Ready Player One is the first novel in a long time that kept me up past my bedtime so that I could finish those last 75 pages. The book, written by Ernest Cline, is a fun and meaningful futuristic romp through 80s nostalgia, mixed in with high-stakes adventure, teen angst, and a dash of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
The book follows Wade Watts, a seventeen-year-old boy in 2044. In this semi-dystopic future, there exists something called OASIS—a virtual reality that has something for everyone. Kids can don their visors and gloves and log into OASIS to go to school. People go to their jobs by logging onto the OASIS servers. The economy in the virtual world is more meaningful and more stable than the real world’s. The virtual reality system even has its own political structure.
When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he leaves behind no heirs. Instead, he creates a competition to find an “easter egg” hidden within the OASIS system. The first player to find the hidden treasure inherits all of Halliday’s wealth. This action, of course, leads to thousands upon thousands of people to become egg hunters or “gunters.” Wade Watts is one of these people, and he has good reason to be. He’s an orphan living in the “stacks” (literally an area where mobile homes, RVs, and double-wides are stacked on top of one another to save space). He uses OASIS as an escape from the real world.
The search for the egg involves riddles and clues from James Halliday’s childhood and his favorite era—the 80s. References to John Hughes movies, arcade games, and cassette driven computers abound. It even includes one of the favorite bad guy tropes of all time—the evil corporation, but nothing about the book seems contrived or forced.
Even if you’re not a child of the 80s, the story is well written enough to draw in even those who aren’t 80s buffs. Ready Player One is tons of fun and contains a lot of heart.