Ah, what a refreshing change. I’d been missing science fiction, and Ready Player One was just what I needed to jump back into one of my favorite genres.
It’s 2044, and America’s future is bleak. The environment has gone to shit, the country has plunged into abject poverty, and almost everywhere except the major cities is a lawless wasteland. For Wade Watts, and for most of the country, the only escape from the drudgery of daily life is the OASIS.
What originally began as a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) is now a way of life for most American citizens. In the OASIS, you can be whoever and whatever you want to be; it’s a fully immersive experience with tens of thousands of worlds to travel to and millions of things to do. It’s free to access, and Wade even attends school there.
But when the OASIS’s elusive creator Jim Halliday dies, he sets in motion the single biggest video game challenge of all time: he has hidden an “Easter egg” somewhere in the OASIS, and in order to find it, players must find three keys that will lead them through three gates. The first person to find the egg will be given control of the OASIS, and Wade has dedicated his life to finding clues to where the egg might be hidden.
When Wade suddenly stumbles upon the first key, he discovers that there are people willing to kill to take control of the OASIS—and he’ll have to confront the world from which he’s tried so hard for so long to escape: the real one.
Okay, I won’t lie, it took me a little while to really get into Ready Player One. But I picked it up one afternoon when I was about 160 pages in, and finished it that night—that’s over 200 pages in only a few hours. Let’s just say it got intense fast. I never thought I’d be so invested in a book about a video game.
But as I alluded to earlier, the OASIS isn’t even really a video game anymore. It’s a complete virtual world with thousands of planets that are themed after anything and everything you can imagine. You can create your own worlds if you have enough coding knowledge and allow (or disallow) anyone you like to visit it. You can make your avatar look however you want, facial features and clothes included. You can even purchase immersive equipment that makes you feel even more like you are actually experiencing everything happening in the OASIS. Of course, all of this takes money, which many people still don’t have.
It was refreshing to read a YA novel that, for the most part, didn’t read like a YA novel. You know what I mean—angsty protagonist, lots of adverbs, et cetera. Wade is 18, so he has plenty of teenage hormones to deal with, mostly in the form of a huge crush on one of the elite “gunters,” Art3mis, but for the most part he’s a good narrator and a likable character. He’s easy to root for, which is something I always appreciate in a protagonist.
It was also really fun to be drawn through all the 80s nostalgia—Halliday was reportedly obsessed with the generation during which he was a teenager, so all gunters (egg hunters) are well-versed in all of the 80s movies, comics, video games, music, and TV shows that Halliday loved. I was only alive for about eight weeks’ worth of the 1980s, but I’ve watched my share of 80s movies and listened to my share of 80s music, and I enjoyed Wade’s obvious pleasure in experiencing a decade that I too quite enjoy.
One thing that I’m left wondering about is why Ready Player One was on a list of “diverse” books? It’s written by a white American guy, about a (probably?) white American guy. I can see where maybe there’d be some diversity near the end, but that seemed almost like last-minute box-checking. So…I really don’t know if I can count this as one of my Dive Into Diversity books because it didn’t seem very diverse to me. If anyone can let me know what, if anything, I missed here, that would be great.
Anyway, I would definitely recommend this to a variety of readers, although probably not all; I’d specifically recommend it to fans of Ender’s Game as well as anyone who has a strong appreciation of science fiction in general and/or 80s culture.by