I honestly believe that one of the best feelings in the world is being five pages from the end of a truly amazing book. When it’s 2am and you desperately want to finish it, but then you also don’t want to finish it, because then you’ll have finished it and what will you do with your life? When you want to whimper at just how good that book is. When you have to pause after every last page to give yourself time to process. Ready Player One gave me that feeling. This book is unbelievable.
Contains strong language as I completely fail to control myself.
Plot summary: It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.
Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.
See, I knew none of that. The blurb of my copy just shrugs its shoulders and half-heartedly gives you five lines of vagueness about ‘the greatest quest in history’ and ‘the fate of humanity.’ I think it kind of worked for me though – going into the book knowing so little meant I was able to be more thoroughly impressed with its ingenuity.
I didn’t even want to read the damn thing. I bought it on a whim last week because I couldn’t find anything else in Waterstones, and then read it only as it seemed like the best of a bad bunch. I am an idiot. I could have read this book two years ago if I’d only looked on the right shelves. Because HOLY FUCKING GOD THIS BOOK IS AMAZING.
*breathes into a paper bag*
Let’s start with the world that Ernest Cline has created. In typical sci-fi style, it’s set in the future and there’s all kinds of new technology. More specifically, there’s a virtual reality society called OASIS that the majority of people spend their lives within. Almost like the Matrix, except they’re aware they’re plugged into the system. It’s hardly a new idea, but the detail that’s gone into it is nothing short of astounding.
He’s considered exactly how such a world would work and explained it to us in meticulous (yet fascinating) detail. It’s not just the technology though. He’s also thought out the economy, communication, the bartering process, the transport system… it’s unbelievable.
It’s partly the world-building that really makes Ready Player One. Or, worldS-building, considering there are so many of them. The OASIS system allows users to travel from world to world, which Wade does frequently. Each one is as vivid and brilliant as the last… and some of them will be familiar to you.
GSS had also licensed preexisting virtual worlds from their competitors, so content that had already been created for games like Everquest and World of Warcraft was ported over to the OASIS, and copies of Norrath and Azeroth were added to the growing catalog of OASIS planets. Other virtual worlds followed suit, from the Metaverse to the Matrix. The Firefly universe was anchored in a sector adjacent to the Star Wars galaxy, with a detailed re-creation of the Star Trek universe in the sector adjacent to that. Users could now teleport back and forth between their favourite fictional worlds. Middle Earth. Vulcan. Pern. Arrakis. Magrathea. Discworld, Mid-World, Riverworld, Ringworld. Worlds upon worlds.
As you can see, there’s a dash of Thursday Next here. But oh, can you imagine? Being able to pop over to Ankh Morpork or have your holiday in Rivendell? What you will also notice, is that it’s not just games that are referenced in Ready Player One. Far from it.
This book has been carefully crafted to appeal to everyone. Do the references to obscure 1970s arcade games go over your head? Fine, you’ll probably get the 80s rock band references then. Music not your thing? You can amuse yourself with the epic fantasy novels or the cult films then. There are so many references to so many things which means that there’s something for every reader. They drink Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and drive DeLoreans emblazoned with Slimer motifs. Every single name-drop felt like a quick ‘ding’ of triumph when I recognised the origin.
It’s all real too. Certain games, books, music and films are given a fair amount of air-time as Wade has to complete a challenge within their boundaries. ZORK, for example, a 1970s (I think) text-based adventure game, plays a huge part… but every aspect of it is accurate. I know this because I played it when I was eleven 🙂 Logically, this means that Ernest Cline has actually played/watched/read these things, which explains the aura of geekery that prevails throughout the novel.
I should probably actually mention the plot at some point. There is one, you know. Ready Player One isn’t some silly excuse to mention as many niche games as possible in the space of 372 pages. Like I said before, I didn’t actually know what the plot was before beginning, but it’s very, very good. Very unique.
Not only that, but the author is actually talented at writing as well. It hardly seems fair. Certain scenes are imbued with such atmosphere and tension that I had to pause reading after every page to allow myself time to take in what I’d just read. There are plot twists that literally made me gasp and even the characters are likeable.
I never say this, ever…. but… there is nothing wrong with this book.
I hate that I never again get to have the experience of reading it for the first and it also bothers me that I have to wait a whole year before I can include it in the Best Books of 2015 list. Which I will be doing. I finished the novel with a tight, happy feeling in my stomach and the knowledge that I will buy everything that Ernest Cline writes.