Author: Ernest Cline
Year of publication: 2012
your brain on books rating: 5
In 2044, the world has reached such a state of economic and environmental decline that those who can afford it choose to spend their time living in a virtual online world: the OASIS. Wade Watts, better known to his online acquaintances by Parzival, the name of his OASIS avatar, is one such person. The OASIS contains countless virtual planets and quests to occupy players’ time, but somewhere within its vast expanse also lie hidden clues to the fortune left behind by the OASIS’s creator, James Halliday. Years after this contest was initially revealed upon Halliday’s death, players have yet to gain any ground in the hunt; that is, until Wade suddenly cracks the first clue and begins a dangerous race to the finish line.
As far as narrators go, Wade gets a high score for trustworthiness. He knows how to take care of his readers by providing explanation of his actions or his world when needed, and we believe he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the 1980s trivia and video games around which Halliday framed the contest. Using Wade as a knowledgeable mouthpiece, Cline details these movies, songs, and games so that readers unfamiliar with the pop culture of that particular decade will not just follow along, but become engaged in Wade’s quest for Halliday’s prize.
And what a quest it is. With real and virtual danger around every corner, readers’ emotions will rapidly change from excited (with each of Wade’s breakthroughs) to anxious (with every setback as time runs short) and back again in a roller coaster that will leave them unsettled but absolutely sure of one thing: we all want Wade to win. Whether he will actually make it to the top of the scoreboard is the question that will have readers reaching for this book whenever they have a spare moment. There are no slow sections of this work, because whenever Wade leaves the virtual world, he has the real world to deal with.
Readers won’t just love this story for its ability to keep them guessing, but also for the strong feeling of nostalgia it leaves behind. Compared to the harsh background of 2044, the 1980s embody a simplicity that Wade and his peers have never known. Each plot point brings readers new factoids about a mecca of culture long past that, due to the international familiarity with Halliday’s contest, has practically become a collective memory for most of 2044 Earth. Even readers who lived through the 1980s themselves will find a new respect for the decade’s pop culture.
Ready Player One is Cline’s first novel, and readers who race to the end along with Wade will find themselves eagerly anticipating the next work that this author might dish up.