Medium: Kindle Book
Overview: I thought it would be a while before The Martian was dethroned as my go-to, must read book, however Ready Player One easily takes the prize. Ernest Cline does a wonderful job transporting the reader into a futuristic, Energy Crisis age where individuals escape from the terrible predicament of everyday life into the advanced world of virtual reality. The eccentric creator of the virtual reality, OASIS, created the ultimate treasure hunt upon his death, combining films, music and video games of his youth. The result is a highly entertaining obsession of pop culture from the 80s in a high tech world with a suspenseful race to the end. Be ready to get lost within the book, following people who get lost within a game while playing games!
Warning: The following text could contain spoilers.
Cline did a masterful job bringing to life a world in which fossil fuels have become a limited commodity. Without a reliable energy source, the Oil Crisis has plunged the world into a three decade recession. The youth in Cline’s futuristic world were born during this recession, therefore are surprisingly well adjusted to this new dark age era. Interestingly, despite the real world being dirty, crowded, and poverty stricken the advance of technology offers an oasis, an escape from the hopeless situation of the their everyday lives.
Essentially free, OASIS is an advanced, virtual universe comprised of thousands of worlds. Everyone’s avatar has access to the home world, however it costs money to teleport to any of the other worlds, which when worlds mirror that of Middle Earth, Tattooine, and The Dark Crystal, who wouldn’t want to travel everywhere! Another attractive component of the avatars are their anonymity. Within Oasis, you can be whatever age, race, sex, even creature you desire, e.g., fairy, wizard, or goblins. While OASIS on the most basic level is available and accessible to the masses, money allows the avatars to travel, get new clothes and, ultimately, level up your avatar, thereby creating a higharcy within the virtual world.
The premise of the book lies with the co-creator of OASIS, who upon his death reveals the ultimate treasure hunt/video game where the winner, upon finding the Easter Egg, inherits his entire fortune. The founder leaves behind a book, filled with potential clues, all of which are centered around his quirky personality and likes. Therefore, the world becomes obsessed with pop culture from the 70/80’s. The youth of this futuristic generation memorize verbatim movies like 16 Candles, learn guitar so they could play rifts from Rush, became experts at Dungeons and Dragons, and mastered countless old Atari/Sega/Nintendo games. The random pop culture references that frequented the book gave me the feeling over and over again of remembering an old treasured memory from my own youth, discovered in an unexpected location. For example, the lack of toys presently in cereal boxes, as compared to the 80’s is referenced as a tragedy. I especially enjoyed a shout out to Captain Crunch and Count Chocula cereals, which were two of my favorite cereals growing up. Time and time again this futuristic world surprised me by referencing a childhood memory from Willy Wonka to Fight Club.
The pursuit of the Easter Egg involves a group of individuals working separately to find the prize against the evil IOI, which destroys the integrity of the game by employing a large group of people, all working together, for the corporate company. IOI seeks to commercialize OASIS, thereby excluding the poverty stricken masses and stripping away any anonymity. Every clue/task completed yields points and a new vague clue to direct the player toward the next hurdle. The premise of the game, in context of the clues and the dynamics between the players solving them, was very similar tones to Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. Parzival, our heroine, is best friends and rivals with Aech. Partzival stumbles upon the first break in the game in 5 years and gives Aech a hint to get him headed in the right direction. Once Parzival becomes stuck on a clue, predictably, Aech returns the favor to even the debt owed. Meanwhile, a love interest for Parzival enters the story during the pursuit of the Easter Egg, however there is some amusing concern whether Parzival is being catfished and Art3mis is really a 35 year old man. Prior to meeting each other, both Art3mis and Parzival’s entire lives are focused and obsessed with finding the Egg, however, upon becoming smitten with each other they ultimately become distracted the game that they had devoted so much of their time. Upon Art3mis finally dumping Parzival, I enjoyed the reverse in gender roles typically highlighted in literature. Instead of the female falling into a self-pitying, depressed state, for example, as in Twilight, we see a male go through this miserable, couch-potato phase. Meanwhile, the female stayed focused on the goal at hand and figured out the next clue faster than her male cohorts.
Overall, I couldn’t put down this book, having finishing it in one day. I found the concept fascinating that I became lost in a book, about people getting lost in a virtual universe, in which, they zone completely out while playing various video games during the treasure hunt, therefore, a game, within a game, within a book. The people of this futuristic world found an escape from their dreary, mostly hopeless existence in an anonymous, virtual world where they could be anyone, and do anything they want to without reproach. Currently, the effect of time spent online verse actual human interaction and the social effect it could have on future populations is often debated. OASIS also allowed socially awkward individuals to thrive and gain confidence in a setting they can control, whereas they struggle in traditional settings. This novel offers an interesting, thought provoking glimpse in the potential future and the effect that evolving technology might have on the human race.
Other Comments and Questions:
1. While the details were sufficient of the futuristic real world, my curiosity wants more of everything from the outside. Why do the rural people migrate to the city? I would expect the opposite effect happen with people moving to the country and becoming self preserving.
2. The only real technological advancement other than OASIS mentioned is that solar energy appears to have a higher efficiency. Are there other advancements in medicine or travel not mentioned?
3. When you are in the virtual world for 24+ hours, when does you human body eat or go to the bathroom?
4. I thought the concept of using people’s addiction against themselves to force them to workout is interesting. What is phones would lockout anything except the essentials if you don’t have an alleged number of steps in?
5. The school setting forces the students to pay attention. Could they fall asleep if they wanted during class. Or is lewd behavior picked up or monitored outside the monitor somehow?
6. Why didn’t the IOI kill/capture Art3mis or Shoto sooner?
7. The battle scene was interesting because typically, as a reader, you are devastated if one of the main characters is killed. I struggled when Shoto was killed in the last battle to not despair because it was just his avatar, not his actual, real self. A very different emotional sequence than typically experienced by the reader when a character is ‘killed off.”