"It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them." Source
When OASIS creator James Halliday dies the world that worships him and his creation are presented with the ultimate challenge; Halliday has left them an Easter Egg and the one who finds it will win the ultimate prize of fortune and power.
At the beginning of the novel in the five years that have passed since Halliday’s death although many people have dedicated their lives to studying his pop culture favourites in the hope of finding clues no one has yet made any progress towards finding the first of the three keys; Copper. So when main character Wade Watts, or Parzival as he is known in the OASIS, becomes the first gunter (the name for Halliday’s fans which comes from ‘egg hunters’) to obtain the key and make it through the first gate the story really kicks off. From then on it is all action as we follow Wade on his quest to find the remaining two keys (Jade and Crystal) and hopefully to also be first to find the highly sought after Easter Egg. The gunters however are not the only ones after Halliday’s prize, there is of course a villain in the form of the IOI, a global internet service provider who are out to win by finding loopholes in order to gain control of the OASIS and monetize it.
The book is definitely very geeky, there are a ton of pop-culture references from games to films, television to music and for this reason it does need a little more concentration than your average read. Don’t let this put you off though, the story is very easy to follow even if you don’t fully appreciate each and every reference because Cline has foreseen this issue and they are all sufficiently explained. Amongst the references Ready Player One tackles the modern-world issue of how you choose to represent yourself online, something which most people can relate to – even if you don’t appreciate all of the geeky references!
Protagonist Wade is a likeable and sympathetic character who makes a great guide through this fairly complicated world. Along the way he meets fellow gunters and leaderboard toppers Shoto, Daito, Aech, and most importantly Art3mis. I personally loved the relationships that form between Wade and his fellow gunters, at first each out to win for themselves but at times coming together against the IOI. Without giving away too much I particularly enjoyed the reveal of what each of these characters looked like in real life and in turn the reasons behind the designs of their OASIS avatars. Co-creator of the OASIS Ogden Morrow, or Og, is also a fantastic character.
As much as I loved the plot and characters the most impressive thing about Ready Player One was the planning. Every little detail was so well thought out and things just seemed to fall into place making it much easier to immerse yourself in Cline’s version of the world. As I was reading I found myself asking questions but just paragraphs or even sentences later I would find the answers and overall I think this makes the whole story much more convincing.
Ready Player One has certainly been one of those books that has stuck with me long after reading it, and although I had never intended to review it, here I am months later still thinking about what a great read it was. This unusual and clever debut novel from Ernest Cline is suitably geeky and extremely enjoyable. 5/5