I first heard of this book on the “Books on the Nightstand” podcast (an excellent show, by the way). The hosts, both of whom work in the publishing industry, were raving about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I knew it was only a matter of time until I got my hands on it.
For some reason, lately I’ve been getting into these dystopian, post-apocalyptic stories. Ready Player One certainly fits into this category. What makes it slightly terrifying is that not only does the story take place in the not too distant future (late 2030’s to early 2040’s), it is a future that is horrifically possible.
Massive worldwide climate change. Almost complete depletion of the world’s energy resources. I think one of the images that will stick in my head for a long time is the main character’s living situation. Wade is an eighteen year old boy who lives in a double wide trailer with his aunt and her boyfriend . . . and twelve other people! And that’s not the worst part. This place is called “the stacks” because, due to the numbers of people flocking to the large cities because they can’t afford to live anywhere else, they have taken to stacking these mobile homes on top of one another, some of them twenty high! The whole thing is held up by scaffolding, but it can collapse at any moment. Every aspect of life is precarious. Frightening.
So here’s the premise: in this dystopian future, there is a virtual reality system called the OASIS. It’s huge. This is more than the Internet, more than any RPG. The OASIS is made up of thousands of worlds. It has become the “place” where children go to school, where people go to church, where there is access to every book, movie, television show and video game ever made. Because the real world is so bleak, most people spend nearly all their time in the OASIS. Once inside, you can create your own reality and become whoever you want to be.
With the way people already do this on the Internet, do you see why I said this future was frighteningly plausible?
The creator of this virtual paradise, James Halliday, has died. He has no heirs, no family. He has left behind a video explaining that he has hidden a secret somewhere in the OASIS, and the person who finds it will inherit his multi-billion dollar fortune and control over the OASIS itself. Enter our main character. Wade stumbles upon the first “key” and, from then on, his life changes forever. With such a valuable prize on the line, you can imagine the intensity involved in not only tracking down more clues, but tracking down the people who were able to piece together parts of the mystery. A large corporation, IOI, is determined to win the contest so that they can gain control of the OASIS and monetize the hell out of it. They are willing to do anything to get their hands on it, from blackmail to murder.
There were so many interesting concepts in this book. The wonders of technology, certainly – using it for good and for evil. The concept of making good friends online, without ever meeting them in person. And then, the 80’s references. Halliday was obsessed with that decade and, as such, all the clues are pieces of 80’s movies, music, and of course, classic video games. It was so much fun to read and think, “Hey! I remember that!”
I really enjoyed this book. From the middle on, it was almost impossible to put down. Go read it! Now!