Ready Player One is the first novel by Ernest Cline, and comes out of the gates screaming with a sci-fi adventure directed exactly at the Sci-Guy generation.
The year is 2044. The world has been devastated by financial ruin. The only source of sanity and self-esteem is the virtual world of OASIS. Created by a Steve Jobs-like fantasy techno-nerd, the OASIS is the ultimate in MMOs. But when this child of the 80s dies, he leaves a quest to his his riches that requires not only an intimate understanding of his childhood, but a complete understanding of the pop culture of his youth. And we are not talking baseball stats ala “Back to the Future”.
The quest means winning billions of dollars, but our hero, Wade (better known as his OASIS avatar, Parzival) is more interested in making sure the corporation IOI doesn’t finish the quest first.
In a simple summary Ready Player One doesn’t sound like any great shakes, but for a child of the 70s and 80s this was an almost disturbing rummaging through my bedroom closet set 40+ years in the future. The students of pop culture in 2044 regard Better Off Dead and Say Anything with the same regard I talk about Citizen Kane. It is disarming at first, but makes sense given the context of the world they live in: All media in history is available and accessible instantly. It just seems in the state of the world in 2044 there is little or no new media, or at least entertainment that isn’t beyond watching people do things in the OASIS.
What results is a very satisfying adventure from the perspective of a high-school student of 30+ years in the future using his encyclopedic knowledge and study of everything from Dungeons and Dragons, Atari 2600′s “Adventure”, Rush’s “2112″ album, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Tempest, Joust, Pac-Man, Voltron, Ferris Bueller, Ultraman, War Games, E.T. … the list is practically endless.
And that is what makes this such a fun read. The grounding in reality at the beginning gets hard to hold onto at the end of the story, but that’s OK. Ready Player One is a fun (if not slightly long) read especially for anyone who has ever rolled a 20-sided-die, flipped a New Order 12″, or fantasized about flying an X-Wing. As a victim of all three, I found this a weirdly satisfying romp into my treasure chest. I look forward to seeing what Cline has next.