Writer: Jarrett Crepeau
Craving some sci-fi filled with 80’s references while you wait for Stranger Things? Well, I think I got something for you. I started listening to Ready Player One after a friend told me about it (the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton is by far the superior version) and I absolutely fell in love with it, so much so that I finished it after three days. So what’s so great about Ernest Cline’s nostalgia trip?
It would probably help to provide a bit of background, Ready Player One tells the story of a dystopian world set in the near future of 2044, plagued by an energy crisis, global warming, and mass poverty. While the real world crumbles around them just about everyone escapes into the OASIS, a virtual world that acts as an MMO akin to World of Warcraft while also a second society, where you could be whatever you want. For instance, nearly everyone goes to school, works a full-time job, and enjoys activities like watching a movie or going to a party, even dating, in the OASIS.
Now, our story starts after OASIS creator, James Halliday, a Steve Jobs type who grew up in the 80’s passes away, and a posthumous message is sent to everyone inside the OASIS declaring that whoever finds his “easter egg” protected by three keys hidden away in the OASIS gets to claim to his fortune and his company, like Willy Wonka (which was one of Cline’s inspirations). Five years pass and no one has made any progress, enter our protagonist, 18-year-old Wade Watts better known as “Parzival” in the OASIS, who discovers the first key. I’ll leave it at that because the real magic is in the book.
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? If the story doesn’t catch you right away, it is understandable as there is so much information thrown at you in the first couple chapters which actually turned me off quite a bit at first. But as time went on, the allusions to 80’s games, movies, and TV shows kept me going, as well as Cline’s clever writing and relatable characters. The characters really turn this book into a masterpiece and deliver Cline’s themes of identity and hope to the reader flawlessly. And those motifs are very important to the core of the novel and ask some very thought-provoking questions about the benefits of reality, or the lack thereof. This dichotomy is something Wade and the other characters deal with in every waking moment of the story and I absolutely love it.
Luckily, if you aren’t the reading or listening type, the movie adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg is slated for a spring 2018 release. Ernest Cline is also writing the screenplay however since the teaser trailer that came out this summer, I can tell how heavily he’s had to alter plot points for the silver screen. I hope to a do a deep dive comparison between the film and book once that day comes. Right now I’m hopeful with the author and Spielberg behind the helm it will be good, but little-known sci-fi movies almost always tank at the box office, like this summers Valerian. Either way, I implore you to check out this fantastic book, it’s the right mix of humor, characters, and world-building that puts it on Harry Potter levels in terms of scale and intrigue.