Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline
Review by Kate Shaw
I just finished Ready Player One for the third time in three years. An exciting, futuristic romp with a 1980s nostalgic twist, I find Ready Player One firmly embedded on my top ten list. I find, however, that it isn’t all that easy to describe.
Living in the stacks of Oklahoma City (literally stacks of trailers,) Wade Watt’s derives joy from one thing. He searches for deceased tech guru James Halliday’s easter eggs in the OASIS. Life on Earth is bad. Extreme poverty and dangerous climate change has driven the majority of society to seek solace in the OASIS, a virtual reality world where you can do pretty much anything.
OASIS creator Halliday has left his vast fortune and control of the OASIS to the person who solves a massive scavenger hunt. A teenager in the 1980s, Halliday’s love of the decade informs the contest. Anyone truly wanting a shot at the glory must learn to love all things 80s too; including the music, the films, the fashion, and of course, the video games. Wade takes this challenge very seriously, immersing himself in Halliday’s life and loves, making them his own. The hunt is definitely “free to play, pay to win,” but Wade has no money. Amazingly, through dumb luck and know-how, his avatar Parzival finds the first easter egg, skyrocketing him to stardom. The downside is that it might cost him his life.
Ready Player One is a joyous romp through 1980s culture. If you loved Pac-Man or John Hughes movies, you’re sure to get a kick out of this novel. Cleverly crafted with world-building that is so immersive you feel like you’re in the OASIS along with Wade, Cline weaves pop-culture and real world intrigue like a master. Getting lost in Ready Player One is not only easy, it’s really fun.
As a 1980s kid myself, this novel reminds me of what was great about a decade where everyone wore shoulder pads and pounds of Aqua-Net hairspray. Additionally, you really just don’t know how Wade will overcome the obstacles created by Halliday and the dangers around him. Expect Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation in 2018, but hope it does justice to a great book.
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About the reviewer: Kate still hasn’t forgotten one word of Can’t Get My Love Together from JEM or the cassette tape single of it that came with the doll she had as a child. She supposes she forgives her brother Michael for ripping that doll’s head off though. Kate is truly a child of the 80s; loves a 1980s cover band called The Legwarmers, still plays the Sierra video games of her youth (Laura Bow 4-eva), and has an affinity for all things 8-bit.