Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CR Review #31: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I have a thing for pop culture and trivia. I love having useless bits of information stored away in my brain, ready to be suddenly useful at a moment's notice. I even used my knowledge to get on Jeopardy (and *humblebrag* win a few times). But then I had three kids, and didn't find my ability to instantly name all 8 Bradford kids on Eight is Enough quite so useful. But it did help me to keep up when watching shows with clever dialogue like Veronica Mars or The Gilmore Girls (watched all 7 seasons in a row on dvd in the middle of the night when kid #3 was a newborn), or reading books like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and getting more references than anyone else in my book club (actually, not much of an accomplishment). So it was with great joy that I stumbled upon Ready Player One at the library recently, and am here to tell all of you pop culture children of the 80s, that this is a book you must run out and read RIGHT NOW.

Ready Player One is the story of Wade (avatar name Parzival), an overweight, nerdy teen living in the Oklahoma of the near future. The world now exists in two realms: the regular day-to-day world, and the online, virtual world of OASIS. OASIS is a game/online world that has taken the actual world by storm. Kids go to school in OASIS. People have jobs in OASIS. You can fall in love and get married in OASIS -- without ever actually meeting your spouse in real life. The creator of OASiS, a very Bill Gates/Steve Jobs-ian character named James Halliday, who died several years before the story takes place, created a contest, wherein users of OASIS could follow clues to recover three "keys", meet several challenges, and then become the new leader of OASIS and inherit Halliday's immense fortune.

Wade and a few of his online friends attempt to do just that, while outsmarting the government, virtual hackers, and millions of other gamers. Oh, and I didn't mention that Halliday was obsessed with the 1980s, so almost everything related to the contest refers to the tv, movies, music, and video games popular during that decade, as well as other popular Sci-Fi favorites like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and all things Joss Whedon. While I didn't play a whole lot of video games in the 80s or listen to the same kind of music as detailed in the book, I still got a laugh out of most of the references

Ernest Cline writes with an enjoyable, breezy, conversational style that immediately hooked me and and pulled me into his world. I'm pretty sure this is his first book, and I look forward to reading anything he may write in the future.

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