I just want to say, at the top of this review that I am eternally grateful for all the Cannonballers who have reviewed Ready Player One already this year. Without you, I may never have found my way to this book. And what a loss that would have been.
When I first started reading Ready Player One I was afraid I was only going to like it because of the hype. I am pleased to report that this was not the case. If you’ve read anything or heard anything about this story you’re aware that it is a love letter to growing up in the 1980s. It’s also a confession of a love of all things gaming. However this is not a book which aims to exclude. It is a book which aims to include the relatively uninitiated (while also being a homage for those who are in the know). My non-gamer heart feels gratitude for that. I am also thankful that the cover art is very vague which kept my brain from trying to figure out the puzzle ahead of time.
Cline’s protagonist’s world is our own, if our world follows a particular downward trajectory over the course of the next few years. Fossil fuels have been depleted, the economy has crashed, and celebrities are now the only people popular enough to get elected to political office. But, this matters little as most people spend the majority of their lifetimes hooked up to the most massively multiplayer game ever created – the OASIS. Every aspect of your life can be accomplished in the OASIS, it’s a complete virtual reality universe. There are planets and sectors for all of the most popular sci-fi and fantasy worlds out there, as well as a planet just for schools, and a commerce district, and anything else you care to program.
We meet Wade, or Parzival as he is known in the OASIS after the death of the creator of OASIS, James Halliday. Halliday has left the ultimate Easter Egg hunt in lieu of a Will. The first few chapters of the book function as an enormous info-dump which outlines that the person who wins the hunt also wins the inheritance of Halliday’s mega-fortune and control of the OASIS. Parzival is our portal into this world. He explains the culture of the time both inside and outside the OASIS as well as the culture that has erupted in the hunt for the Egg, in which he is most immersed as a gunter (an egg hunter). We follow Wade/Parzival and others through the hunt for the Egg, their fight against the Sixers – an organization hell bent on winning the prize and in turn corrupting the OASIS, and Parzival’s journey into relationships with other people.
There were times when I wasn’t completely sure this was the book for me. But, miraculously, Cline is able in his first novel to bring such a clear and original voice to life that you immediately consider yourself a friend of the friendless Wade. This is a truly engaging story in every sense of the word and once things get going, an incredibly quick read. I found myself slowing down on purpose while reading the last forty pages knowing that once I got there, I could never un- get there.
So read this book, particularly if you love both Ladyhawke and Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. I promise you don’t need to understand gaming to truly love this book.
(p.s. the audiobook is read by Wil Wheaton if you’re into that sort of thing)