Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline

Rating: 4 stars

In the near future, the world isn’t a hugely nice place, with the oil running out and job security a thing of the past, so most people who can spend their time in the OASIS: a virtual environment where they can escape real life. The OASIS was created by James Halliday and upon his death, he left the whole thing, and the multi-billion dollar company behind it, to whoever solves the puzzle he’s left in the OASIS. Wade Watts is one of the millions of hopefuls who leaves the real world behind to try to be the one who does it.

This was a fun book that I raced through once I got started. It’s easy to read, with a likeable protagonist. Halliday was obsessed by the 1980s, so Cline has an excuse to throw in huge numbers of pop culture references which are pleasing to someone of my generation (although one has to wonder how the book will date).

The book has a (somewhat cartoonish) villain in the form of IOI, the evil ISP that is hiring hundreds of people and spending huge amounts of money to try and solve the puzzle, to the extant that they’ll take actions outside the OASIS as well as within it.

Opposing them, Wade is a nice enough guy who hasn’t got much to live for in the real world. When we meet him, he’s living in the future version of a trailer park: one where trailers are piled up on top of each other to make maximum space in a twisted sort of skyscraper. He’s in his late teens and spends every waking moment in the OASIS, researching the puzzle, which mostly means watching and memorising 80s films, TV shows, anime and playing computer games of the era. After a while, you do wonder at the obsession of Wade and other ‘gunters’ ([Easter] egg hunters) in their search, but it’s a nice way to indicate just how much they don’t want to live in the real world.

Wade’s other rivals are a friendlier bunch and despite the bravado from them to start with, it’s obvious that they’re going to end up buddies from early on.

As most of our viewpoint is spent inside the OASIS, we don’t get to see much of how badly the world is collapsing, with just hints as to how corporations have become more powerful than nation states although one rather neat window to this world is the reintroduction of slavery in the US, via ‘indentured servitude’: if you are in debt, large corporations can own you, and make you work to pay it off (which you’ll never do). Subtle this book ain’t.

But it is fun and a worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys computer games and/or has moderately fond memories of 1980s pop culture.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099560432
Publisher: Arrow Books
Year of publication: 2011

Powered by WordPress