If you’re like me, the bevy of Comic-con trailers caught you by complete surprise. But only one of those trailers was really something I didn’t know was happening. So I decided to pick up the book and know ahead of time exactly what is going to happen.
In the not so distant future, the world is in the throes of an energy collapse brought on by our insatiable quest for oil and climate killing pollutants. But before that happened, a man created a game system that completely immerses players into it’s world. Think of it like VR but actually cool and worth it. It’s so ubiquitous, and safe, that kids can actually go to school inside the Oasis, instead of a physical school where there might be violence. But there’s plenty of violence in other parts of the Oasis because the world is like one giant pop culture universe, where every created character, story, and game co-exist equally. It is a nerd’s paradise.
The nerd who created the Oasis is long dead, but he left behind a quest. Three keys and three gates are hidden in the Oasis, Easter Eggs that only those who have studied the life of the founder intensely will be able to acquire. And whoever does find them all first, will inherit the entire Oasis company and fortune. For high-schooler Wade Watts, this is his one ticket out of his poverty stricken life. But as he finds out when he grabs the first key, others are willing to kill to get this prize. In RL.
One thing you’re going to have to suppress very early on, is the urge to Homer Simpson yell, “NERRRRRDDDDD” the whole book. Because good god is it dweeby. I understand a lot of the references and I half expected someone to give me a swirly at any moment. And some of the facts are impressive, but clearly Ernest Cline has a real hard-on for the 80s and really wanted the world to know just how much he knew about it. In many ways reading this book is like watching someone else make a World of Warcraft account and watching them play it. But instead of World of Warcraft, there’s a bunch of old properties that you certainly don’t know but that will clearly be upgraded to characters more recognizbale for the final film.
At it’s heart, Ready Player One is an adventure story. And it certainly succeeds at that. You’ll feel joy at Wade’s successes, and fear during his lowest moments. Despite not being the most likable character, Wade is an adequate hero, saving the world through his super nerdiness. And finding the princess was in the right castle.
If only I wasn’t able to look outside and honestly believe Ready Player One will be our reality very, very soon.
3 out of 4 stars.