel I’ve got cred to back that up, but even I was left in the dust by the characters in this book. To be fair, it’s the character’s jobs in this world to become the ultimate name droppers. They must become walking, talking, and perfected nostalgia archives in order to decipher clues left behind by their idol and ensure that the prize falls into the hands of a true believer rather than the cheating, evil corporation known as IOI who has hired thousands of minions to seek the win. It was dizzyingly fun to see just how much I could recall from my childhood. In fact if you wanted to it wasn’t impossible to figure out a few of the riddles yourself!
Beyond all the furious hunting for Jim Halliday’s leavings we are treated to a meritable character arc for Wade and his virtual friends. He must ask himself just what is reality and how far a virtual world can go in supplementing it? The stark contrast between the wonder of OASIS and what someone in this 2044 dystopian world must face is jarring and I for one know where my time would likely be spent though it is pretty clear the virtual world is not a fully self actualizing experience. Cline touches upon these character choices subtly and without a lecturer’s gauntlet heavy on our minds.
If you fancy yourself a journey through your childhood, or if you wish to capture a snapshot of a decade that doesn’t involve VH1’s “We Love the 80’s” give Ready Player One a shot. I for one would love to take a plunge into a world where Cory Doctorow and Wil Wheaton are re-elected as co-presidents over and over again.
GO BUY IT! Also, if you decide to buy via Amazon use the search link on this site