I’d heard recommendations for Ernest Cline’s new science fiction novel Ready Player One on several podcasts recently and decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did, and not just because I spent my formative years in the 1980’s (although I’m sure that helped). Ernest Cline and I both grew up during the decade that contained such cultural milestones as Family Ties, Ghostbusters, John Hughes movies, 8-bit video games, Dungeons & Dragons modules, Oingo Boingo, Joust, Members Only jackets, John Cougar Mellencamp, Tron, Pac-Man, Real Genius, Galaga, WarGames, Revenge of the Nerds, Aquafresh toothpaste, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Wham!, and Max Headroom. For someone like me, this book is filled with bittersweet nostalgia.
Okay, maybe not so much about Wham!, but about everything else.
So let me tell you why you should read this science fiction novel.
The book is set in the year 2044, when the majority of the world’s population spends most of its time living in the virtual world of OASIS, an “open-source reality” developed by eccentric genius and game designer James Halliday. Halliday was born in 1972, and he remembers his youth in the 1980’s quite fondly, so OASIS is filled with 1980’s references. When Halliday dies, he leaves behind the ultimate puzzle — whomever finds the ultimate easter egg he’s hidden in OASIS will inherit his enormous fortune. Thousands of easter egg hunters (or “gunters”) spend years trying to solve Halliday’s puzzle, until most of them give up. And then one day Wade Watts, an orphaned teenager who lives in a trailer park near Oklahoma City, solves the first part of the puzzle.
And that’s when all hell breaks loose.
What follows is an amazing, funny, and fast-paced story about love, friendship, video games, robots, music, movies, and more. This will be an enjoyable read for fans of science fiction in general, but it will be ESPECIALLY enjoyable for SF fans of a certain age. The ones who remember what it was like …
to try and fail to solve a Rubik’s Cube,
to watch Q-Bert fall off the edge of the pyramid,
to be lost in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike,
and to sing along with an insanely catchy Howard Jones song at the top of your lungs.